The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

You Turn Me Off. You're a Socially Corrosive Radio Ad
Gail Heriot

Am I the only one to be creeped out when listening to the radio these days?  It's not the music or the news.  Or even the talk shows.  It's the advertisements that are giving me the creeps.  For the past year, an astonishing number have been bellowing, "THE BANKS HAVE HAD THEIR BAIL-OUT!  NOW IT'S TIME TO GET YOURS!"  All sorts of businesses specialize in re-negotiating loans.  Listeners are told that it isn’t their fault that they can’t pay.  "Greedy bankers" put them in this position.  Then, of course, there are the relentless casino ads followed by public service announcements offering help to gambling addicts ...

After a while, one longs to hear about the good, clean virtues of laundry detergent.

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Gail Heriot


You're not the only one.

Posted by: Jonathan | Jan 28, 2010 9:17:29 AM

Interesting. I'll concede that the adds may be annoying, however, I wouldn't expect a free-marketer to complains about ads airing in reference to a service in high demand.

Second, the ads aren't targeting those who can't pay. One who can't pay walks away from the mortgage; there's little incentive to hire a loan counselor on top of that. I would guess that very few customers who use the advertised are actually those who cannot pay; the only ads for those folks are the bank's claims that everyone has an alleged "moral obligation" to stick with a bad loan.

Thus, the ads target homeowners who are underwater. They played a part, no doubt, in creating the situation, however, so did the "greedy bankers." Wait: the greedy bankers, no quotes. They invested in credit default swaps, sold variable rate mortgages, and convinced people to borrow who were unqualified. The tanking of the economy and housing market, in many many cases, has more to do with a homeowner being underwater than their personal decision to purchase. Now, the legit ads from housing non-profits and the like (noting that many of the ads you hear are scams) are doing everyone a favor: the bank gets some payment, and a person gets housing. Annoying? Maybe, but none more than those touting the cleaner whites and brights.

Posted by: Tim Donahue | Jan 28, 2010 3:46:39 PM

Just as being kind to the cruel implies cruelty to the kind, so does excusing financial irresponsibility insult people who are financially prudent. People who resisted the temptations of too-easy credit now see ads catering to the wishes of deadbeats. It's no wonder responsible people take offense. Being in favor of free markets doesn't come with an obligation to think well of every sleazy good or service offered by every huckster.

Posted by: Jonathan | Jan 28, 2010 8:53:43 PM


Posted by: Ruth H | Jan 29, 2010 9:23:42 AM

For years I have been appalled by the commercials aimed at those with poor credit histories that implore you to "get the credit you deserve!" You probably have the credit you deserve. Good credit is not a right, it is built. Are we a nation consumed by entitlement or what?

Posted by: Vicki | Feb 3, 2010 8:41:03 PM

Tim Donahue: Free marketers favor property rights, remember? Property in oneself, in one's material goods and in one's contractual rights .... Advertisements that hawk services designed to bully creditors out of their rights would be no more beloved by free marketers than advertisements selling services to hound homeowners out of their homes by playing loud music all night.

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