Everyone has to agree that advertising is necessary and is also a shitty thing to drown in. It’s everywhere, it’s all the time, and I can’t imagine a time when it seemed to recede in ubiquity.
An advertiser making the claim for advertisement is like a fisherman making the claim for seafood so you know you have to be skeptical at any claim, doubly so for someone whose job is to trick you into buying things. These things don’t need to be material because an advertisement never shoves a thing at you. An advertisement, and the associated advertiser, are there to sell you on an idea you can’t shake. We have more than a century of precedent on advertising being used on us for every conceivable end from food and clothing to salvation and enlightenment. We get it; people want to sell us things and the assumption is we don’t need it.
So here comes Dustin Davis to shake us out of our reverie! He outlines the insidious nature of current advertising as bad, invasive and lazy. Sure, OK, banner ads are like billboards and I’m surprised when I use a browser that doesn’t already tidy up the internet for me. Unskippable ads make a subtle claim that they own my time. I will, without fail, close whatever page I’m on when these come up.
Look, I’m on board with Davis for most of this, but I don’t think it’s necessary in the ways he’s making them out to be. Smarter advertising that is more context-aware demands access to our information to understand our contexts at all. The smarter you want your advertising the more of yourself you have to give up for it. I run pretty dark on the internet and I don’t regret it. I have no problem finding new content. I have no problem finding materials I want and shopping for doodads and widgets I covet. And neither will you. You don’t need smarter, contextually-aware advertising to market to you. His warning that you’ll fall by the wayside and your business will fail and your art will vanish is at best misinformed and, at worst, a bit fear-mongering.
I’m not saying that advertising doesn’t have a place but as it stands, it serves huge corporate entities that can (and do) blanket the media landscape to push their branded popular culture on to you. Celebrities selling headphones and shoes, albums and lifestyles and brands. None of this media landscape favors the independent, the local, the upstart, or the individual. Suggesting, in his last sentences, that we shouldn’t skip whatever advertising turns into and we, instead, should absorb it because ‘bees pollinate flowers’ is a sleight-of-hand to win your favor. Don’t be fooled; the bee will sting you when you try to force it out of your hair.