Just Don’t Look

[1] I understand the fear about invasion of privacy.

Privacy just one more of those case where we think it means one thing and the government thinks it means another. I do think there are a lot of sinister things the government could do with certain information they collect from us. [Edit: Including election fraud.] I also think that we hypocritically support some of these measures when they are done to other people, like airport security measures, GPS to track criminals, etc.

On the surface, it’s creepy to think about ads being tailored to you based on your internet activity, and it doesn’t seem right that your personal information can be shared to third parties via a social networking site or your internet search history.

But people are making Google and Facebook seem like purveyors of identity theft. But what does that mean?

Advertisers are trying to target ads to you based on your personal interests. They aren’t collecting your social security number, and they aren’t going to tell your employer that you are a closet Buffy fan. Frankly, if this means I never have to see commercials for Luvs diapers or ambulance-chasing lawyers or Kay Jewelers again, then I would be all too happy.

Advertising is a form of mind control and manipulation, but it’s not so pervasive that it takes away your ability to resist.

You still have a choice NOT to buy the products being advertised.

You don’t HAVE to spend money on things you don’t really need.[2]

Yes, advertising is a part of the giant, scary capitalistic machine. It has invaded our sports stadiums, our films and TV shows, our public transportation, even our shopping carts. Marketing strategies are remarkably good at understanding and predicting human behavior, and although it seems like these abilities could be used for better things other than making money, they aren’t.

Yes, it’s obnoxious when giant billion-dollar corporations like PepsiCo are doing the advertising. You start seeing their logo everywhere and it feels invasive. The rich are just getting richer, and they are duping the poor into spending money they don’t have by trying to convince them they need a Pepsi right now via over-exposure to the Pepsi logo.

But when it’s a small, local business for which the actual livelihoods of people rely upon sales, do we really want to oppose advertising then?

If you are going to continue to want things you can’t grow or make for yourself and services you can’t provide for yourself; if you want to continue living in a globalized world where you can get 100% Canadian maple syrup shipped to your door in Memphis, Tennessee; if you want movies to continue being made, then you’re going to have to deal with advertising.

I’m dirt poor and don’t spend a lot of money on anything. I also take serious issue with the distribution of wealth in this world, particularly in this country. I still inappropriately and assholishly refer to Lucas Oil Stadium as “The Hoosier Dome.”[3] But even I find advertising useful.

Sometimes ads helps me learn that products exist. Sometimes I’ll even seek them out in a store. For most things, I’ll decide it’s too expensive and I’ll never buy it. The only thing I can recall buying based on a TV commercial or a magazine print ad is mascara. (I betrayed Maybelline and never will again.) The better way to learn about products is through word of mouth or consumer reviews, but advertising can still point you in the direction of something you already want.

Yes, advertising is annoying. Frankly, I’m a little alarmed at what advertising will come of my own Google search history, but I’m not being sold to advertisers. Another actual, living, breathing human being isn’t going to see that a lot of my recent internet search history involves trying to track down DVDs of Samurai Pizza Cats. (In fact, if this even exists, I hope I do see an ad for it.)

Yes, the things you own end up owning you.[4]

No, you are not your IP address.

But if it makes you feel any better, you’re really just a product of practices and discourses and power relations anyway.

[1] Title alludes to a song from The Simpsons, episode 3F04 “Treehouse of Horror VI.”
[2] Though the line between want and need is somewhat culturally determined at this point.
[3] The Hoosier Dome was renamed The RCA Dome in 1994. The building itself was demolished in 2008.
[4] It’s me. I *had* to make a Fight Club reference.

6 thoughts on “Just Don’t Look

  1. As the owner of a store with a not-so-great location, I’m starting to understand that advertising is absolutely necessary. Hopefully people just see my commercial as informing them that my store exists and about what kind of merchandise I have here. They can decide if they want to come in or not. If they see the commercial and decide they don’t care that my store exists, that’s fine, and we can both go on with our day without being offended. Sure, I’m trying to target certain types of customers based on which show they’re watching — advertising is just too expensive to waste on people who aren’t in the target audience. But like you, from a consumer point of view, I appreciate targeting. I’d much rather see commercials that are relevant to me. Sometimes I like finding out that a product exists, or that a restaurant I like is having a special. It’s kind of the same as people choosing to follow a company on Facebook or Twitter… they *want* to see that company’s updates and advertising. What gets annoying, though, is when you see commercials for the same product ALL THE TIME. I’m so tired of seeing the Ford Focus commercials!!

    • It’s small business owners like you that make me generally pro-advertising. You have to be able to let consumers know that you exist!

      And I agree! I hate seeing the same commercials over and over again, especially when they are for cars or some product that is so ubiquitous it doesn’t need to be advertised. I am never going to forget that Diet Coke exists. I don’t need it shoved down my throat. (Bad metaphor there, since I love Diet Coke…)

  2. Why don’t I ever comment on your posts? I love reading your blogs! Anyways, first off…you already know I love Fight Club references. Secondly, there aren’t enough commercials featuring adorable forest animals. Remember the Jeep Liberty commercial where they sing “Rock Me Gently?” Hahahaha! It always brings a smile to my face! And I can’t stand Jeeps. Sooo…

    • I completely neglected to include the entertainment factor! I actually enjoy watching commercials sometimes… partly because I like seeing how they’re trying to dupe me, but also for my own personal amusement. I totally forgot about that Jeep commercial, but I loved it too! And, you know what, I’ve never bought a Jeep! Go figure.

  3. The problem with entertaining commercials is that sometimes you remember the commercial but not the name of the company! It doesn’t do the company much good if people are saying, “Now what was that a commercial for?”

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