My favorite billboard ever

February 8, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More

Here it is, my favorite billboard.

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Category: advertising, Consumerism

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. As much as I enjoy and agree with most of your posts here, I find it hard to ignore your self-righteous anti-advertising stance any longer, Erich.

    Advertising, though far too often abused and mis-used, is an essential component of a capitalist society. It is the conduit by which we the producers disseminate information to the consumer.

    It would be great if we could all make a living in the service industries, but there are still many of us who manufacture products. How do you propose that we alert our customers of our new products, their benefits and where and how to get them?

    As for your boycott of Christmas and other "consumerist" holidays, I must say that I am a struggling filmmaker who was not sure that he could pay the rent this past December. Thank GOD (if He exists) for the Christmas rush! I sold enough of my DVDs to make it through. And how did I do that? Through advertising!

    My family's printing business is failing in part due to less advertising being done on paper. I've watched a once bustling 40 person operation be reduced to a sad skeleton crew. Please tell them and my young cousin with a new family who just got laid off from The Gap what a scourge advertising, fashion, consumerism and the malls of America are upon this country.

    This weekend is Valentine's Day. My daughter will be making money for college selling cards at the local gift shop. Shall I tell her to stop because it's just a holiday invented to make people spend money?

    There has been much said lately about America losing it's manufacturing capabilities and the dangers of becoming too much of a service economy. For those of us working hard to MAKE things for people to buy, advertising is our life line to the consumer. Consumerism, i.e. people actually BUYING things, isn't a bad thing. It is an essential part of our economy and the livelihoods of many people that I know.

    I will admit that ads are often misleading, deceptive and shallow, but I'd like to think that we are smart enough to evaluate them and what they are selling. Your crusade against advertising seems to me to be at times elitist, misguided and just plain wrong.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Mike: I'm not against all advertising. I'm against ubiquitous advertising, without very few places I see being ad free. We see it in schools, along roads. It's all over mass transit. I'm seeing it all over the airport I'm currently in–in the form of TV sets spewing it out. How about some quiet and some commercial silence in more places. [I admit that I'm a hypocrite, because it is on the DI homepage, an attempt to defray a bit of the cost of hosting. I sometimes think of taking those ads down, and going ad-free. Then I think of paying $1,000 more of my hosting costs each year.

      Do people need to promote their products? Yes, of course. Do they need to do so virtually everywhere we go? No, thank you.

      Perhaps the thing that annoys me the most about most billboards is that they are attempts to convince people that they "need" things that they clearly don't need. Here's what I'd rather see: http://dangerousintersection.org/2009/01/17/billb

  2. Brynn Jacobs says:

    Mike-

    I'm interested in your perspective, but I must say that I disagree.

    You argue that advertising is an essential component of capitalism, but then go on to decry layoffs and the evolution of the advertising industry, which are part of the "creative destruction" of capitalism. It seems contradictory to me to argue for the preservation of advertising while being upset in the other ways capitalism expresses itself.

    Secondly, most advertising is not done by mom-and-pop manufacturers or stores, but rather huge multinational conglomerates fighting for a percentage or two of market share.

    I agree with Erich as to the ubiquity of advertising. Everywhere I go, I'm assaulted with constant messages urging me to buy something. From the Wikipedia article on "criticism of advertising":

    As advertising has become increasingly prevalent in modern Western societies, it is also increasingly being criticized. A person can hardly move in the public sphere or use a medium without being subject to advertising. Advertising occupies public space and more and more invades the private sphere of people, many of which consider it a nuisance. “It is becoming harder to escape from advertising and the media. … Public space is increasingly turning into a gigantic billboard for products of all kind. The aesthetical and political consequences cannot yet be foreseen.”<sup id="cite_ref-2" class="reference"><span></span></sup> Hanno Rauterberg in the German newspaper ‘Die Zeit’ calls advertising a new kind of dictatorship that cannot be escaped.

    <sup id="cite_ref-autogenerated2_3-0" class="reference"><span></span><span></span></sup>

    Ad creep: "There are ads in schools, airport lounges, doctors offices, movie theaters, hospitals, gas stations, elevators, convenience stores, on the Internet, on fruit, on ATMs, on garbage cans and countless other places. There are ads on beach sand and restroom walls.” “One of the ironies of advertising in our times is that as commercialism increases, it makes it that much more difficult for any particular advertiser to succeed, hence pushing the advertiser to even greater efforts.”<sup id="cite_ref-5" class="reference"><span></span><span></span></sup>

    Additionally, much advertising carries the hidden and psychologically damaging message that one is not a whole or complete person without the latest Brand X. Again from Wikipedia:

    [Much] of advertising is not information but suggestion– more or less making use of associations, emotions (appeal to emotion) and drives dormant in the subconscious of people, such as sex drive, herd instinct; of desires, such as happiness, health, fitness, appearance, self-esteem, reputation, belonging, social status, identity, adventure, distraction, reward; of fears (appeal to fear), such as illness, weaknesses, loneliness, need, uncertainty, security or of prejudices, learned opinions and comforts. “All human needs, relationships, and fears – the deepest recesses of the human psyche – become mere means for the expansion of the commodity universe under the force of modern marketing.

    Finally, advertising exists to get people to buy things that they do not need, or more generously, things that they didn't know they wanted. If I need to buy something, I know where to go to get it. I do not need to be constantly bombarded with messages to help me determine what kind of shampoo I need. My jeans do not say anything about who I am, I do not need an I-pad or the latest cellphone, and I generally couldn't care less about 99.9% of the products which are relentlessly pitched to me. Quiet already, please.

    Lastly, you seem to equate consumption with consumerism, which is a mistake, I think. Consumption will go on regardless, but infinite growth is not possible. Consumerism is defined by Wikipedia as "a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts." How can that be healthy? Why not foster the desire to create more intimate and fulfilling personal relationships with those around us?

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