Advertising and information

Russell Turpin
Mon, 21 May 2001 08:03:20 -0500

One of the remarkable things about many ads is
precisely that they carry little or no substantive
information. Some ads will tell the viewer a minimal
dollop that might be considered informative: J. C.
Penny now has summer ware available in its stores,
as if there were a fleet of new clothers buyers each
year that might not realize this is as certain each
spring as Easter and high school commencement.
The surprising thing, though, is how many ads
cannot be considered informative in even this
fashion. Perhaps the worst are TV ads for cars.
They are designed to present images of open
spaces away from roads, quite solitude, or of
the carefree, i.e., precisely the opposite of what
cars are about (congestion, crowds, and
maintenance.) You typically get a picture of the
car being advertised. But sometimes not. What
information is conveyed in just a logo?

This is so remarkable, one has to wonder why
expensive television time is spend to convey so
little information. I think there are two reasons for
this. First, the ads are designed to generate
visceral belonging in their target audience, not
informed desire. Honda Accord wants thirty
somethings to feel "yes, I want peace and
reliability from one puchase in my urban
environment." VW wants twenty somethings to
think "cool."  A thousand SUV ads try to
convince people that buying the most polluting,
energy inefficient, and isolating car on the road
is a route back to nature.

Second, providing information -- any information
-- would only put at risk this first purpose. That
SUV has a V8? But I don't need that big an
engine. That car has a fold-down rear seat?
I don't need that, and it may increase road noise.
Every engineering and design choice is a trade-off,
that better fits some purposes than others. The ad
is NOT intended to help the ideal customer know
that this product fits them to a tee, because in
doing so, it also lets people slightly off mark that
it doesn't fit them so well. Instead, it is intended
to pull everyone who looks like the intended
customer. Even the ones who think they need
something else, maybe really want this product,
if it is presented in the correct fashion. Information
is doled out carefully through sales and PR
channels, that will spin it right, rather than in ads.

Of course, some ads do inform. When people
go shopping for something in a publication that
has a bunch of ads, they need information, and
the vendors provide it. It is the ads that are
pushed through mass media and into the most
imaginative places -- scribbled on city streets,
painted on the sides of buses, plastered on
building walls -- that inform the least. They're
not trying to make a match between existing
shopper and product, but are working in a
different way.


----- Original Message -----
From: <>
To: "David Stutz" <>
Cc: <>; <>; <>
Sent: Sunday, May 20, 2001 2:53 PM
Subject: Re: Advertising is the alternative to copyright

David Stutz wrote:

> Advertising works on all people (unfortunately!)  Its impact is variable,

That's not true. Advertizing works on all people *who see it*. Right now
I'm minimizing my exposure to advertizing. In fact the conscious impact
is that I won't buy anything I consciously recall as seing advertized
because I don't believe in supporting products who're pushed by costly
memetic flooding of idiots with low memetic immunity. Advertisement
is a lot like spamming in physical space, with the difference that
you're just as exposed as the next guy. No filtering proxy nor
realtime blackhole to filter out <Whatever is Hawt Right Now,
Luckily I Have No Clue Whatsoever>.  Of course, one could imagine
picking up what Steve Mann has prototyped by blotting out known
advertisements using machine vision and augmented reality, but that's
a tad too avantgarde. Why should I have to?

> which means that in your case, the ads that you think of as representing
> "all of advertising" clearly piss you off.
> Could a clever ad creator with too much time on their hands target this
> list, for example, in a way that you might either be unaware of, or that
> might think was unbelievably cool?  Probably...

I Don't Think So. It might require more than ten seconds to recognize, and
the result is certainly to backfire horribly. I'm not going to say what I'm
going to do to the spammer who's stupid enough to spam folks in their
immediate physical interaction radius while revealing their thereabouts,
but, to cite Bene Gesserit: You will pay. An example needs to be made.
Who's to blame? Why, any of the 20 million suspects in the spammer's dbase.

The perfect crime.