Gun advertising is a lot like cigarette advertising and should be regulated as such in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, according to David Morse, CEO of New American Dimensions, a multicultural market research firm.That’s the gist of an op-ed Morse wrote for Ad Age, which suggests in a headline that the ad biz has “blood on its hands” for the Newtown massacre.
Morse notes that the gun industry drew some lessons from the cigarette industry at about the same time the latter’s marketing began to be regulated out of existence by the federal government. Until the late 1960s, guns (like cigarettes) were advertised for everyone — especially as Christmas gifts for boys.
Toys and cartoons were banned from tobacco ads, and eventually cigarette ads were swept entirely from mainstream media. Restrictions on cigarette advertising eventually limited ads to stores and publications with adult audiences.
Likewise, gun advertising has eschewed mainstream media and focused on its core niche of consumers: white males. Ads are targeted in media where consumers have already shown an interest in guns — and thus aren’t seen very often by those outside the target market.
The result of this segmentation, Morse argues, is a racial split on how guns are regarded. He wrote in Ad Age:
… a just-published study by the Pew Research centre confirms that gun ownership remains overwhelming a white male “thing.” When asked which was more important, to protect the right to own guns or to control ownership, 51% of whites males chose the former. For black males, that number fell to 24%; a Pew study in April had found that the number of Latino males preferring gun-ownership rights was just 29%.
At the end of the piece Morse says he’s pro-gun control but doesn’t foresee new laws happening. Congress is unlikely to thread new gun marketing regulations through the First and Second Amendments, even though in theory it might be possible.
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