"Merchants of Discontent": An Exploration of the Psychology of Advertising, Addiction, and the Implications for Commercial Speech
In this paper, I attempt to draw parallels between the psychology of commercial advertising and marketing and the psychology of addiction. Both appear to be characterized by denial, escapism, narcissism, isolation, insatiability, impatience, and diminished sensitivity. Advertising appeals to these impulses and addiction is marked by them. In what follows, I explore these parallels in general and then explore the potential consequences or side effects in three specific contexts: the advertising of addictive products, advertising and children, and advertising and women. In these three areas, there is some evidence that advertising may be contributing to negative social phenomena in a non-trivial way—perhaps because of the addict mentality to which advertising may contribute. That contribution suggests that the basis for extending First Amendment protection to commercial advertising ought to be reexamined. However, in order to defend this assertion and capture the harm that may be caused by advertising, it is necessary to step back, look critically at, and describe the existing environment, as well as some of the roadblocks that stand in the way of such a reexamination.
Tamara R. Piety, "Merchants of Discontent": An Exploration of the Psychology of Advertising, Addiction, and the Implications for Commercial Speech, 25 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 377 (2001).