April 16, 2014

Advertising Avoidance

Advertising programs us to buy, buy, buy, whether we notice or not.

Many people report feeling that advertising doesn't work on them. That is understandable. No one wants to be led around, especially toward buying things they know they don't need.

But advertising is more insidious than many realize, and may be more effective than we want to believe.

Researcher Laurie Manwell outlines the mechanics involved in glancing at an advertisement:

“In fact, visual stimuli, transduced by the rods and cones in the eyes, and sent by electro-chemical signals to the central nervous system via the optic nerves does not go directly to the occipetal cortex which is the primary region responsible for processing information. 

Instead, it first goes to the lateral geniculate nucleus of the Thalamus, another region of the brain that is a part of the lymbic system and important to emotional arousal.

"To put this in simpler terms", she says, "this means that you can experience an emotional reaction to something before you are consciously aware that you have even seen it."

Knowing how your brain works can help guard against the mind parasites that advertising plants, often without you even being conscious of their burrowing. It is important to understand that we can react to something before we even are aware of it.

Armed with this knowledge, we can identify the initial emotional rush, then wait for the higher order thinking that will eventually come. It of course, will tell you not to buy anything you don't really want or need.

Those sneaky ads don't even have to worm into your consciousness in order to have an effect. Considering this, the frequency of advertising may have more of an effect than we know, whether we are paying attention to the ads or not.

If ad frequency is the problem, ad avoidance is the answer. The Centre for a new American Dream also proposes that we take a look at reforming advertising rules.

They say on their site:

"Advertising pervades every aspect of our lives and stimulates demand for junk we don’t need. We need to reform laws on advertising to better constrain it, to limit children’s exposure to it, and to stop mental pollution. 

The good news is there are ways we can do this, and some bold political leaders are working to do this."

You can read more on their website about places like Sao Paulo, Brazil where officials declared victory in their battle with billboards, effectively banning them from the barrio. It looks like freedom to me.

When the globe goes ad-free and ends the hyper-commercialization of everything, we will find out what we really want, and what we really need, not to mention what we can really afford.

In the meantime, avoid advertising at all costs.


  1. I'm so glad I tossed out the telly many years ago. Owning a television invites advertisers to have a comfy seat right in your own home! But even without a television, I'm continually dismayed over the continual marketing bombardment that passes for culture in our society.

    1. Gam Kau,

      TV really turned out to be an advertisers dream. Not owning one is a great way to avoid the continual onslaught of marketing madness.

  2. Anonymous4/16/2014

    It's overwhelming at times! I do try to limit my exposure as much as possible, but it still creeps in, as you've stated even before we are aware. It's sad how much advertising kids are exposed to on a daily basis. Even in school settings they have ads on books, walls and some places buses. Sickening!

    1. Anonymous4/17/2014

      When I was in school, there was no such thing, and that was the 90s. I don't understand why they need to fill children's heads with stuff like that. Grad standard tests were useless enough as it was, now there's meaningless advertising?!
      ~the finder of lost articles

    2. Anonymous4/17/2014

      I saw this documentary sometime ago about the science that is behind advertising and it had this man, just some regular joe, play-act as though he was the personified form of all the ads one sees on TV, billboards, etc., he had to say exactly how the ads appeared, and he came off as the biggest, rudest, most narcissistic, sociopathic, overly-extroverted egomaniac. Then he stopped and said as a regular person, something to the effect of "If you wouldn't tolerate me talking to you or your girlfriend like that, why do you blindly accept watching ads?"

    3. Miss Marla,

      In the future we will see advertising that targets children for what it really is - institutional abuse of the most damaging sort.

      In the book "Ecotopia" by Ernest Callenbach, the eco-society has banned advertising as we know it. Producers could still flaunt their wares, but they couldn't use any adjectives, or appeal to experts, or do anything other than state the fact that they had a particular item or service for sale.

      So instead of promoting "pillowy soft, extra deluxe, downy, super-strong, flowery fresh toilet paper that doctors guarantee will give you a happy bum and better complexion", they could only say they were selling "toilet paper".


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