Anti-Advertising Efforts Backfire, Cause More Advertising Overload

graffiti_problem.jpg

The human brain is an amazing thing. It does so many complex things with complete ease. Luckily, one of the things it does is filter out, according to some, is the up to 5,000 advertising messages a city dweller sees each day. This is a very good thing. Because if the brain weren't able to filter out the incessant onslaught of advertising and consciously processed each of those 5,000 daily messages, it would explode quickly sending the owner of that brain to the nearest mental institution.

In some respects, advertising is a never ending cycle of idiocy. People ignore ads so marketers just create more. People block ads so marketers just come up with more methods to circumvent that blockage (just wait until you see the DVR-proof side and bottom bar ads the nets will soon implement).

Most of us just ignore the proliferation of advertising and go on with our daily lives. Others fight back creating anti-advertising cause groups which aim to point out the proliferation of ad creep insanity. Two such groups are the Graffiti Research Lab and the Anti-Advertising Agency. Recently, the two groups teamed to create yet another anti-advertising campaign which covered over New York City TV ad screens with black boards likening advertising to graffiti with such messages as "Graffiti', "NYC's True Graffiti Problem" and "Advertising = Graffiti."

It really makes you think about what you are creating each day you go to work and the effect (or lack thereof) it has on people. There's really no end to this cycle. Marketers need to sell stuff so they will advertise. People don't want to be overloaded by commercial messages so they will do what they can to avoid them. it's that simple. Though, one hope here is the long talked about but never truly solved notion of razor targeted, addressable advertising which, in theory, would deliver only truly relevant messages thereby dramatically reducing the number of ads a person sees in a given day. Though how that's accomplished in a place like Times Square seems to be a near impossibility.

So the battle rages on. And it won't be pretty as the latest anti-ad skip technology is foist upon us in the form of CNN-style, news ticker-like vertical and horizontal bars containing advertising which will wrap television programming pretty much eradicating the ad-skipping feature of a DVR. And no, you won't be able to just place tape over the portion of your screen which carries the ads because the bars will shift from left to right and top to bottom. It all kinda makes you wish the DVR was never invented.

Short of paying for every single bit of content a person consumes, advertising will always be ever-present. While ad avoidance has always been an issue, the DVR truly broke the unspoken agreement between marketer and consumer. Up until then, the fact everyone "skipped" ads by going to the bathroom or getting something to eat during commercial breaks was mostly an unquantifiable issue. Thanks to the DVR and associated metrics, marketers and advertisers now have a much better understanding of how rampant the ad avoidance issue has become.

So while efforts from the Graffiti Research Lab and the Anti-Advertising Agency continue their DVR-like causes, all they're really doing is further motivating marketers to invent even more horrifically annoying methods of forcing commercial messages down people's throats.

by Steve Hall    Jan-17-08   Click to Comment   
Topic: Cause, Opinion, Trends and Culture   

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Comments



Comments

"[O]ne hope here is [...] razor targeted, addressable advertising which, in theory, would deliver only truly relevant messages [...]". Relevant according to whom? Not the target, that's for sure, if the ad industry gets its way.

"So while efforts from the Graffiti Research Lab and the Anti-Advertising Agency continue their DVR-like causes, all they're really doing is further motivating marketers to invent even more horrifically annoying methods of forcing commercial messages down people's throats."

Riiight -- lets blame the victims and their advocates... hell, I'd pay quite a bit to be able to get ad-free content, but that's not what the ad industry really wants as an option for us, is it?

Posted by: Jimmy Little on January 17, 2008 11:52 AM

Ads are infamous for creating a need. However, there are those that do educate, especially if the product is new to the market. How would we know about it without advertising?

Posted by: Rita Cartwright on January 17, 2008 4:55 PM

I work in advertising because of graffiti, which growing up in New York influenced my whole perception of communications.
I fully support these two causes. Often times, advertsing is playing catch up to what graff innovators have been doing for years.
If advertisers provide messages that transcend the clutter, they are doing their jobs right.

Posted by: keatso on January 17, 2008 5:35 PM

I'm just going to hit on a couple points here.

1. Thanks for mentioning the Light Criticism project though I wouldn't call it recent - it was done around this time in 2007.

2. You're missing one of our main points (more detail here http://antiadvertisingagency.com/projects/light-criticism) is that much of the advertising we see in urban areas is illegal (for example see http://illegalsigns.ca or http://antiadvertisingagency.com/news/ny-dept-of-buildings-strikes-back). When advertisers break the law they usually get away with it, and if not, walk away with a slap on the wrist or paltry fines. In the meantime individual citizens, artists, and graffiti writers get real jail time and disproportionate fines for crimes I would argue are far less substantial. The big question is, what do you consider blight, the corporate vandalism of illegal advertising or individual expression of graffiti writers. (and that's something you can only answer for yourself) Light Criticism is about getting people to rethink what they consider blight to include illegal advertising.

While it would be easier to build a straw man and say the GRL and AAA's position is "get rid of all advertising" it's more nuanced than that. Let's start with the illegal advertising in our cities. Let's start with reforming repressive laws that clog our prisons with graffiti writers http://graffitijailbreak.org/ Then let's make some new laws that further regulate advertising in our public spaces.

And don't worry Rita Cartwright, we'll still get all that valuable education about the latest products. Let's address that problem when it's a problem.

I could address some other things but I don't want to write a short book in your comment thread.

Take care,
- Steve

Posted by: Steve Lambert (Anti-Advertising Agency) on January 19, 2008 12:49 PM

No Advertising. No Information Overload. http://inversearch.blogspot.com

Posted by: Lisa H on July 22, 2009 9:14 AM







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