44 votes

Advertising is a cancer on society

27 comments

  1. [13]
    nacho
    Link
    Advertising is, and has always been strictly necessary. Getting people to learn about your product to choose to spend their resources on it has been the name of the game since before the invention...

    Advertising is, and has always been strictly necessary. Getting people to learn about your product to choose to spend their resources on it has been the name of the game since before the invention of money. Knowing what's on the market is also a prerequisite for me getting the most out of my money. I want relevant advertising to me. When I buy a new laptop, or car, or choose where I go grocery shopping, I want to know I'm making the best decision for me.

    Anti-ad (and usually privacy-concerned) people using crazy and extreme language, like calling advertising cancer on society, gets in the way of transmitting their message. People tune out those who espouse extremist, seemingly senseless views rather than engaging them. Normal people's reactions to the author here saying "ads are cancer!" aren't typically

    requests for a more detailed explanation

    They're just people moving on with their lives and real issues.


    Pretty much all the issues outline regarding ads are issues of a poorly regulated US advertising market. Consumer rights in the US have always been weak due to the extreme strength of free speech regulations trumping the competing right of punishing people who lie and mislead.

    US companies get to make claims and use strategies illegal in the EU. In several countries in Europe:

    • you have rights reserving yourself from receiving mail not addressed to you.
    • You have the right to reserve yourself from robocalls.
    • Privacy laws are being gradually strengthened to catch up with the online world we've been living in for at least 20 years.
    • The rules for advertising related to children are much stricter
    • There are laws against medical advertising to non-medicinal audiences
    • There are rules, regulations or laws against public goods and services including advertising
    • There are laws making it obvious who's advertising and that an advertisement or advertorial is paid for by a commercial interest

    Further, many of the other issues listed regarding advertising aren't issues of advertising at all, but issues of platforms (who've chosen free ad-financed business models) not moderating the content on their site properly and therefore not removing the junk so we see that as humans.

    I'd make a comparison to email prior to effective spam filters. Except that we all know automatic filtering will never be an adequate response to moderating a platform. You need to hire people. How you pay for that density of employees in relation to your users is up to the business. That required standards platforms have to adhere to are an issue for lawmakers: require spam and junk content not to reach domain hosts, search engines, social media platforms etc.

    Almost all the "symptoms" of the advertising "cancer" are issues with US law that can be rectified.


    The argument made here is that advertising as a concept is bad. The argument made is way, way too broad. Ads are a slight inconvenience. Some other forms of advertising should obviously be illegal in the US like they are elsewhere. Many other countries will surely ban even more of the types of advertising we see today.

    Specific ad technologies are bad. As more and more content competes for our attention, it's self-evident that the competition ads and everything else faces from other sources of content is increasingly tough.

    It's easy to say "advertising bad." We all know that's not fundamentally true though.

    14 votes
    1. [4]
      sinyavitsa
      Link Parent
      When you want to buy a product do you really trust adverts to inform you accurately about the product? Of course not, because ads are meant to lie to you in order to sell you their products. The...

      When you want to buy a product do you really trust adverts to inform you accurately about the product? Of course not, because ads are meant to lie to you in order to sell you their products. The author doesn't say that advertising is bad as a concept but that it has completely gone off the rails and that bad advertising practices should be fought off little by little. I live in the EU and a lot of the problems mentioned in the article are present here even if we have better laws so a lot more needs to be done to eradicate them because to me it seems that any time regulators come up with a new law the marketing industry outsmarts them by finding a loophole or another way of making ads even worse.

      23 votes
      1. [3]
        nacho
        Link Parent
        Since we both live in EU jurisdiction, we both know that ads don't lie, or our strong consumer watch dogs will help us punish those companies if we don't want to sue ourselves. I completely agree...

        Since we both live in EU jurisdiction, we both know that ads don't lie, or our strong consumer watch dogs will help us punish those companies if we don't want to sue ourselves.

        I completely agree that we can't trust the messaging, the feeling in an ad, the unbelievable context around the product and so on. We all know buying gum doesn't get you that supermodel. But when a company says "you can get this laptop with these specs for this price" that's real. Same thing goes for knowing about that new flavor of ice cream, remembering that local plumber exists, telling me that there's a concert and so on.


        The whole idea of society is innovation being met by us as a society enacting new regulations where we determine how that new innovation should fit into our legal systems.

        If we give up the belief in a functioning democracy, but blame what we fail to regulate instead, we've given up control of society and turned that over to whoever takes that power for themselves.

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          sinyavitsa
          Link Parent
          I'll have to disagree that the solution is regulating all the individual problems created by the advertisment industry. It's like a chase between the regulators and the marketing people in which...

          I'll have to disagree that the solution is regulating all the individual problems created by the advertisment industry. It's like a chase between the regulators and the marketing people in which our regulatory organs are really outpaced. Because it may take them years to enact a law against a single bad practice whereas the industry is inventing and implementing new ways of manipulation every day. I mean think about it - we still have not even banned the obnoxiously loud ads on TV (I don't know how it's in the west at least here in Bulgaria we haven't) when they have existed for probably several decades already and really TV is not going to even exist in 10 years or so.

          10 votes
          1. Deimos
            Link Parent
            I think we're really seeing how far behind regulation is on advertising right now with all of the sponsored content being put out by "influencers" on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, etc. For the USA,...

            I think we're really seeing how far behind regulation is on advertising right now with all of the sponsored content being put out by "influencers" on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, etc. For the USA, the FTC put out a big list of guidelines, but a lot of the recommendations in there are pretty vague or hard to follow, and there doesn't seem to be much significant enforcement of it at all.

            8 votes
    2. [2]
      nothis
      Link Parent
      I'm a bit tired of arguments that go "no, this thing isn't the problem, lots of individual issues with this thing are the problem!". Maybe if advertising causes these problems when running...

      I'm a bit tired of arguments that go "no, this thing isn't the problem, lots of individual issues with this thing are the problem!". Maybe if advertising causes these problems when running unchecked, advertising is the problem. It's obvious from context and common sense that the article doesn't call for some dystopian "end to all advertising" but better regulation – and maybe a push for alternative monetization methods for internet services.

      14 votes
      1. nacho
        Link Parent
        What I'm saying is "No, ads aren't cancer, ads need to be regulated better." To me the author seems to be saying "Ads are a literal cancer on society. I wish we could remove them entirely, but the...

        What I'm saying is "No, ads aren't cancer, ads need to be regulated better."

        To me the author seems to be saying "Ads are a literal cancer on society. I wish we could remove them entirely, but the cancer has come so far that'd kill the person. We need to kill the cancer piece by piece instead for now."

        6 votes
    3. Akir
      Link Parent
      Except the author is Polish and lives in Krakow. Advertising is a worldwide problem. I think the problem here is that you are considering perhaps a broader view of advertising than the author is....

      Pretty much all the issues outline regarding ads are issues of a poorly regulated US advertising market.

      Except the author is Polish and lives in Krakow. Advertising is a worldwide problem.

      I think the problem here is that you are considering perhaps a broader view of advertising than the author is. You are using the broadest version of Advertising; things like being put in a directory of services or having a sign over the door of the shop. While the author doesn't mention these specifically, I don't think he's including this type of advertising and instead seems to be focused specifically on persuasive forms of advertising.

      9 votes
    4. Amarok
      Link Parent
      I think of it much simpler than this. If I see an ad, and I'm not intentionally shopping, I want to sue someone for it. When I am shopping, I am perfectly happy to see advertisements, and only...

      I think of it much simpler than this.

      If I see an ad, and I'm not intentionally shopping, I want to sue someone for it.

      When I am shopping, I am perfectly happy to see advertisements, and only then.

      The rest of your regs up there wouldn't make me happy. They'd make things better, sure, but I'd still be bitching about it, and running my array of ad-blocking software to keep that garbage out of my brain.

      I note you didn't include a requirement to be true and factual during the advertisement in there. That would have taken care of one of my pet peeves - the fact that most ads are lies, exaggerations, and rife with inaccuracy and exploitative behaviors. Is that included in your point about EU laws? If so, wonderful, I'll take it. If not, I think the EU is still coming up short. I want a false ad to put a company out of business within the month, or at least fine them so hard they never even think about doing it again, and neither does anyone else.

      9 votes
    5. [3]
      NoblePath
      Link Parent
      You appear to be confusing marketing and advertising.

      You appear to be confusing marketing and advertising.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        nacho
        Link Parent
        The author is explicitly talking about the same thing I am, as far as I can tell:

        The author is explicitly talking about the same thing I am, as far as I can tell:

        (When I say "advertising", I use this term somewhat loosely; this text applies not just to the advertising material presented to customers, but to the broader process surrounding its creation as well, which is more correctly referred to via a bunch of buzzwords grouped under the term "marketing".)

        3 votes
        1. NoblePath
          Link Parent
          Hmm, I overlooked that paragraph. In which case, I strongly disagree with both you and the tfa. I like having nice and useful things, and some degree of marketing must occur for me to be able to...

          Hmm, I overlooked that paragraph.

          In which case, I strongly disagree with both you and the tfa. I like having nice and useful things, and some degree of marketing must occur for me to be able to know about them. Even if it’s something as simple as “my store sells hammers.”

          1 vote
    6. cwagner
      Link Parent
      Including the author. And it’s what they said: And regarding cancer, well, IMO the author explained really well why their analogy is apt. And I agree with them. I’m in Germany and you say Well, I...

      It's easy to say "advertising bad." We all know that's not fundamentally true though.

      Including the author. And it’s what they said:

      Advertising as currently practiced shares these characteristics.

      Limited to honestly informing people about what's available on the market, it can serve a crucial function in enabling trade. In the real world however, it's moved way past that role.

      And regarding cancer, well, IMO the author explained really well why their analogy is apt.

      And I agree with them. I’m in Germany and you say

      Almost all the "symptoms" of the advertising "cancer" are issues with US law that can be rectified.

      Well, I disagree. We used an advertising exchange for a while, they made us way more money than AdSense (only for backfills where we don’t have proper, directly bought ads). But the quality of the ads were atrocious. From quick rich scams, over "this one weird trick"-scams we got everything. And every time we had to block that one ad, but they kept coming. Less than a month later we decided to cancel them.

      This is reality in the EU. I block ads outside of our web-properties, but I’ve heard of exactly that bullshit for ages and remember them from the few times I went to, for example, spiegel.de (one of our biggest newspapers) on a browser without adblocking.

      You say

      Almost all the "symptoms" of the advertising "cancer" are issues with US law that can be rectified.

      And I say they are issues with the laws everywhere. And I don’t see a way out besides Draconian (huh, TIL that draconian and Draconian have different meanings) advertising regulations with extremely harsh penalties.

      So all in all, yeah: advertising/marketing in it’s currently widespread form is a cancer.

      1 vote
  2. [9]
    bhrgunatha
    Link
    Hear hear. I've been thinking this for a long time now and I'm glad to see someone take the time to highlight the various disparate issues. My personal pet hate is the spytech introduced into...

    Hear hear.
    I've been thinking this for a long time now and I'm glad to see someone take the time to highlight the various disparate issues.

    My personal pet hate is the spytech introduced into podcasts through aggregator services and apps. Not to mention the crass embedded ads (in the middle and spread throughout) podcasts where the podcast host is forced to talk about their sponsors.

    The worst part is that podcasting is now a viable career option encouraging ever more talentless wannabees diluting and infesting what used to be a bastion of enthusiasts and amateurs creating content they were absolutely passionate about.

    They're still out there but getting drowned out by the corporate sponsored dross and harder and harder to find.

    17 votes
    1. [4]
      imperialismus
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I think it’s a little harsh to suggest that people who want to make a living in podcasting are all mostly talentless wannabes. Just because you make a living off something doesn’t mean it can’t...

      I think it’s a little harsh to suggest that people who want to make a living in podcasting are all mostly talentless wannabes. Just because you make a living off something doesn’t mean it can’t also be a passion project.

      11 votes
      1. nothis
        Link Parent
        It's a pretty old sentiment among people who like hanging around certain subcultures, though. There is a famous article on the phenomenon: "Geeks, MOPs, and sociopaths in subculture evolution".

        It's a pretty old sentiment among people who like hanging around certain subcultures, though. There is a famous article on the phenomenon: "Geeks, MOPs, and sociopaths in subculture evolution".

        9 votes
      2. [2]
        bhrgunatha
        Link Parent
        You've misinterpreted and over generalised what I wrote. I did not say and did not mean all - I even address specifically that talented and enthusiastic people still exist. Just a massive increase...

        You've misinterpreted and over generalised what I wrote.
        I did not say and did not mean all - I even address specifically that talented and enthusiastic people still exist. Just a massive increase due to ad sponsorship and the infestation of ads in podcasts.

        2 votes
        1. imperialismus
          Link Parent
          Ok, I replaced the word ‘all’ with ‘mostly’. If that isn’t what you intended to say, I suggest going back and rewording your own comment, which was already a massive over generalization.

          Ok, I replaced the word ‘all’ with ‘mostly’. If that isn’t what you intended to say, I suggest going back and rewording your own comment, which was already a massive over generalization.

          2 votes
    2. [3]
      Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      My absolute favorite podcast has no sponsors and no ads, for which I love them so so much. Also it is hilarious. So I'll plug them here and say "wtf" to all the other podcasts. The Film Reroll...

      where the podcast host is forced to talk about their sponsors.

      My absolute favorite podcast has no sponsors and no ads, for which I love them so so much. Also it is hilarious. So I'll plug them here and say "wtf" to all the other podcasts. The Film Reroll

      Advertising has annoyed me for years. As a child it was just the way the world was, but now I'm much more aware of how my attention is spent. My time is my most valuable resource, and I refuse to spend it listening to someone tell me about products I don't give a shit about just because someday I might have a user for it. Broadcast TV is unwatchable to me now after years of Netflix and Plex content. I have adblockers on everything, and I'm very aggressive with filtering and unsubscribing my email. If there was a vote to ban all forms of advertising I would quit my job to campaign for it.

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        arghdos
        Link Parent
        I just finished the Pokemon reroll and oh my god, it was so good. There's a point in there where the cast starts to be able to understand what Joz is saying in her Pikachu voice (which was...

        I just finished the Pokemon reroll and oh my god, it was so good. There's a point in there where the cast starts to be able to understand what Joz is saying in her Pikachu voice (which was astoundingly good BTW) that had me cracking up

        3 votes
        1. Omnicrola
          Link Parent
          I've enjoyed every movie so far except for Rogue One, but even that has moments. Pitr as K2SO was to die for. My absolute hands down favorite is Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. They nailed the...

          I've enjoyed every movie so far except for Rogue One, but even that has moments. Pitr as K2SO was to die for. My absolute hands down favorite is Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. They nailed the characters, and the ending, OMG so perfect and thematically on point.

          3 votes
    3. Adys
      Link Parent
      Wow, and people here are fine with this sort of gatekeeping shit? Just a reminder that if it's a viable career that means there's an audience, ergo people who appreciate podcasts that may not be...

      The worst part is that podcasting is now a viable career option encouraging ever more talentless wannabees diluting and infesting what used to be a bastion of enthusiasts and amateurs creating content they were absolutely passionate about.

      Wow, and people here are fine with this sort of gatekeeping shit?

      Just a reminder that if it's a viable career that means there's an audience, ergo people who appreciate podcasts that may not be to your taste. So there's no world in which your comment doesn't straight up mean "God damn kids, liking things I don't like".

      Besides, advertising has nothing to do with the quality of the podcast itself. There's some very high quality stuff out there that's sponsored by audible/hover/whatever and embeds itself in the middle of the podcast. But it's still skippable, usually obvious where the ad begins and ends.

      6 votes
  3. krg
    Link
    Advertising has seemed like the ultimate industry to me for quite some time. "Ultimate" in the sense that ultimately everything is in service to serving you an ad. Buy, buy, buy.

    Advertising has seemed like the ultimate industry to me for quite some time. "Ultimate" in the sense that ultimately everything is in service to serving you an ad. Buy, buy, buy.

    8 votes
  4. [2]
    acdw
    Link
    The thing I ultimately end up thinking about when I think about advertising is how it all seems, ultimately, like a shell game -- there's layers and layers of stuff propping each other up, but...

    The thing I ultimately end up thinking about when I think about advertising is how it all seems, ultimately, like a shell game -- there's layers and layers of stuff propping each other up, but underneath it all, like the kid on Floor 13 of Wayside School, is a dead rat. If I think about it too much it makes me really nervous about it all being a huge bubble.

    7 votes
    1. Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      Now there's a reference I haven't heard in awhile.

      like the kid on Floor 13 of Wayside School

      Now there's a reference I haven't heard in awhile.

      4 votes
  5. [2]
    thejumpingbulldog
    Link
    I definitely agree with what the author is trying to say, but I think he also brings on things that aren't necessarily in the realm of advertising and more in the realm of shady business practices...

    I definitely agree with what the author is trying to say, but I think he also brings on things that aren't necessarily in the realm of advertising and more in the realm of shady business practices in general. I definitely wish he would go more in depth in how advertising tends to influence people, such as early techniques developed by Edward Bernays (He wrote about them in a book called "Propaganda" if you want to check it out.) Honestly though, I would agree with his assessment that the internet has completely gotten more corporate, and in a way, it feels like the fun is ending.

    What used to be awesome shortcuts and things barely anyone knew about, like streaming for example, now has become massively incorporated and is on the verge of becoming a worse option than cable. Which maybe wouldn't bother me too much as there is the open seas still, but I really get nervous about loss of personal freedom on a place that I used to feel was a refuge. Not like saying horrible things, but just being able to really engage with people in multiple ways. Being able to express oneself in a community of people who were doing the same exact thing. I felt like I was really reaching people and talking to them. That's what drew me to places like Reddit in the first place, and now these days places like those feel bloated, shallow, and not the same as the past. Still, whose to say our little lifeboat here won't end up like Reddit.

    I honestly don't know what the recourse is for the internet, as more and more people get hooked up online, and it becomes more and profitable for companies to become more involved their their branch of the internet. Especially in today's neoliberal economic era with massive mergers and acquisitions making big companies even bigger, I really get nervous that the fringes of the bastion of the promise of the early internet will be swept out in the interests of profit.

    5 votes
    1. The_Fad
      Link Parent
      My understanding is that's where Tor comes in.

      the bastion of the promise of the early internet will be swept out in the interests of profit.

      My understanding is that's where Tor comes in.

      1 vote