They haven't been hauled up (yet) before indignant committees in Congress to offer show-trial confessions, but ad-agency people are among the villains behind the current economic crisis. At any rate, that's the way a majority of respondents to a new Harris Poll saw matters when given the chance to point accusing fingers at the ad business.
Conducted for AdweekMedia in late March and early April, the poll asked 2,220 adults how much responsibility, if any, ad agencies and various media (as well as respondents' friends and families) should bear for the current economic crisis because they encouraged people to buy things they couldn't really afford. One-third of those polled said agencies bear "complete responsibility" (7 percent) or "a great deal" of it (26 percent). Another 33 percent said agencies have "some responsibility" for the economy's undoing. Sixteen percent said agencies bear "not that much responsibility" and 18 percent "no responsibility at all."
Respondents assigned slightly more blame to print media (with 22 percent saying they bear complete or a great deal of responsibility) than to news and other information Web sites (20 percent), cable news programs (20 percent), talk shows on TV and radio (19 percent) and network and local news programs (18 percent).
With plenty of blame to go around, even "friends and family" came in for some, as 10 percent of respondents said such people carry complete or a great deal of responsibility for egging others on to overspend. Those answers are especially telling since they invite one's friends and relatives to lay reciprocal blame on the respondents. As divided as American society has been in many ways, there seems to be a consensus that the trashing of the economy was a group effort.
In a breakdown of the findings by age group, the poll's 55-plus cohort had an above-average propensity to blame the ad business for encouraging consumers to spend beyond their means: 75 percent of respondents in that bracket said agencies bear at least some of the responsibility, vs. 65 percent of the 45-54-year-olds, 59 percent of the 35-44s and 60 percent of the 18-34s.
Then again, the 55-plus group was more critical of all media than were their younger counterparts. But they had the lowest proportion of respondents saying friends and family should bear at least some responsibility for encouraging others to overspend, with 42 percent holding that view, vs. 46 percent of the 45-54s, 47 percent of the 18-34s and 50 percent of the 35-44s.