Most Americans, when asked if they are affected by advertising, will say “not really.” They say they skip the print ads in magazine, ignore the ones on the street, mute TV commercials, and are generally too savvy to be swayed by their messages.

Here’s some data illustrating the not-me phenomenon. The Kaiser Family Foundation asked 15- to 17-year-olds whether they and their friends were influenced by sexual content on TV.

Seventy-two percent of teens say that sexual content on TV affects their friends “a lot” or “somewhat”:

But only 22 percent say that sexual content on TV affects them “a lot” or “somewhat”:

Advertisers know that most Americans are wrong about whether advertising affects them.  That’s why they spent $117 billion in 2009 trying to convince you to buy their product. It works. So it must be affecting somebody, right?

Images borrowed from Strasburger’s Children, Adolescents, and the Media.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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