Advertising overload

June 1, 2011 | By | 10 Replies More

A Netherlands arts group, Studio Smack, put together this video which provides a stark look at all the logos and advertising one is exposed to throughout a normal daily routine.

When our senses are assaulted by so many messages, I suspect that we filter most of them out, at least from our conscious mind. This filtering has led to an arms-race of sorts among advertisers, who are constantly seeking new “views”.  As the old ads are filtered and lose effectiveness, new ads must be placed in novel locations or using other tricks to ensure the potential consumer pays attention.

Visually, the video above reminded me of coming technology which has been dubbed “augmented reality“. Advertisers are already moving into this sphere, and I worry that there will come a day when one cannot operate in the world without such technologies. Imagine having to wear a special pair of glasses which would be necessary to check the weather forecast or your email, or even access Wikipedia articles about things that you see. Such glasses could also show you pop-up ads for various items as you walk down the street, and combined with geo-location technology, the possibilities for advertisers are nearly endless! As always, such devices will be sold with the promise that they enhance connectivity, or make our lives somehow more convenient.

Technology author Nicholas Carr is warning that the internet can be detrimental to one’s ability to concentrate and think deeply about subjects.

Every new technology in history — like the map and the clock — changed the way people think but Carr sees special dangers in the Internet.

While the Internet has enormous benefits in delivering incredible amounts of information at incredible speed, it’s also a distracting and interruption-rich environment.

Carr said it encourages quick shifts in focus — and discourages sustained attention and the ability to think deeply and creatively about one topic and to challenge conventional wisdom.

Popularity-driven search engines, in one of the ironies of an information-rich Internet, worsen the problem by leading everyone to the same sources, he said.

Social networks, while pleasurable and fun, increase distractedness by bombarding users with brief bits of information.

“We take in so much information so quickly that we are in a constant state of cognitive overload,” Carr argued.

“Multitasking erodes cognitive control. We lose our ability to say that this is important, this is unimportant. All we want is new information.”

How much more would “augmented technology” advertising impact our brains or psychology?  I don’t have the answers, but I wish we were asking the question more often.


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Category: advertising, computers, Films and Videos, Internet, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

is a full-time wage slave and part-time philosopher, writing and living just outside Omaha with his lovely wife and two feline roommates.

Comments (10)

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  1. Reminds me of the movie about a guy who gets hold of a pair of glasses which show the real massages behind all the advertisements. Forgot the title though….

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    How many advertisements are Americans exposed to each day? Many people have made such estimates, and they range from 247 to 3,000 and more. Here are descriptions and links to many of these estimates:

    See also this post about the ill-effects of advertising:

    And here are many other DI posts on consumerism and advertising.

  3. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Planeten Paultje;

    I happen to have the movie you are thinking of on DVD. It is titled "They Live". It was from 1988.

  4. After seeing that, you should read William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition" which is about trademark and branding and zeitgeist. The main character is a so-called "cool hunter" who develops an allergy to branding.

  5. Brynn Jacobs says:

    "They Live" was a highly entertaining movie, with a surprising message that I was not expecting when sitting down to a movie starring "Rowdy Roddy Piper". The main character can see subliminal hidden messages using a special pair of sunglasses. The messages are everywhere in the film, and are things like "Obey", "Marry and reproduce", and the subliminal message on money is "This is your god." I don't want to spoil the plot too much for anyone who hasn't seen it, but the themes are amazing if you look at the film as a metaphor for social control in modern society.

    Mark- I have barely touched any Gibson, though I've been meaning to read some of his stuff for a long time. Thanks for the recommendation, I'll definitely check it out.

  6. Brynn,

    Pattern Recognition is the first in a trilogy, which continues with Spook Country and Zero History. They are all about information issues, but the first one fits this post best. They are $&^@#*** brilliant. While Gibson is known as a science fiction writer, these are not "properly" SF, as they are contemporary and deal with nothing speculative in the traditional sense. But his sense of the how things operate comes straight out of SF and makes for a fascinating read. (And by all means, you ought to read his first novel, Neuromancer, just because.)

  7. Erika Price says:

    What really creeps me out is how dependent arts, news, and entertainment are on advertisements. We all bristle at the constant onslaught of ads that face us every day, but at the same time we are reliant upon advertising to fund much of our favorite broadcast content and websites. I gladly endure when my favorite podcasts include a brief ad, happy to hear that a content provider I appreciate has a revenue stream to keep it going. Even the costs of DI are cushioned by a noninvasive ad.

    It all seems like an inefficient and misaligned way of funding creative output. I wish there was some way to switch the paradigm entirely so that people could afford to pay directly for the news, music, videos, and blogs they value, rather than having both audiences and producers feed into a consumerist support system by either selling or absorbing ads.

    But that would require an economic overhaul that left more money in the individual pocket and less in the corporate advertising budget- and I don't see how that could be accomplished. Alternatively, we could begin to view content as a public good (like water or public radio), and fund all of it through taxes, eliminating the need for content providers to advertise. Both scenarios seem hopelessly improbable in the current economic and political climate, however.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Erika: I agree with your assessment regarding the need for content that is not funded by ads. I'm in the middle of a great new book by Robert McChesney and John Nichols on that exact point: The Death and Life of American Journalism: the Media Revolution That Will Begin the World Again (2010). You can read all about it here, as well as view their presentation, which I recorded at the National Conference for Media Reform in Boston.

      As far as DI, I removed all of the ads a few weeks ago. They had been providing $1,000 per year, an amount that almost covered my hosting (but not my other costs–it costs me almost twice that to run the site per year). I'm paying for the costs of the site now, because many of the ads annoyed me. It's not that the content of this site was influenced by these ads–they were chosen by Google, and I almost entirely tuned them out. But I do find it refreshing to look at the DI ad-less site. It's not often that you find a site without any ads at all. I've had the PayPal "Contribution" button up for two weeks, and have not received any contributions. I think I need to make my case a bit better next to the button that I'm only looking to recoup a portion of my hosting costs by seeking $10 or so from anyone interested. Frankly, even if I never get a contribution, I do like having no ads on the site.

  8. Well blimey, lookahere. They Live on the intertubes…..

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