We Are Slaves To Advertising

Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com)
Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com)

Is it OK for commercials to be thrown at us from all sides? Think back to the last time you didn’t see an advertisement for a whole day. Difficult, isn’t it? If you left the house, you almost certainly saw a commercial somewhere for something.

We don’t even realize how many commercials we look at during the day—in public transportation, on buildings, and in newspapers. Even if you didn’t leave the house, you’d still have to avoid turning on the television, listening to the radio, or flicking through a magazine to stay clear of them.

If you stop to think about it, you’ll realize just how much stuff is thrown at you against your will. OK, so it’s not harming you and you don’t have to act on any of these ads, but you are still forced to know about these products, political candidates, television shows, and events.

Some people might say that we’re not forced to look at the ads. Aren’t we? The only way to avoid seeing the posters plastered all over a subway station is to close your eyes as you walk through it. The only way to avoid seeing big billboards in the city center is to never look up at anything. The only way to avoid the advertisements you see in magazines, newspapers, and on Internet sites is not to read them. But unless you’re able to focus your eye only on the piece you are reading and blur out the rest, it’s a tough task.

Theoretically we’re not being forced to do anything, but in practice, unless we want to move around constantly trying to ignore our surroundings, we’re going to see the commercials whether we want to or not.

Products are taking over. Try typing “sky” or “penguin” into the search engine. Your first hits won’t be the actual sky or the animal species; they will be Sky TV and Penguin clothing or books.

People rarely question the fact that there are so many commercials. Someone might be annoyed by the lame commercial they see on television that speaks patronizingly at them, telling them they have to have something. Someone else might shake their head at another predictable billboard somewhere high up in the city, featuring a man holding aftershave with two attractive women all over him because of it. People will notice these nuisances but shrug them off.

TV commercials are set at a higher volume than programs. Damn, do my ears get blasted. I have to turn the volume down during every set of ads.

With the problems the world faces today (some parts of it more than others), complaining about having to see ads probably sounds unimportant to many people.

It’s not the idea of commercials that are annoying. They’re understandable. There is a logical reason for their existence. It’s the idea that we don’t get a choice in the matter. When a television program cuts to commercials, you’re ready for it and can choose to stay and watch or change the channel. If you pick up a shop catalog, you know it’s going to advertise products from that store and you’ve chosen to have a look at what is on offer. But when I’m on my way home, I don’t want to be bombarded with commercials; I just want to get home.

Note to companies: The more you persist in trying to force me to see your product, the more inclined I am not to buy it. Oh, and try to be less patronizing, too. Enough of this “If you don’t own our product, you’re nothing” or “Buy this and they’ll love you” advertising, please.

Luckily the guy in this commercial has that fragrance, or the women would want nothing to do with him:

This quote attributed to British artist Banksy (heavily lifted from Sean Tejaratchi) sums it up well:

Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

Fuck that. An advert in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission.

The key part of this is that they never asked our permission. If you call me, I choose to answer. Ring the doorbell, and I might open the door. Commercials don’t do that; they force themselves on you, and forcing things on others is the essence of slavery. TC mark

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