Life in America: Advertising

August 25th, 2011

By Tom Carter

AdvertisingAs some may have noted, a couple of months ago I relocated from Europe to Texas.  I lived overseas for many years, most recently the past decade or so in Serbia.  Even though I spent a couple of months each year in the U.S. for various reasons, I really wasn’t immersed in American life.  Now I am.

One aspect of American life that I didn’t pay much attention to before is advertising.  It’s different from many years ago, and the difference is mostly bad.  There seems to be more of it, and while production values and creativity have improved to some extent, it’s so pervasive that it dulls the mind and weakens the spirit.

The internet, of course, has expanded the reach and access of advertisers.  That isn’t new to me because I’ve seen it for years as it developed.  I spent a lot of time on the internet in Europe just as I do here in the U.S., basically on the same websites.

I’ve watched the slow explosion of internet advertising from the time it was just a few little boxes and lines on a web page to today’s highly sophisticated and often very intrusive ads that clamor for the reader’s attention.  And any way you cut it, America has led the way in developing internet advertising techniques, and they’re copied on websites developed elsewhere in the world.

The two worst kinds of internet ads are the the ones that jump onto the page right on top of the text you’re trying to read and the full-page ads that open instead of the site you’re seeking, promising that you’ll be taken to the site in just a few moments (unless you click the little “x” hidden carefully somewhere on the page).  As a matter of principle, I do not read any of the text on these kinds of ads.  I click them off if I can find the “x,” and if I can’t, I literally look away until they disappear.  I know it doesn’t amount to anything, but that’s my little protest.

However, I don’t really mind non-intrusive ads on websites that aren’t principally commercial, especially blogs written by normal people.  I even click them now and then, even though I’m not interested, just to support the folks in pajamas laboring over their blogs at the kitchen table.

Television advertising in America is more unusual in my experience.  I didn’t pay much attention to it when I was based in Europe and just visiting the colonies.  Yes, there’s advertising on TV in Europe, and much of it follows the American model — it’s intrusive, irritating, and dumb.  But it’s one thing to follow a model, and it’s another thing to re-create the original.  At least some of the ads on European TV are entertaining, in a way not intended.

TV advertising in America is slicker and more interesting than it used to be, as I remember.  I often use the commercial slots to do other things, as I suspect most people do.  But I do watch some of them.  I particularly like the GEICO Gecko.

I also like some ads running now, such as the goose dancing with the pigeons to advertise health insurance and the little girl with priceless expressions trying to understand one of those hateful voice recognition answering services that so many business use these days.  But, I’m happy to report, I have not the vaguest recollection of what specific products are being promoted by the last two ads or even the companies selling them.  In my contrarian view, that’s as it should be.

Finally, there’s junk mail.  Grrrrrr.  I’ve seen a bit of it in Europe, but nothing at all like the blizzard of junk that clogs my mail box here in the land of the free.  And I can’t just grab it and throw it away, oh no.  I have to go through it carefully to make sure that no piece of real mail got caught up in all those pages and pages of junk.  But again, as a matter principle, I read absolutely nothing that comes as junk mail.

Thankfully, I don’t get a whole lot of real mail anymore.  I do everything possible by e-mail and on the internet — bills, payments, etc.  I know the U.S. Postal Service is struggling financially, and the cheap junk mail they inflict on us is probably keeping them afloat.  As far as I’m concerned, the USPS should disappear, to be seen only in museum displays alongside the dinosaur skeletons.  We don’t need them; the few things that still have to be delivered physically can be handled by UPS, FedEx, etc.  They’re more efficient and reliable anyway, and they don’t deliver junk mail.

OK, that’s my rant for the day.  Now I’ll see if I can find a re-run of Mad Men — great show, except for the commercials!

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3 Responses to “Life in America: Advertising”

  1. John H.M. Smith |

    Because of countries like China that never pay to use any American invented technologies and services but only steal, free to use, and imitate them, and later become strong competitors of the U.S. companies, the U.S. tech giants such as Microsoft, Google and Apple have to rely heavily on invasive advertisements to survive, otherwise they would get the same fate as General Motor, IBM and most resent Yahoo and HP.
    This has been deliberately done and encouraged, both openly and secretly, by Chinese government for decades. China is not short of money, it gives money to almost every U.S. enemy like North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Palestine, and even oil rich Iran and Venezuela; it just don’t pay the U.S.! For most American Branded high tech software and applications, China has secret links for “inner circle” people to free-download the pirate Chinese language version; this is state-sponsored and the hacking, decoding and translating job need a lot of specialized people to cooperate, the links will not be blocked until all “inner circle” people have all got it; then, normally after several months, the downloading source will be removed and waiting for new versions from American companies, once a new version has been published, a new link will appear again, and they use some special technique to evade search engines so that American companies will not find these pirate versions easily.
    The WTO, which Clinton administration had seen a success for bringing China in, is a complete joke for all Chinese. The Chinese government is not a law binding government, nobody in China values law or constitution, let alone some worthless treaty or agreement that they say only for luring Americans into buying Chinese goods. Years before the treaty coming into effect, China put its state or state affiliated companies in all important and valuable positions and locations and they all imitated American companies in terms of management, appearance and even name. Yes, in the end they let Wal-Mart, Home depot and Staples in, but only allow in much worse locations and pay much higher prices than Chinese competitors, and put countless regulations, which never applied to Chinese companies, on American companies. Chinese regulators’ only job is to “regulate” American companies, not Chinese ones. The smear campaign against American companies and brands has been carried out on a daily bases; every day all Chinese newspapers, magazines, websites have to report American companies and products’ “scandals”; the beggars, vagrants, thieves are only allowed to appear around American stores, but not Chinese stores; a criminal who commits a crime in an American store or fast-food restaurant would get a much less punishment or even no punishment than he would in Chinese ones… In China there are too many unspoken rules against American companies and preventing people from buying American products. Americans only know a very small portion of these rules, like the “currency manipulation”, but in my opinion it is nothing. Even if they set the currency at reasonable rate, they still have plenty of means to make American companies fail in China.
    Home depot has completely failed in China; Staples has retreated from all major cities but Shanghai. Wal-Mart, McDonald, HP have to endure harassment and phony accusation on a daily bases without complaining otherwise would get the same fate as Google, whose search engine is blocked in mainland China. Yahoo is perhaps the only complete unblocked American major website because it has fully cooperated with the regime and set up a joined adventure with a Chinese major web company and put a Chinese flag on its website, but it has still lost a lot of money in China.

  2. d |

    Ain’t it the truth,Tom? If the add is funny or interesting,you can’t remember what they were advertising. Adds that are ridiculous and stupid,you can remember the product. I have never,knowingly,purchased,a product,I have seen advertised,my protest. I block all those adds,that I can,on my computer and pop-ups are always blocked. I bet you don’t look away when the add has a sexy girl,Tom. Maybe you just don’t read the words,huh? I hate paying for T.V.,yet,still being bombarded with adds. I guess,if there were no adds,I’d hit pause a lot more often,as is, I try to tape favorites and fast forward through commercials.
    China does,however,lend us a ton of money.

  3. Mark |

    I hate almost all advertising on the radio, television and internet. It is a form of harassment and I try to avoid buying any product I see advertised. Regardless. Now loud ads are emitted from U.S. Chicago gas stations when you try to fill up your tank. Movie previews in theaters are overly loud and I rarely go to see them. Commercials are a noise pollution dilemma, a true menace to American society. Obviously, some of it works, otherwise there would be less of it. Luckily, I remember little of it and the ones I recall are so annoying and stupid that I would NEVER buy the product. Ads are based on deceit, hypocrisy and lies. I suspect that radio and television advertiser copywriters are fairly shallow people who will say or display images of almost anything to sell their product.

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