The Samovar

Destroy All Adverts!
January 30, 2007, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Activism, Business, Economics, Internet, Manifesto, Media, Politics

I don’t know if the nature of advertising has changed fairly recently, or if my view of it has just undergone a phase change, but over the last year my anger at the all-pervasiveness of advertising has dramatically increased. I wonder if the time has come for a campaign against advertising? So here is a tentative manifesto for such a campaign:

The case against advertising

  1. Adverts are crass and invasive – every surface is covered in adverts, they are broadcast louder than the programmes on TV, etc.
  2. The reliance on income derived from advertising distorts culture, news, and consequently politics
  3. Advertising distorts the market and encourages monopolies and oligarchies: big companies can afford to spend so much more on it than small companies
  4. It drains resources away from society without producing anything of value. Just think of the talented and creative people that could be producing something valuable who are instead thinking of ever new ways to bias our judgements.

What can we do?

  1. Prefer to buy products which you have not seen advertised.
  2. Get your news, television and so forth from advertising-free sources. For example, The New Standard and the BBC for news. Download TV programmes and films from the internet rather than watching them on TV.
  3. Use pop-up blockers and advert blockers on your web browser.
  4. If you suspect that you are the subject of a viral marketing campaign, absolutely refuse to buy anything from the company involved. This most insidious form of advertising has to be dealt with in the strongest manner possible.
  5. Mute the adverts when you watch the TV

I’m doing all of these. Any other suggestions?



Interesting topic! I think there is some evidence that this is happening already, and that advertising is beginning to lose its effectiveness. With the new technologies we can now effectively block out advertising from our web-viewing and even our TV’s apparently. Also, mass media channels are disintegrating, a point very well made in a book I’m reading at the moment.

A significant objective of advertising is to match up prospective buyers with sellers, which I don’t think is a problem in itself. The problem at the moment is that a scattergun approach is used – so many people are given advertising information when they don’t need it nor will they need it in the future.

Comment by woodpigeon

Well it may be happening already that TV adverts and such like are losing their effectiveness, but as of now they’re certainly not less prominent – quite the opposite. I was making a pot of tea the other day while watching a TV programme, and there were TWO advert breaks from the time I started to the time the tea was ready. Now, I wasn’t in a hurry to make my tea, but that’s ridiculous.

Presumably advertising budgets will just shift to some other form, probably more insidious, like product placements and viral marketing. These are less in your face than TV adverts, but in some ways they’re even worse. It really annoys me every time I read an article in the newspaper about some interesting sounding thing, only to discover that there’s a TV programme about it the next day. It jars, because it makes you realise that the journalists writing for that newspaper are completely under the control of the advertising people.

I don’t object to having something that matches up buyers and sellers, but I’m not convinced that’s the main function of advertising. There’s tons of information available to match up buyers and sellers. It’s easy to go on the internet and read reviews, or just go to the shop and take a look.

Comment by Dan Goodman

Did you see this on viral marketing?,,2001647,00.html

Comment by Edward the Bonobo

“There’s tons of information available to match up buyers and sellers.” – Ultimately the information becomes available via some sort of advertising, albeit in the case of a shop, very localised. Even reviewers have to find out about it to review it, and often that will be via some sort of advertising.

It sounds though that your issue is not with all adverts then. Surely nobody is going to complain too much about a classified ad. Your issue is with big corporate advertising.

Comment by woodpigeon

Ed, hadn’t read that article but I’m pretty sure I’ve read something like it. Thanks for posting it.

woodpigeon, classified ads are not such a problem (although environmentally speaking they probably are). I’m talking about the advertising that matters, the really big money advertising.

Comment by Dan Goodman

I just deleted a wonderful piece of spam to this very entry promising “Accommodations offers, ski offers, photos, travel maps, travel tips, monasteries and touristic objectives.” 😀

Comment by Dan Goodman

[…] 1:12 pm Filed under: Capitalism, Economics, Politics, Media, Business Advertising is one of my perennial bugbears. It does so much harm and gives so little in return. It saps creative talent from society at large, […]

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