Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Rethinking the EFA

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  • Kyle Matthews,

    It's not tricky. Advertising influences people's behaviour. More money buys more and better advertising.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6205 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    more money certainly buys more ad/space time kyle, but isn't creativity far more difficult to calculate, surely? isn't the success of an ad pretty intrinsically linked to the product being advertised?

    your taxed dollar • Since Mar 2008 • 1685 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    eg, political party A with a wide range of offbeat policies including reintroducing the death penalty and a ton of cash, advertises everywhere all the time,

    compared to party B, with moderate policies, but the very unique stance in that they are offering everyone a day off on their birthday, a proposal which naturally gains airtime because it's so damn good,(people's who's birthdays occur on a public holiday get to allocate another day up to a month in advance of that day), with a one off TV ad 7pm sunday night on prime and a bunch of volunteers and some heavy blog activity.

    should we penalise party A for simply having no good ideas?

    your taxed dollar • Since Mar 2008 • 1685 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    more money certainly buys more ad/space time kyle, but isn't creativity far more difficult to calculate, surely? isn't the success of an ad pretty intrinsically linked to the product being advertised?

    Ah yup. Which doesn't change the fact that advertising influences people's decisions, and more money means more of it. This isn't rocket science.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6205 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    so how many joshua kadison albums do you own?

    your taxed dollar • Since Mar 2008 • 1685 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    It's not tricky. Advertising influences people's behaviour. More money buys more and better advertising.

    And yet those full page ads (which I believe run well north of ten grand a throw) Labour was running on a near-daily basis during the last week of the campaign in the Herald, didn't seem to help very much at all.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    Sorry that was a little vague, I just can't get the ad out of my head, from sometime in the mid nineties, featured the hook from the chorus of this song.

    firstly, it's a question of taste, no matter how much advertising time EMI bought, there was no way i would be buying that album even at gunpoint.

    secondly, searching for this song, i found searching for this track, Joshua Kadison had a bit of a 'painting theme' going so I had to endure more joshua kadison than I'd like. Makes me think of how often we'd see an ad, for a product and only recall half the name, wondering if there's any voters out there, find somewhere between an ad and the supermarket, mix up the name of the product they want to buy in their heads and accidentally buy the knock off.

    thirdly, discussing this with a friend, he recalled a drinking session of his mother and her friends in which they were discussing voting opposite to their husbands whichever way the husbands voted, merely as a power issue. So while people are making such arbitrary decisions why waste money and resources, policing the almost non existent connection between advertising budgets and the quality of brands on offer?

    and finally,why limit this transparency to political parties in election year, why not make it a requirement of all bodies both private and public that advertise all the time? If advertising is really that dangerous

    i'm reminded of the Chinese register to protest setup they had in the Olympics, while the connection is slight,

    placing more restrictions and conditions on freedom of speech isn't a symptom of forward momentum in the democratic idiom.

    your taxed dollar • Since Mar 2008 • 1685 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    your taxed dollar • Since Mar 2008 • 1685 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    And yet those full page ads (which I believe run well north of ten grand a throw) Labour was running on a near-daily basis during the last week of the campaign in the Herald, didn't seem to help very much at all.

    The fact that there are bad campaigns, and bad products from time to time, doesn't disprove the general thesis.

    placing more restrictions and conditions on freedom of speech isn't a symptom of forward momentum in the democratic idiom.

    The ability to spend money on advertising isn't freedom of speech.

    The ability to stand up and say things and have them reported in the media is freedom of speech.

    You're talking about freedom to advertise. Which we restrict in a number of ways in NZ, including around elections.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6205 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    The ability to spend money on advertising isn't freedom of speech.

    This is not even remotely close to true.

    You call it the freedom to advertise. That's fair, but the freedom to advertise is part of freedom of speech. We limit and restrict both (including around elections), but that doesn't mean one isn't just a subset of the other.

    The ability to convince some journalist and editor of the newsworthiness of your idea should not be a prerequisite to having it heard.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    The point that addresses mark's question is that parties shouldn't have disproportionate freedom to advertise based solely on how much money they have available to throw at it, because that results in a systematic social bias (towards parties representing the interests of wealthier sectors) which runs against the interest of a fair democracy.

    It probably bears mentioning, though, that the NZ electoral campaign funding model does include some weighting for popularity of message, albeit in a very indirect and inexact way, in as much as parties get campaign funding proportional to their level of support at the previous election. This is an aspect which favours pre-existing parties (though with the positive effect of disfavouring the nutbars), and which only works well if we can assume a consistent "product" from one election to the next.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 915 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    You call it the freedom to advertise. That's fair, but the freedom to advertise is part of freedom of speech. We limit and restrict both (including around elections), but that doesn't mean one isn't just a subset of the other.

    The point isn't about advertising itself being restricted.

    The point is that money to spend on advertising is restricted. That's not stopping people doing it, it's simply limiting it in quantity (and possibly quality). The distinction is very important and gets lost when people start off on "it's about freedom of speech". Money should never be considered to be equivalent to freedom of speech. If it is, then richer people have more freedom of speech than poorer people, and that should never be a principle we follow.

    Rich people should be as free as anyone to shout to the masses, and the media about everything they want, just as much as any person who has less money. What they shouldn't be able to do is spend thirty times as much money thrusting their message in front of the eyes of voters.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6205 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    The point is that money to spend on advertising is restricted. That's not stopping people doing it, it's simply limiting it in quantity (and possibly quality). The distinction is very important and gets lost when people start off on "it's about freedom of speech". Money should never be considered to be equivalent to freedom of speech.

    They're not identical, but they are very closely linked.

    Dear Mr Matthews,

    We understand that you would like to print out leaflets to create public awareness of, and opposition to, the illegal detention of your family in Australia, as you have had limited success in getting traction in the media. Unfortunately, you spent your annual speech allowance trying to create awareness about deforestation in April. Please desist your leafletting campaign until 2009.

    Regards,
    The Government

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Well that story will be funny, given the jobs that my family used to do.

    But if I was running for election and my two key platforms were "freeing the Matthews family" and "deforestation is bad", then there should be a limit on how much I'm allowed to spend promoting my electoral campaign.

    If I'm not running for election or promoting an issue which relates to the election its not really a relevant argument. I can print a million leaflets to distribute to every home in NZ, no limitation on advertising or speech need apply.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6205 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    If I'm not running for election or promoting an issue which relates to the election its not really a relevant argument. I can print a million leaflets to distribute to every home in NZ, no limitation on advertising or speech need apply.

    Except if, as you argued:

    If [Money is considered to be equivalent to freedom of speech], then richer people have more freedom of speech than poorer people, and that should never be a principle we follow.

    Rich people should be as free as anyone to shout to the masses, and the media about everything they want, just as much as any person who has less money...

    A poor person who spent their money opposing deforestation, and doesn't have money left over to campaign against the illegal detention of his or her family in Australia, cannot leaflet about that detention. A rich person could, and thus has "more freedom of speech." I'm reliably advised that this is "a principle we [should never] follow."

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    A poor person who spent their money opposing deforestation, and doesn't have money left over to campaign against the illegal detention of his or her family in Australia, cannot leaflet about that detention. A rich person could, and thus has "more freedom of speech." I'm reliably advised that this is "a principle we [should never] follow."

    Except, as I've previously pointed out, I don't believe that having limited money (or none) is a restriction of your free speech, it's only a restriction of your ability to advertise.

    If spending on such a personal issue limited (why I don't know, but for the point of the discussion...), then I would argue that a rich person and a poor person both still have their freedom of speech. Their ability to convey that speech to the masses has just been leveled at a maximum level. Which makes no sense in a family crisis, but does make sense for an election.

    The 'freedom of speech' problem in your example isn't that I don't have a million dollars for my advertising campaign. If that's a freedom of speech problem, then every non-rich person is always restricted in their freedom of speech, just through not having a pile of money lying around.

    The freedom of speech problem is that my law-abiding and decent family have been illegally detained in Australia, and the media aren't writing about it. That's where your freedom of speech query needs to be directed. Australian owners of the media? Being heavied by the NZ government who want to preserve a good relationship with Australia? Those would be attacks on freedom of speech.

    It annoys me that we demean real freedom of speech issues which take place around the world by bleating about government regulation which doesn't restrict speech, only attempts to make elections fairer by stopping richer people and parties throwing money at them.

    After all, the National Party candidate for Auckland Central no doubt had a spending limit for her campaign, and yet managed to exercise her freedom of speech and door knock her way around thousands of homes, reaping the rewards by being elected. I don't believe that her freedom of speech was limited, just her ability to spend money on advertising.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6205 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    which again begs the question Kyle, why limit spending on advertising?

    your taxed dollar • Since Mar 2008 • 1685 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    To restate: 1 and 2.

    (The answers, unsurprisingly, haven't changed)

    Since Nov 2006 • 6205 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    Firstly Kyle, thanks for your replies, the irony in debating the effectiveness of advertising to lead peoples' thought processes in this case isn't lost.

    I'd like to restate clearly, that there are a few issues here, not just the advertising, firstly my quoted statement re: limitations and conditions on freedom of speech, wasn't in regard to advertising. It was made in respect to that other aspect of the EFA; namely the requirement to print contact information on placards, clothing and the like as it is under the EFA. I'm not a big fan of confusing these two aspects.

    As I've read on, and i should state that i don't think you are particularly unreasonable in your acceptance of the EFA protocols. There is an indisputable connection between advertising and our tendencies as consumers to consume. What concerns me is this socialist concept of fairness seemingly outside the realms of capitalism, that somehow the money we work for and study to find jobs to earn, should be revalued in an election year. How people who pay more taxes at a higher rate should be discriminated against as Graeme stated above.

    It's not that I'm against socialism, nor against fairness. Simply that it seems like a double standard in a capitalist society where their is no cap on how much you can pay a lawyer or a doctor. So that if two citizens are prosecuted for breaching the regulations, there is every chance that the richer one will be able to afford a better legal service, while the poorer one will be fined, thus becoming poorer still.

    But mainly it's a case of me feeling, why should the government in a free democracy be making laws to restrict how people can spend their money?

    Why should they be inhibiting growth in the advertising and printing sectors?

    And, if i were to spend $100,000 on advertising arguing against the EFA, would it change your opinion Kyle?

    your taxed dollar • Since Mar 2008 • 1685 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    If I'm not running for election or promoting an issue which relates to the election its not really a relevant argument. I can print a million leaflets to distribute to every home in NZ, no limitation on advertising or speech need apply.

    So some organisation with nameless but extremely wealthy backers can spend many millions on an advertising and PR campaign to convince people that massive tax cuts are really important for the future of the economy, or that privatisation of the water supply will save them lots of money.

    They can 'overwhelm' the speech of all those who disagree and can change the political landscape so that those on both the left and the right are basically forced, because of the manufactured public sentiment, to adopt these policies, and you wouldn't have a problem with this? Or think that the advertising should be limited some way, or think that we should know that the funders of the campaign are people who stand to gain substantially from the tax cuts or water privatisation?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    So some organisation with nameless but extremely wealthy backers can spend many millions on an advertising and PR campaign to convince people that massive tax cuts are really important for the future of the economy, or that privatisation of the water supply will save them lots of money.

    Those sound suspiciously like issues which relate to the election. In fact, I think both of them are Act policies at the very least.

    Your example was about the illegal detention of my family, which is unlikely to be an election issue.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6205 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    namely the requirement to print contact information on placards, clothing and the like as it is under the EFA.

    To me this seems relatively uncontroversial.

    If you see some expensive advertising up during the election, and you wonder "well I wonder who paid for that, someone's spending a lot of money". The way you find out who paid for it is that it says it in the bottom corner. In theory at least, it provides public accountability. If you know about all the advertising out there with a person's name on it, you could total up the cost of that advertising, and bingo, you know how much that person spent.

    I presume that any electoral type advertising which doesn't have an attribution could be removed, but I might be wrong about that.

    Whether or not you should have to put it on clothing and whatnot is another issue. That really comes down to the definition of advertising. I could easily come up with some ways to advertise just using clothing which I'm sure could help my campaign, so context is pretty important.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6205 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Those sound suspiciously like issues which relate to the election. In fact, I think both of them are Act policies at the very least.

    What if it's two weeks after an election, and three years before the next?

    What if the Green Party comes out in support of your family?

    I think I realise that this is becoming a rather weird debate, and I'm not really sure I have a great point I'm moving toward. I guess I think that I think that money and speech are pretty inter-related, and that saying one isn't limiting speech, but limiting the power of money to purchase speech is more than a bit of cop-out. It's better, I think, to recognise that by limiting the purchase of speech, you're are limiting free (i.e. unimpeded) speech, and then seeking to justify that for it's own sake.

    Paid speech is free speech, and limits on paid speech are limits on free speech, and must be justified under the same processes as other limits on free speech are.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    So Kyle;

    1. Campaigner A spends $12,000 to print X number of pamphlets in Te Awamutu, Campaigner B sends me $12,000 to print 10X number of pamphlets in China. When Campaigner A finds he has ten times less pamphlets than Campaigner B, he wishes to print more pamphlets, but is legally prevented from doing so.

    moral: B should have spent his money offshore.

    2. Campaigner C is given a state of the art printer and enough ink to last a lifetime, plus stamps and envelopes in 2009. In 2011 Campaigner D spends $12,000 printing and sending out X number of pamphlets through conventional means. At the same time, Campaigner C prints ∞X pamphlets, at no cost, right through to his favored party's loss after which time he uses the remainder as toilet paper.

    moral: recycle advertisements

    3. Candidate A has no money but he stands for good moral and fiscal values. he has no money. But he has one affluent friend (who employs 100s of non-voters), who we shall call Campaigner Z. Campaigner Z is unwilling to donate over $1000 dollars to Candidate A, due to possible effects on his business relationship with Fatman D, should Campaigner Zs political leanings become public knowledge.

    moral: Despite friendship, people won't jeopardize their lives to publicly support what they believe in.

    If you know about all the advertising out there with a person's name on it, you could total up the cost of that advertising, and bingo, you know how much that person spent.

    As much fun as that sounds Kyle, the appeal is somehow tainted by already knowing that bingo, that person spent $12,000.

    your taxed dollar • Since Mar 2008 • 1685 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    sorry, bit of a waste of space. should have read read 'A should have spent his money offshore.' but far be it from me to suggest discriminating against parties who have fewer campaigners.

    your taxed dollar • Since Mar 2008 • 1685 posts Report Reply

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