On Advertising

One of the neatest experiences I’ve had has been the [almost] complete removal of advertisements from my life. I live in Vermont (were we don’t allow billboards), don’t have (or otherwise watch) TV, use Ad-Block to remove Web-Ads, and only listen to CDs, college radio, or NPR. As such, then only advertising I see on a weekly basis is that in magazines and newspapers.

What was most shocking to me was not the lack of advertisements (I honestly didn’t notice they were gone for 5 years), but rather — having become re-sensitized over years — how insulting advertisements seem when confronted with them again while traveling/visiting friends.

All advertisements are trying to sell you their product, implying that your life would be better were you to buy their product. While this may seem benign (and may be with simple notifications such as, “Joe’s pizza: opening Saturday”), the flip-side is that they are implying that your life is not full/rich/rewarding and that their product can make it so.

Think about that one for a minute. It seems to say that the difference between an an un-fulfilling life and a fulfilling one is the advertised product. If my dreams, goals, career, family, friends, etc couldn’t make my life fulfilled, but this item can then they must be worth roughly the same. If this wasn’t the implication (lets say them implication was that friends are a hundred times more valuable than items), then I should quit wasting my money and just go out and make one new friend every year.

So, if this advertisement implies that I will be fulfilled having purchased something, then they are in effect implying a monetary value on the rest of my life. I am insulted that anyone would tell me that the worth of even a single family member is as little as that of a Ferrari (and you don’t see many advertisements for Ferraris).

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