It’s said often that if we don’t pay for a service, we are the product. It isn’t generally true, although it seems true for many businesses supported by advertising. In this essay I explain why I believe such advertising to be generally useless for the user and harmful for the society.
There is nearly no benefit from advertising for the user. If they are looking for a better product to solve their problem, they can get good recommendations from their friends or other users of such products. There are multiple reasons why great advertising isn’t equivalent to great products, this makes ‘neutral’ search engines better at finding product information than paid-for ads.
Therefore advertising doesn’t produce anything useful for the society, while it is a huge business. Imagine all people who currently work on making ads and releasing them everywhere and all this creativity that could be used to support well-being of all (or just for leisure, it doesn’t bring the problems of advertising).
No ad can be useful for everyone that views it, it must be useless for someone. There is no difference between spam and other advertising. The one that is copied to the user wastes resources that have better uses. Imagine all paper used for loan ads, all network packets and CPU cycles for drug emails or ads on Web sites. How much could these resources benefit us?
Since it would be otherwise obviously useless for the business, advertisements must encourage people to buy things they don’t need to. They offer to solve all of our problems. The result? We have more problems, more things, less time and resources for what we really want.
On the Web there is additional problem of ads: their publishers can and do track much more data about the user than would be useful to provide their ‘service’.
These are the problems of the medium and motivation, there are also other problems of the message and views promoted in it. Many ads I see when I rarely watch TV promote the view that people should just ‘consume’ the product, do what the masters say, not think for themselves. They assign strict roles for people of various jobs or genders. They promote the harmful to the people family concepts. Most people shown in ads are slaves of the producers and their own genes. We must change this to surpass men, we won’t while supporting advertising by the wealthy ones.
These were the reasons why I won’t choose to support my work by advertising. I use Web browsers with addons like Adblock Plus and NoScript so my computers won’t waste their scarce bandwidth to fetch useless ads and show them instead of the article I’m looking for. Although I disable them for some Web comic sites, since I found many interesting comics via such ads (this might be similar in some other niche areas). The TV ads are an easier problem to avoid, I find creative activities like writing free software that I spend my time on instead of watching TV. Different funding methods for cultural works must be found, ones not connected to the act of using these works.