Candor in Advertising

I was reading a Businessweek article about advertising, Arby’s Best Commercial Yet Is Actually for Pepsi :

Advertisers know what we think about their work—it’s manipulative, it’s dishonest and most of the time, we don’t want to see it. We fast forward through commercials on TV, we flip past ads in the newspaper, we install pop-up blockers online and hide sponsored posts on our Facebook feeds. In response, the advertising industry has invented all sorts of ways to trick us into thinking about—and hopefully buying—their clients’ products. They place them in movies and TV shows. They hire so-called “storytellers” to create “narratives” about their brands. They tweet at us. Sometimes they even write press releases that look like news articles in the hopes that readers won’t be able to tell the difference. But they know we don’t want that. We just want to be told what’s for sale, what it does, and then we’ll decide for ourselves if we want to buy it.

It reminded me of a quote: “The important thing is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

I’ve expected for some time that the internet was inevitably going to become more and more like television. When you open a webpage, or click on link, many websites immediately throw something else in your face. It may be a request for donations, or to subscribe, or leave feedback, but it is essentially advertising and it is incredibly annoying. So I’m tending away from mainstream media websites and towards alternative sites with more content and less flash.

I have several problems with Youtube lately. The first is that Chromium – the linux version of Chrome – fails halfway through a video with an Aw Snap message. The second is that I open a video, wait through the advert, and then nothing happens. I reload and the advert plays again and nothing happens. A third is that hackers are exploiting Adobe Flash player to deliver viruses and malware. So I find myself less and less interested in dealing with Youtube.

I have a problem watching television itself, too. Many of the shows we watch feature heroic and likeable policemen. Think the casts of Foyle or Lewis on the UK shows and the casts of Castle or Psych here in the US. Shows like NCIS feature witty, likeable government agents. It has been disturbing enough to watch the tacit acceptance of torturing suspects in these shows, but lately it is simply harder and harder to reconcile the news of police shooting unarmed suspects, bullying people on camera, seizing and keeping cash for no proven reason, with the uncostumed heroes on television. I am coming to understand police dramas as another form of unwanted advertising.


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