Monday, April 04, 2005

Make Your Economy Happy

On my way home from work yesterday, I heard a radio commercial brought to me by (if memory recalls correctly) the Department of Health and Human Services. Apparently the government has amazing news for us: walking is good for our health.

Now you could say that our health is important (no argument there) and we needs someone to remind us of ways to improve it (agreed). But why does it have to be a government agency? There is not a single method of improving our health that would not benefit from a product or service generated privately. Thus those firms that provide the service could advertise the importance of health and sell their product at the same time.

Case in point: Even something as mundane as drinking more water is encouraged by private industry. Aquafina is running commercials that remind us of the importance of water in our daily diet. Their slogan: Make Your Body Happy.


Chris said...

Ahh, true, true. But, the HHS does have to foot the bill (well, the US taxpayer really) when lazy, fat people sit around watching Springer all day eating Dorittos and then wind up having to have a triple bypass because they are on Medicare since they haven't worked in 15 years. So, it might be possible that the government is saving some money by spending it on advertising.

But of course, there is no cost accountability for the government to run health ads while Aquifina can detect the benefit of running ads by increased revenue. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe it helps, but that it is still a "maybe."

Anonymous said...

Camel Cigarettes once ran ads where the slogan was "Pleasure Improves Your Disposition". I beth they would have seized up "Make Your Body Happy" in a second.

Selling products does not necessarily jive with better health.

Remember that Aquafina's profits are not linked to health, they are linked to water consumption. If I eat four pounds of Doritos at a sitting, the likelihood that I will consume more water is greatly increased but not linked to my health in any way.

David said...

Well, Camel Cigarettes used poor science (and lied) but drinking more water is something every doctor will say is good for you (and they actually have evidence). So the question naturally becomes, should the government regulate advertising just to make sure it's accurate?

On one hand, yeah. Information is a unique good because if you have bad info you won't even consider seeking alternatives.

On the other hand, "truth" is a sticky thing and if the laws were in place, companies could find ways around it. If you restrict their ads even more then you will deny good ads because it legally didnt work. Ads could become a kin to legal documents and kill their value, destorying an entire industry.

To beef up the other hand, our society is very skeptical of advertising (as it should be) and if there's an agency overseeing the truth, people will stop being so skeptical as they think the government is watching out for them (as they do with say, the FDA). But governments make mistakes.

But on the first hand, so do people and sometimes those mistakes can make the difference in someone's life. There really are two good arguments on either side and there's a lot to talk about here. Broad definitions of "truth" may become useless, narrow ones may be counter productive. No laws could result in deaths. There are good arguments all around.