Insidious Advertising

Insidious Advertising

I hate most of the advertising today, because it’s so insidious and pervasive in the western world. It seems like you cannot go anywhere or look at anything without seeing more stupid ads than can be counted.

The problem with so many advertisements is not that the products are not worth purchasing. The problem is the advertisements use emotional buttons to get you to purchase something which you would not normally purchase. You are pressured, unconsciously, day in and day out to buy this and buy that and get that so much that it becomes irresistible. If you want to find out more, check out the book The Secret Sales Pitch: An Overview of Subliminal AdvertisingInsidious Advertising.

Television was ad supported from the beginning and remains so, except for a rare cable channel here and there. In the beginning, these advertisements were simple short commercial breaks, three or four an hour, and they added a certain amount of predictability to the plots of series and movies made for television. There usually was a mini-climax of one sort or an other at the beginning of each commercial break. Commercials tended to be more or less directly about the product being sold; there was a certain innocence about them.

Today, of course, the commercial breaks remain, but they have expanded by leaps and bounds in length and insidiousness. Instead of containing simple messages like “brand x coffee is the best” or “Brand y dishwashing liquid will make your hands smooth”, the commercials today cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to produce. Much of that goes towards very highly paid marketing research, and emotional buttons (verbal and visual) are embedded throughout to get people to buy, buy and buy.

For the last ten years, except in very rare occasions, I have not watched commercial television at all. When I stay in a hotel and do watch something on the television, I’m disgusted at how loony today’s shows and commercials have become. Reality shows? Really?

In years gone past, movies were a pleasant break from commercials. There were the previews, of course, limited to two or three per movie (and there were generally two movies in any showing for the price of one ticket), but there were no commercials as a rule. Today, all movies have as many as a dozen commercials during the break between films (only one per ticket) and half a dozen or more previews. It’s quite disgusting to have to pay $10, $15 or even $20 to see a movie and to be forced to sit through some loathsome commercials…

I do watch movies at the theater on occasion. I usually try and time my arrival for just after the commercials stop. That still means I have to sit through way too many annoying previews, but I can live with that.

Of course most magazines today are simply page after page of advertisements. It’s incredible to me that people pay good money for what is simply a bound book of ads and articles which relate to the ads and whose only purpose is to get you to buy something.

I do subscribe to magazines, but they tend to have little or no advertisements. Consumer reports and Foreign Affairs come to mind. There is a price for this though; the magazine tend to cost more. But I’d rather pay a little more for some good content than pay less for garbage.

Newspapers, well, I’m not even sure why they exist anymore. I think it’s more out of habit than anything else. The articles tend towards the negative in the extreme, there are so many advertisements it’s nauseating, and the other content generally is lacking.  I haven’t bought or read a newspaper in a decade, and I doubt I’ll be looking one over anytime in the future of this lifetime. This is a medium that went to the graveyard years ago and just hasn’t figured it out yet.

Of course there are ads elsewhere as well. There are ads on matchbook covers, automobiles, the sides of trucks, stuffed in books bought anywhere, inside the covers of DVDs… you name it, if it can hold an ad it probably does. What I do is, where possible strip the ads out as soon as possible and toss them without looking.

Finally, of course, there are internet ads in emails and on web sites. I’ll get into what to do about advertisements on web sites in a different article (yes, you can eliminate them entirely). As far as emails go, just find an email provider and pay a few dollars a month and you get no ads. I use fastmail.fm, but most email providers have a paid version and it’s usually not very expensive. Personally, I think it’s worth the money to dump the ads.

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