My theory on why advertising is so terrible


I accidentally watched a TV advert the other day.

A woman was on a Zoom call with friends. Her blurred background failed and revealed her ugly kitchen. Her friends all laughed at her. So she went along to AMAZING KITCHENS DIRECT 2 U and got a brand new kitchen. Now her friends are embarrassed about their kitchens!

What kind of fucking psychopath puts that out there into the world? Preying on people's insecurities when there's a pandemic on is disgusting and irresponsible.

I stopped watching adverts around the turn of the century. I got an early TiVo and merrily used the 30-second-skip to jump through them. My housemates didn't understand. They saw the adverts as a kind of alternative programming. And, to be fair, some adverts can be as amusing and heart-warming as any show. But most are just low-grade junk designed to get you to buy crap you don't need.

And so, on to my theory. Most advertising is crap because it is designed to be watched by people too stupid to block advertising.

In the seminal paper "Why do Nigerian Scammers Say They are from Nigeria?", a Microsoft employee posits that the "scammer has an over-riding need to reduce false positives. By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his favor." (emphasis added)

That's what has happened now. Anyone with a lick of sense has an ad-blocker on their computers. Anyone with money has either a streaming service with no adverts, or a TiVo style box to skip them. So advertising goes from being merely an irritant to a stream of toxic sludge filled with parasites.

Advertising doesn't attempt to be clever - because clever people aren't watching.
Advertising doesn't attempt to be honest - because victims don't know how to complain.
Advertising doesn't attempt to be decent - because emotionally mature people don't fall for it.

The single most important thing you can do to improve your life - and the lives of your family and friends - is to install an adblocker.



3 thoughts on “My theory on why advertising is so terrible

  1. Šime Vidas says:

    And, to be fair, some adverts can be as amusing and heart-warming as any show.

    How do you know this? You’re secretly watching ads, aren’t you? Admit it!

    1. Nah, he just has friends who work as technologists in advertising to pay the bills, while I do stuff outside the dayjob (and some within) to make the world a better place… 😉

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