From the video description -
"The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud's ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn't need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires.
Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticising the motorcar.
His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom. But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile.
It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate today's world."
Or it is working perfectly, since I have a subscription (for now).
I sometimes wonder if the people who are the true targets of advertising, made to want things they don't need, are the people who buy advertising.
That's a bold claim, with your only supporting evidence some anecdotal claim by some guy you knew who claimed it.
If you are refuting the article and making your own bold claim, surely you can offer more evidence then "some guy I know told me"
"If you are refuting the article..."
The article made no mention of public relations nor Bernays. I was responding to a comment that cited a YouTube description. I am familiar with Curtis' documentaries, including the one in the video. I enjoy them. However, I believe he makes them as art, for entertainment purposes, not as a teaching tool. His comments in interviews seem to support this view.
We see hundreds of ads every day. Even if we miss each particular product placement, their aggregated core message "buy more stuff" and "your life is not perfect like the people in the ads" registers just fine.
Advertising today is mechanical applications of the central limit theorem / law of large numbers to sociological problems.
Reach, penetration and target audiences is like 95% of what modern advertising does.
Modern advertising works on simple statistics rules like "people who drink Pepsi might need heartburn medicine" or "people who recently bought home appliances might want to buy another one".
These things are simple applications of the CLT. No psychology or manipulation is needed or wanted.
We're constantly getting better at it; who knows what path this will lead us down. I suspect it might not be the one we had wished for.
There's a lot of talk about what impact mass automation will have on our society, and what kind of work people will have once they're replaced by machines. This is always framed in such a way as if it's a problem we're about to face, but it looks like it's actually a trend that's been going on for decades (at least). And the answer is that, unless there is an effort to direct these people towards productive ends, many will continue to flow to these parasitic sectors.
Ah, a clearly well-rationed article is at foot. Here’s a hint, if someone isn’t able to model free things in their understanding of capitalist systems, they don’t understand them enough to critique them.
Anyway, the rest of that “critique” isn’t actually a critique. It’s just goal post shifting to the point where it assumes socialist systems by nature have perfect demand discovery mechanisms (none of which are alluded to) and can never produce a surplus. Conveniently, it follows that clearly socialist systems are perfectly efficient and do not allow surpluses because they have this neat built in mechanism of perfect demand discovery.
So it’s “not true socialism” if there are any inefficiencies in food production, energy production, etc because “true socialism” has a mechanism by which everyone gets exactly what they need.
Did someone inform the author of this that such a mechanism has never existed and the most efficient mechanism we have discovered so far is markets?
This thread originated in a discussion of the detriments of advertising, I would remind you. The "markets" we're currently employing to "discover demand" find greater profit in engendering it.
The truth is the government is a social contract designed to actually protect people from violence. Yeah, it taxes people. But it also protects them from mobsters and racketeers and is at least supposed to offer a chance to poor people. A libertarian paradise dooms the poor to never be able to afford education and basic necessities unless they sacrifice through slave wages. In a libertarian paradise, the rich run amok, and children of rich people start with an insane advantage that no amount of smartness or slaving away will ever erase. And no, by and large, people are not Howard Roarks in hiding. Most people are within 2 sigma of the mean--i.e. not geniuses. In a situation with no social contract, the 5 sigmas both in terms of intelligence and aggressiveness prey on and suppress the rest. Inequality skyrockets. It ultimate results in violent revolutions, like France. In short, libertarianism is madness.
In general it'd be great to have a discussion about these things, but since this comment is just some non-thinking spouting of absurdity, I'll just leave it here. I already said too much.
But your example of the French Revolution detracts from your argument, because that occurred in the context of a strong monarchist government, not a libertarian dystopia.
Another way would be to say that effective government ensures that the rule of law is maintained, that contracts are enforced, that the environment is protected, that trade is conducted efficiently etc ..
Granted, none of the above are absolute, some governments will do better than others and some will abuse their power.
What is the alternative? Somalia in the late nineties? All government functions handled by corporations? something else?
Did you see this? -
> Crossfit, Inc. Suspends Use Of Facebook And Associated Properties - May 23, 2019
Citizens decide where to spend their money -- at least the part that the government doesn't tax and spend for them -- and all of these industries you name exist and pay well because people value them and choose to spend their money on them.
I think his point is, these industries are not valuable to people; they are just aggressive at extract wealth from other people. In net, they have a negative value (from his perspective) and thus society will be better without them.
When you characterise them as 'not valuable to people', you're making a prescriptive moral judgement (and not one I necessarily disagree with), as opposed to a descriptive observation of where free agents choose to spend their money.
I don't drink soda or eat highly processed food, I don't have a credit card, and I didn't buy my car from a dealership. But the fact that many people choose to spend their money on all these things tells me that those people do see value in them, and I don't think my preferences are right and theirs are wrong.
You're giving them way too much credit. Do you notice how the world is full of failed advertising campaigns? How the world is full of failed companies and failed products that the evil geniuses in advertising weren't able to make people buy?
There's a world of difference between 'we can use some principles from psychology to try to exploit people's fears and make them more interested in our product' and 'our unlimited powers of persuasion make free will an illusion'. And despite the hype, most big-data, machine learning, 'downloading your thoughts from Facebook before you've even had them'-style targeted advertising amounts to showing you ads for the thing that you just bought.
The people running government are (in most places) elected by the people but that is affected by political manipulation, gerrymandering and politicians often represent the moneyed interests that got them into power.
Governments have similar competition problems as individuals and companies. If taxes are raised too much, the people with money will take it to other countries with more lenient tax systems.
And unpopular policies will cause other political parties to seize the power from their promoters. Money and advertisement also plays a part in campaigns.
Finally, if you try to extract competition from politics, you get a tyranny.
People on HN likes very much to write comments with the "we as a society" or "we as a species" or "we should do that", but there is really no such we.
That's off the top of my head. Taxation is control. And the wealthy & powerful have undue influence over who chooses what gets taxed - using the above methods I referenced.
And there's nothing to stop people buying diet soda.
Why do we need the govt making cheap unhealthy stuff even cheaper?
For credit cards, maybe he meant that in some countries, where individuals cannot default, banks are comfortable taking too much risk and advertise credits aggressively. I have personally witnessed several victims of this (yes, people can be dumb).
Wrt "car dealerships and (most) sales people", it is probably not affecting the individual so much, but if you look closer at "enterprise sales" and government spending, you will certainly notice some "interesting" practices. However, I think that this is a lot harder to solve than the other case above, because it is not so directly aimed at the masses.
I also don't like what they choose, and I don't disagree with any of your suggestions; I think these would all be good ideas. But you're asking for less freedom, not more.
That's the problem, to a large extent we don't because of the pervasive manipulation the advertising industry does to us, the industries reason for existence is literally undermine our free will.
It's almost criminal the way we propagate the narrative that advertising is ineffectual. Of course, if it were, there wouldn't be so much money in it.
So it's very hard for me to take seriously people who believe in consumer choice.
No one would argue that businesses spend a lot of money on targeted advertising, and targeting is something that marketers are constantly trying to refine.
What is targeting? Showing things to the people who are most likely to buy them.
In the world you're describing, targeting wouldn't exist, because the mind control techniques of advertising have made free will a thing of the past, and people will just buy whatever the all powerful advertising agencies tell them to buy.
You claim sales and advertising are parasitic, but what is the alternative? A central planning committee that decides what products we can buy?
Seriously, this is total nonsense and it frustrates me to even read such a wild comparison.
The value of soda for example is that some people like the taste and sensation. It brings them a little bit of joy. Not everything has to be coldly utilitarian.
You aren't making any decisions when you enjoy soda: a large corporation paid some people to conduct studies and ensure that you can't not enjoy it on a basal level.
Of course it's not bliss - it's not good for you in anyway. In fact we know - completely - that it has massive long term deleterious effects on your overall happiness - because it's not optimized to actually "make you happy" - it's optimized to keep you drinking it.
Remove the sugar from soda and you have awful-tasting water.
Sugary drinks are no better than cigarettes, and the people pushing them know exactly what they are doing and what they are exploiting.
And anyway, value is determined by the buyer. You can't say as an individual that something has no value to society.
I disagree. You can make anything seem valuable by defining value in the most cynically narrow terms possible like that.
By that same logic, heroin has great value in society, and hitmen and we shouldn't be trying to stop these things. However we do, because the popularity of the product is no measure of its contribution to society.
Continue on with that logic and literally everything is valuable, making it a meaningless distinction.
> You can't say as an individual that something has no value to society.
I can and did. It's an opinion not an assertion.
If you are creating a need that didn't already exist, like targeting people's predisposition to addictions to substances like sugar, or nicotine, or heroin, then I posit that you have created no real value whatsoever.
You just don't enjoy soda. There's nothing wrong with other people enjoying it. Either in moderation, or irresponsibly in our opinion, which is their own business. Other people don't enjoy music and art and should probably think they should be done away with you like you with soda.
So no, that's not my logic at all. There was already a need for art and music. There wasn't already a need for Coca Cola and Lucky Strikes.
I say that the caffeine is in there solely to keep people addicted to it even more.
Part of being an enjoyable experience - not literally part of being delicious but part of being a sensation people enjoy.
Soda manufacturers include this information because they are required to by law. It is in their interests to hide this information from you.
Lobbysists for junk food manufacturers are always hard at work fighting against these kinds of regulations, because you knowing what is in their product is harmful to their bottom line, because they are selling you what amounts to a mild poison.
People fought to get this labelling required by law. These companies aren't doing it out of the goodness of their hearts.
> They are optimised to be as delicious as possible I'm sure, but singers also optimise their songs to be as pleasing as possible so you'll buy their next album.
The difference being my health isn't harmed by a pop singer trying to improve their voice. Nor are they creating a need or addiction to music that didn't already exist. There has always been a need for music among humans. Even tribal war drums count as music.
I'll concede that most pop music is lowest-common denominator crap manufactured and marketed to as as wide a demographic as possible for no other reason than profit, but really, pop music is such a small part of the entire musical landscape.
Even if it were, what damage to people is pop music causing? What addictions is it fostering?
You could debate about the dumbing down of music that manufactured pop music encourages, but we are talking about actual harm caused by fostering addictions here, which things like sodsa and cigarettes do, as a result of their being addictive as well as damaging to health.
The pop music analogy isn't a very good one, because music doesn't damage your health by encouraging your addiction to substances harmful to your health.
Bah I think you're showing yourself to be a cynic and a snob with statements like this. You don't like that music so it's 'lowest-common denominator crap' and you can't see any purpose for it apart from profit, no matter if other people chose to enjoy it.
It's an actual thing that has happened.
You didn't address the point of my post though, the pop music analogy was just an example you used that I felt didn't work very well because music, even pop music, doesn't harm your health or exploit addictions in the ways many advertised products do.
Quite frankly, advertising is psychic violence, and you can't escape it. Exploiting people's psychology to consolidate their resources for yourself is tantamount to theft. When men do it to women to push them to sell sex, we call it "pimping", and judge it as a completely reprehensible, unredeemable act. Of course your general well-being is diminished by a barrage of messaging encouraging you in every conceivable way, that the only road to satiety is to act against your own self-interest. How could that not totally fuck with you?
Spending your time coming up with more devious mechanisms, and ways to decrease the escapablity of said mechanisms is a fucking unseemly way to behave, as an individual. As a species, it's absolutely tragic that all those brilliant people doing it, can't break from the comfort of those fat paychecks and find something better to do with their time on Earth... Myself included.
We all have to stop focusing on the short term quarterly profits and growth and zoom out and see the big picture. Not only is software eating the world, but it's appropriating it for a low kind of social programming--turning us all into zombies. Software wants to mediate all of our experiences as humans, and advertising is right there with it, trying to interpose to do, as you wrote, "psychic violence" in little drips throughout our daily lives.
It's amazing that we let our minds be run by the shit in computers. (including all of this! haha!)
... Which is tantamount to theft.
Money is your score at the game of life.
Maybe the answer is to stop treating life as a game..
That being said, I cannot really think of a better system than money at our current scale.
In the saddest and emptiest of lives, sure.
Living only to increase the number on your bank balance seems like a terrible waste of life to me.
Not always, even when it does, it's only up to a point.
I actually think a large number of societal issues today are stemming from people's inability to think rationally for themselves. Things like fake news, being vulnerable to advertising, taking bad deals like minimum wage etc. If someone were able to think rationally and into the future to figure out, "4 years from now if I choose this [politician, car, job]" I'll be as bad or worse off, then those things would die out for want of funding...
Here's the thing...
I'd taken quite a lot of advertising courses during my education, and among the many truly scary things that I learned in them, one stood out above all others:
Knowing how advertising manipulates you, and even noticing it in the moment that it's happening, in no way makes it less effective. People who claim that they aren't affected by advertising are incorrect.
Nobody can just decide not to reward advertising, short of keeping a list of all the advertising you're exposed to (and are you sure you can spot it all?) and refusing to buy any product or service that appears on that list.
Example 1: Coca Cola adverts. I can't stand coke, it tastes like soap to me. No amount of viewing their adverts (which are everywhere) will make me want a coke.
Example 2: I find most adverts cringey and embarassing and they serve only to make me avoid the company responsible in the future. If I see an annoying ad, I react wityh an aversion to products by that company. It's not true of everything, but it happens enough that I notice it.
No amount of advertising will be able to convince you to like something that you dislike. Advertising is manipulative, but it's not mind control.
But advertising is not trying to (for example) make you like cola if you don't like cola. What it's trying to do is make you choose one brand of cola over another.
For certain types of advertising, such as soft drinks, they're aiming to influence a particular moment. As a Pepsi executive once explained, they're aiming for that half-second when you're reaching for a soft drink and are making a spur-of-the-moment decision about which one. That sort of advertising is about influencing that spur-of-the-moment decision so you're more likely to choose theirs. It's effective because, in the absence of thought, you're overwhelmingly likely to choose a brand that you recognize the most or have the most positive associations with.
That's what ads are for. To get everyone to know that they live in a reality where your product exists.
I find this quite easy and intuitive. I'm not against advertisement at all. I've seen and remembered several advertisements but they almost never offer a product compelling enough to buy. When an ad does offer me something I actually want, I'll buy it (this happens for far less than 1% of my spending).
and yes, i'm well aware of how advertisements influence our perception of brands. but how is it effective if I never buy anything that has a brand? and when I do buy, I usually never have a choice: Utilities, etc
I have a 15" macbook pro that may have been aggressively marketed by Apple. But once again, I had no choice. the reason I bought it is because I'm a developer who used to create IOS apps and I needed the development environment to build apps (no choice but to use apple machines for that).
Is there any evidence for such a claim? I've heard people say this again and again, but I can't see how this is true based on myself. Sure, I've been guided to a product based on advertisement once in my life, but everything else I've ignored obvious advertisements. I can't say that I haven't been swayed by an advertisement that's masked as a review, but that's divorced from this I think.
>Nobody can just decide not to reward advertising, short of keeping a list of all the advertising you're exposed to (and are you sure you can spot it all?) and refusing to buy any product or service that appears on that list.
But buying something that's advertised doesn't mean you're rewarding the advertisement. If you would buy that product regardless, then even if the advertisement stopped (or never existed) you'd still buy it.
This is why there are a set of different approaches that have been shown to be effective (given names like "the bandwagon" -- which covers the group of people who can be swayed by convincing them that everyone else is into something). A comprehensive campaign will have different ads for the same thing, each using a different approach, to maximize the number of people they affect.
By the way, if you ever want a deep-dive into this stuff without actually taking college courses on it, my recommendation is to find a copy of guidelines provided to car dealerships. Those things are very comprehensive, unabashed, and to-the-point.
A similar story applies to other things that we consider so normal today that we don't even think about them, like deodorants, women shaving their legs and armpits, etc.
All of these things only became common because of advertising.
But at scale, at the level of a population, an expectation of individual rationality loses out to the realities of these manipulative techniques. On an individual level they might not work, but on a population level they tend to work.
If a population is being manipulated by political propaganda, then yes it's good advice to an individual to think critically / rationally. But that only affects change on the tiniest margin. The propagandists will still win overall.
You might as well complain that water does not flow upwards.
That's like saying stopping rape is easy, just don't reward it. It completely ignores the non-consensual nature of the interaction. Except advertising is even worse, because at least rape victims are aware they have been victimized, people that are manipulated by advertising don't even know it. In fact, if you ask, almost everyone will say "advertising doesn't work on me." If that were true, then why do companies spend billions on it?
Is this any different from the free market arguments about how regulation is bad, and the customer must inform themselves about literally everything and every consequence, with convenient disregard for the fact that it's impossible for a person to learn everything, and that it turns into a way to assign blame rather than to make the world a better place to live?
Why should "you must think for yourself" become a justification for you to be allowed to show advertising to me continually?
taking bad deals like minimum wage etc.
The only reason there are minimum wages, is because people fought for them, and refused to take even worse deals.
Stop categorizing it as a tax-deductible business "expense".
It's not a requirement for doing business, and it should not be treated as such.
I'm sure this has nothing to do with being bombarded with advertising from cradle to grave.
Literally no one can do that for everything. The world is too complicated and, depending on the area, there are either too many or too few choices available.
I don't think they're making much money off me.
They still keep advertising at me.
Only government [regulations] can change that - but above resources are certainly partially directed to make sure this won't happen.
The human vulnerabilities that advertising leverages are coded deep in the genome; building antibodies instead of avoiding the virus entirely could be wise indeed.
If course, it doesn't excuse all the Apple fanatics (among others) who go through one every single year.
I am still using a cheapo Asus from 2012. It was relatively powerful when it was released, but its performance drives me nuts nowadays. Thankfully, my smartphone needs are pretty modest, but I can see why a more "advanced" user wouldn't want to use such old hardware.
"Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won't."
If we could have a war against drugs or terror we can also have a war against climate change, soil degradation, desertification, insect decline and biodiversity loss.
Even though that was meant tongue in cheek, I fear there will be innumerable deaths before this is over. We can discuss who killed them then.
edit: A war-economy-level effort is needed, with the same dedication of all participants, so there is another similar line of though.
> an extreme version of politicization that enables extraordinary means to be used in the name of security
Too many people in the EU don't know that our many decades of peace (longer than ever before!) is due to how the EU effectively did some reverse securitization. Basically, after WWII, any discussion of foreign countries was heavily securitized. "Germany" wasn't considered a major indutrial competitor, but a threat. And who knows, maybe France would be the next aggressor? Better be prepared.
The creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (the EU's predecessor) transformed the language in which politicians discussed neighbouring countries. Right now, it is unimaginable to have war within the EU.
When people (rightfully) complain about how, say, Germany abuses their position of power, or how the EU is un-democratic, or how too many MEPs are corrupt fucks, then it always strikes me how ridiculously successful the EU has been at preventing war among its member states. I mean, if there was any grounded reason to fear war, the last thing people would worry about is some MEP spending public funds in a strip club.
People don't care (enough to vote)
That's just not how it works now, though. The narratives of the stories are what they're selling to you, and the advertising is secondary. It's something you can't unsee when you start noticing.
We can ban tracking of users. We can ban collection or sale or personal data. Things like this really aren't that crazy, it's how the world used to be up until a few years ago and the world still existed. Yes it might mean that some websites won't exist anymore. Other websites will be smaller and subscription based. Essentially your service will need to have some utility that at least a small portion of it's users will pay for. That's really not a big ask.
One of the main tenants of capitalism is that it naturally produces a meritocracy. Products which are of a higher quality or cheaper than their competitors should, in theory, sell better. Advertising in any form subverts that. More expensive and lower quality products can completely outsell competitors by out-advertising them, which fundamentally undermines capitalism. I do not believe that any limits can be imposed which will make a meaningful impact: banning individual forms of advertising which we think have gone too far will be a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. Kill the industry entirely.
Televised presidential debates? Those are advertising for party-sponsored candidates to the disadvantage of write-in candidates. If all publicity is good publicity, then the same holds true for all news articles about candidates running for any office. How is a newspaper editorial proclaiming that "Elected official X is bad for Y!" any different than a campaign ad in the same newspaper that "Elected official X is great for Y!"?
In one case, the newspaper makes money to put the content to be there, in the other, the newspaper makes money because the content is there.
The same goes for books: how is publishing a biography of someone not a form of advertisement for or against that person?
If I'm not mistaken, that happens to also be the heart of (at least one of the justices' deliberations on) the Citizens United case that declared corporate spending on elections to be covered under free speech.
We live in an age where media dissemination costs essentially zero. All politicians should have volunteers and not be able to raise donations nor spend a cent on advertising. Easier said than done yes, but still a far better outcome for democracy.
Let the best ideas flourish by themselves.
If a house can be valued at $4,000 one year, and $40,000 a few decades later, and $200,0000 a few decades later, what's the reason that "value" can't keep increasing eternally? There's obviously no real substance to "the value" of a thing, only people's interpretation and desire for it, and there's plenty of "value" where there is no physical substance at all, like exclusivity, or emotional content of art, or novelty of experience. What math tells you there is anything which can be full or supplies run out?
I was more thinking of the near-term future of resource scarcity, to make the point that "value" doesn't run out just because gold or oil extraction from the Earth runs out; people value intangible things and the economy runs on that being real value.
Recycling exists; Planet Earth has been doing it with organic matter for a couple of billion years without running out.
And you're ignoring that we're talking about growth capitalism here. Here if recycling were perfect, if growth continues indefinitely then a point will inevitably be reached where demand exceeds the amount of supply that exists, recycling or not.
You're basically being negged by advertisers.
One is "Hey, did you know this thing exists? Check it out! Here are all the tests it passed, realistic cost of ownership, and locations where it is in stock".
The other is "Look at this woman, isn't she fascinating? People like her will desire you more if you buy the thing she's lying on top of. Actual woman not included."
Unfortunately, people have discovered type 2 is effective for a lot of things. Not only that, there are no scruples at all with appealing to people in this kind of way. It's not lying in the normal sense, but it is manipulation, or an attempt at it. Current dogma seems to be that rational people can just take the type 1 info out of your type 2 advert and think with the appropriate organ.
One of the problems is that it isn't even good communication to say (for example) "This device has a 7 inch screen." That's mostly useless information for most people.
It's much more genuinely helpful to tell people something like "You can easily read our large screen even in bright sunlight." Most people aren't going to see specs concerning screen size and mentally translate that to "Woah, this will make my life easier because it will be more readable than the dinky thing I currently use."
Good product descriptions explain to you what this thing will do for you. If it gives a spec, such as weight, it needs to also tell you why this matters -- such as "this is lightweight for this type product, making it much more portable than average so you can take it with you to the work site."
There is no clear dividing line between the kind of description that explains you can do X with this product and the kind of advertising that leaps to implying "And then women will fall madly in love with you and you will be the new Don Juan of your neighborhood!"
Over the years, I've wondered a great deal where the dividing line is between good communication and active manipulation. I think that line is actually quite fuzzy.
When push comes to shove, if you want to tell people about X, you can be assumed to have an agenda of some sort. But, most days, I'm reluctant to suggest the world would be a better place if we all just stopped communicating entirely.
Imaginary benefits are imaginary. If you buy Gadget X you will not instantly become attractive to the opposite sex, nor will you be the envy of your friends.
The line is where you shift the emphasis from real benefits to imaginary social, emotional psychological, and sexual - i.e. lifestyle - boosts that the product can't possibly provide.
Homeless men (granted, an extreme example) aren't seeing a lot of action. From what I gather, not owning a car as a man in the US is a serious barrier to having a romantic life. Etc.
Sure, some things are pretty ridiculous. But lifestyle enhancements that impact your love life are not simply imaginary. They can be quite real and tangible.
That's part of why it is tricky. If studies show owning a nice car helps a man's love life, is it outright lying to imply the connection by having some gorgeous woman lay across the hood of the car you are promoting?
That connection is not purely made up, though it may well be an exaggeration in some sense.
Even before the ad blocker wars tanked online advertising generally, the HN crowd used ad blockers more aggressively than most other traffic to my sites. People on HN also routinely post some means to get past paywalls for articles posted here.
I wrote this piece in January: https://raisingfutureadults.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-hand-li...
It took me about two weeks to write it. I have about six years college and years of experience pertinent to the topic, plus years of experience writing for pay.
It has gotten more than 60k page views. It did fairly well on the front page of HN.
It did not make me one thin dime.
I've talked about this on HN for years. I was actually homeless when I began doing product descriptions et al for pay. Every time I comment on this problem space, I get told "quit you're whining and get a real job."
This is not just about me. Local papers are folding left and right, etc. It's an industry wide problem.
The world seems to want high quality writing completely for free with zero means for the creators to pay their bills.
I generally like the writing I do for pay. But even if I didn't, I would have zero moral qualms about it. It isn't like anyone gave a damn about me being homeless and unable to afford a meal at times while they read my writing for free and sometimes cooed about it being good writing while simultaneously telling me to STFU about my problems, which were not their problem.
I would love to have my Patreon well funded so I can write fewer product descriptions and write more stuff like the above piece. But the world simply doesn't want to pay me for that.
I do have clients who love my product reviews. That's how I'm currently keeping food on the table.
People who de facto expect good writing to be done by unpaid slave labor are not people in any position to make me feel bad about writing product descriptions. That's a laugh.
This sentence really hurts my head, especially because I think you are right. In my mind, it is equivalent to being chased by a leopard, and not taking your knife out of your pocket because there's no one there to remind you that knives are pointy and can stab things. I dislike advertising that tells me suggestions rather than specifications; it keeps me from being able to decide if the product will work for the use cases I need it for. I don't think I'll ever understand why that works so well on people.
It's my job to give such clues to the clueless. (Not intended to call anyone stupid. I used to routinely ask for clues for the clueless when asking questions for myself online and self identifyng as the clueless on topics where I lacked expertise.)
I would prefer to make my own judgements. There's a better chance that I know enough about physics and biology and have a relevant understanding of the situation that I'm currently in, than the chance that someone else has all of those things and is paying as much attention to my situation as I am, has no agenda conflicting with mine, and chooses not to lie to me for any unknown number of reasons.
For what reason would I be unable to take a ruler, measure the screen of my current device, subtract that number from 7, and use the outcome to decide whether or not the device you are selling will have better visibility? It would take, maybe 4 seconds. I could even estimate it within an inch if no ruler was available. What clue can you offer that I could not deduce for myself given base information, and additionally make a better deduction, because you don't know that I'm colorblind and nearsighted. You simply aren't in a good position to offer me a clue.
Edit: I think that last sentence sums up why I dislike advertisements, but let me add an addendum: advertisements tend to offer me stories to distract me from the facts. I do not seek distraction. I want to understand the facts, and use the product to create my own story, for myself, because it will be more genuine than what is advertised to me, because it will be true, and be real, and be rewarding.
I don't know about that. Years of being exposed to advertising has taught me that squishy claims like that are almost certainly misleading.
It's harder to skirt truth in advertising laws when you're stating objective facts, but it's trivial when making squishy "experience" claims.
I'm happy to talk to people in an informational way about a lot of things, but I basically think it is unconscionably rude to try to essentially dictate food choices or similar to anyone for any reason at any time or otherwise put them on the spot where they might need to turn me down and then have to wrestle with whether or not to divulge medical information or other personal info that I might not yet be privy to.
I do this in part because there is a long history of me just making small talk and, to my horror, people jumping on it like it was excellent advice and it going weird, weird places.
I've wrestled a lot with the question of "where does good communication end and manipulation begin?" precisely because I place a high value on self determination and respecting boundaries, yet have all too often had people react to my words as if I were trying to make them do X. It's often not only weird, but also some manner of train wreck.
I knew a woman going through a divorce who was feeling old and ugly etc. I casually joked that the cure for that was a younger lover. My real point was "Oh, don't let your ex make you feel that way. His opinions no longer count." But the next thing I knew, she had a younger boyfriend.
We weren't even friends. We were casual acquaintances and she treated me terribly every step of the way, which just added to the WTF?? factor.
I bring those same rubrics to my paid writing, so I try to be very informational and explain what x product is good for and who might want it and why. But I'm very clear that if I do that well, there are people who will find my words compelling and promptly jump on it.
I sincerely believe you simply cannot neatly and cleanly distinguish powerful and effective communication from intentional manipulation. If I make the case strongly and effectively enough that this is good for x, there will be people who will jump on that without further thought.
And if it's me, I will probably be paid to tell you why you might want to buy each product listed.
Obviously, the 7" model is portable, no frills, fits standard pockets and you will appreciate it if you need a space saving model or are buying on a budget.
The 9" has all the bells and whistles, is a premium product and well worth the money, if you can afford it.
I almost never see ads of type one - in fact, even finding that information is usually made accidentally or deliberately difficult.
Type 1 ads (if one relaxes the dry listing of specifications a bit) might be called "informational ads"; Type 2 ads might be called "aspirational ads".
The informational ads are often found in hobby magazines. Interests like woodworking, electronics, airplane flying, fishing, guns, gardening, cooking, crafts, etc. Many readers enjoy looking at those type of ads to learn about new and unknown products that are relevant to their passions.
The aspirational ads are the abstract visuals that really don't describe the product at all. They are meant to tap into the emotions. They deliberately avoid mentioning any concrete specifications. E.g. perfume ads where a model walks through the forest, or a Coca Cola bottle being drunk by a CGI animated polar bear, or Apple showing silhouettes dancing with white ear buds. Apple doesn't want to communicate the earbud's frequency response such as 60Hz to 18kHz -- that's too vulgar. So let's show happy people dancing instead. These type of ads are designed to prey on our feelings of inferiority and therefore, the advertised product promises to make us more beautiful and popular.
I agree with both of those, but would also classify the examples you gave below as the difference between "mass advertising" and "intent based advertising". TV ads vs AdWords essentially. One is to capture interest and change behaviours, the other is to sell to an audience who's already in the market for your product.
Typically some ordinary household chemical.
I mean imagine a Coca-Cola ad where they talk to you about the fact that carbon dioxide is dissolved in the drink and it comes out of solution, giving you a tingling sensation. Versus what coke ads actually look like... snowy streets with trucks decorated for Christmas, a sense of warmth and expectation.
- Tastes good if you like sugar and caramel, much better than Pepsi
- Not the most unhealthy drink in moderation
- Carbonation that bites your tongue so you feel alive
- Our tax dollars subsidize the Georgia state government
For instance "The Best Steak Knife Set" , lays out a couple of options and why you might pick them as well as their criteria and test methodology so you can figure out why you might want to pick something else.
That they're allowed in the US at all is demonstration of caustic effects of high-dollar lobbying.
Which is essentially admitting it's very good manipulation so close to lying it should carry a warning or regulation.
It's the former type that's sometimes quite popular - like in the back of old computer or hobby magazines - precisely because it's handy for discovering new things.
TL;DR Type 2 is what marketers and advertisers do, type 1 is what a lawyer, gardener or software engineer might produce to sell their product.
How does "Look at this beautiful person, just look. Your life isn't like this. Ha. You suck. You're a failure. You're ugly, you're stupid and nobody likes you and you haven't even got $product" "This family is so much happier and more well adjusted than yours, you're a rubbish parent and you don't even have $product"
Every ad in fashion be it for cream or stink or (gasp) sometimes even clothes. Loads of mirrors in every shopping centre aren't there?
Negging is exactly right. Make people afraid and sad. Fear of missing out, fear of weapons of mass destruction, fear that "maybe they don't really like me." Sometimes it's subtle eg Clooney selling coffee and sometimes it really isn't, eg Life Insurance ads and the Iraqi invasion. (Maybe some pushing the idea believed in WMD - that's not the point. It was levered very thoroughly to sell the war - be right or wrong).
Teaching children to identify and analyse psychologically manipulative techniques is essential for their mental well-being.
Obviously it's not just ads. There's a load of academic research that follows the same pattern. "You need to be terrified about your children's screen time." Maybe I do but do you have the research or are you just stoking fear to promote your career? The latter definitely exists.
Light side: Closing the loop between what the customer wants, what their actual problems are, and what engineering and manufacturing can deliver.
Darkside: Ladies you need to use our spray or else your hoo-haw will stink.
Our society is paying huge costs to support this industry in terms of wealth, novel innovations, productivity and sanity. It's terrible.
For this reason I block ads in every way that I can, no matter how "light-side" they might be.
I don't think that's true at all. Where else would you learn about new services or products?
Here are some examples from a 2010 model railroader. https://photos.app.goo.gl/RvRzECgs7MaTo7tP8
Some, especially the Kato model Amtrak one, have some aspects of an aspirational ad, but I don't know if I'd condem them as such. They usually, as the Kato one has, information about the specific items that are now available and often some "ambiance" information that many hobbiests, especially people new to the hobby like to look at.
I don't mind ads like these as they're not designed to make you feel as though you need to purchase something to be better and they're not in a public space. They're they're to matter-of-factly says a service or product is available.
I could also show you the local pennysaver or Craigslist. All of those are also add, but they're not the "aspirational" kind. They're more matter-of-factly that someone is selling so (used) item, or provides some kind of service, or that there is a garage or estate sale at such-and-such address. How else would this information be made redily and easily available?
Or more directly to the point, why would I want to let /you/ decide which services and products I learn about, when, where, and how often?
When that is a) more in your interest than mine, and b) inevitably going to turn into a "cover every surface and channel into advertising as you try to shout loudest for my attention in competition with every other vendor of every product and service in the world".
I think you missed the context of gp's comment. His example of ads was from a hobby enthusiast's magazine such as Model Railroader.
Many readers buy hobby magazines in part for the ads. Yes, there are feature stories but the ads themselves are also informative of new products the readers want to learn about.
So to directly answer your question of "why would I want to learn about new services or products?" -- it's because that desire for ads was implicit in your decision to buy a hobby-oriented magazine. (The "I" and "you" is not you specifically but a rhetorical placeholder for the generalized magazine buyer.)
Another example of some people expressing a desire for ads is buying the Sunday edition of their local newspaper. (Many readers won't buy the Monday-to-Saturday editions but they'll go out of their way to buy the Sunday copy that's has the ad inserts.) They didn't buy it for the news articles written by journalists; they bought it for the stores' ads to see what's on sale and for the coupons.
An opposite example of buying a magazine because it does not have ads would be something like Consumer Reports.
I have no fear that the news of useful and interesting products will spread just fine even if advertising is massively reduced.
> Humans learned about new things for thousands of years without the modern of technology.
> I have no fear that the news of useful and interesting information will spread just fine even if technology is massively reduced.
Sure, we don't need ads the same way we don't need computers. I however like being able to learn about things outside my physical filter bubble and immensely enjoy my used tools and electronics (along with the massive coat savings) I've bought from ads on Craigslist.
You may have read the gp's comment too quickly. The context was used tools and electronics from Craigslist ads.
The "used" would be pre-owned and less expensive, and "Craigslist" presumably means buying from a local seller.
Catalogs for tools and electronics are typically new items that are national in scope instead of local.
The Craigslist advertisements made him _aware_ of a local seller selling a used tool that he wanted.
What would be the non-advertising way to accomplish that same goal? Possibly driving to flea markets or swap meets every week? But the sellers with their wares on display are themselves a form of advertising. It's also an incredibly inefficient use of time to repeatedly drive to a location and walk away empty-handed compared to seeing a relevant Craigslist ad.
>some sort of catalog. The lack of advertisements wouldn't cause any serious difficulties.
Fyi in case you were unaware... Many retailers' catalogs are created with ad sponsorships to offset the cost of printing, mailing, etc.
I guarantee you some sort of comparable solution would arise for used goods. Once again, perhaps it is as simple as something like a craigslist requiring a small fee. It could be subscription based, a fee paid by the seller (to place the listing or when the sale is completed), and so on. Aren't there apps already doing this?
And of course, there are likely many other good solutions that I'm not thinking of.
Lastly, we don't have to ban _all_ advertising. We could significantly reduce it and gain many of the same benefits.
Right, and the print version of that in newspapers was actually called "classified ads". The listing is an advertisement from the seller trying to make the public aware of what he's trying to sell. The seller paid a fee to the newspaper to list his item.
>Lastly, we don't have to ban _all_ advertising.
Ok, that comment changes things. I was interpreting your previous claim of "the lack of advertisements" as literal absolutism and it seemed to contradict the concept of "classified ads" which you approved of. I understand you just want less ads.
They wouldn't be considered ads if it was a dedicated medium intended primarily to facilitate the exchange of used goods (or whatever product). This is what I was referring to.
But even still, classified ads are an interesting case. They feel closer to a catalog than your standard advertisement.
Then I admit I don't follow what your reply was about to jimktrains2 comment "I've bought from ads on Craigslist."
With my straight reading of your subsequent replies, it seems like your suggestion of "a dedicated medium intended primarily to facilitate the exchange of used goods" -- is exactly what Craigslist already _is_ -- and you had originally dismissed Craigslist ads in your reply to jimktrains2.
Perhaps the conversation seems nonsensical to me because you were unaware of what Craigslist actually _is_? From the wiki: "Craigslist is an American classified advertisements website"
Apparently Craigslist doesn't actually have "ads" in the usual sense: https://www.quora.com/How-does-Craigslist-make-money-if-it-d...
It seems the difficulty here is identifying what is considered an advertisement, beyond the obvious display ads which are not intrinsically a part of the content that they are embedded in. But fortunately display ads (and their brethren) are the most problematic, so I think we would get significant mileage just focusing on that.
At its core, marketing is all about creating information asymmetry. You're not informing the customer, you're persuading them. They're opposites.
Marketing seems to have given up on that sort of effort years ago.
>Marketing seems to have given up on that sort of effort years ago.
Marketing hasn't, but companies' hiring and organizational structure decisions have - especially tech companies.
As long as the only marketing personel a company hires are advertising personel, given authority and responsibility for advertising only, the loop can't be closed.
In tech, programmers are the "engineering and manufacturing", but they tend not to want to be told what consumers want by the marketing team (who, if hired and authorized properly, would be doing rigorous independent research and data analysis using data from that research, user data, and bought research, to come by those insights...)
This is true. In fact, I'm currently engaged in a bit of a battle over this very thing at my current employer (I'm a software dev). They're hiring a brand new marketing team, but all they've been hiring are salespeople, and I've been pushing them to be sure to include someone who will do actual market research that we devs can use to inform product design.
The web has enabled unprecedented levels of intrusion for advertisers.
Previously the idea that you would struggle to know what specific product an ad is selling, where to buy it, what it costs, and what it's features are would seem obscene, but these days concepts of brand, desire, status, aspiration, are so omnipresent that deriving any pertinent details is now a common experience.
Pre that, it probably is all the same, because modern advertising is, fundamentally, just propaganda rebranded by ad men.
Industrial printed advertising started in the early 19th century with the first stirrings of printed mass media.
But flyers and noticeboards have been around since at least Roman times, and limited-run pamphlet and newspaper/gazette ads were already a thing as far as back as the 16th century.
The propaganda research is more Type 3 - tailored ads designed and monitored for effectiveness. Before Bernays ads were hit and miss, usually made by someone with a brush who could draw and set type.
After Bernays it became a huge industry of influence, and concepts like branding, image, narrative, demographics, and dramatisation began to be used consciously.
On the other hand, your third example is definitely Type 2.
The presence of pretty women is a popular way to dramatise the "benefits", but it's not obligatory.
I'm pretty sure that I haven't seen that sort of ad since the late '80s.
However, I don’t remember the content of the ad, so I can’t be confident that it didn’t also have an emotional appeal to it.
The company in question later did something else I didn’t like, but the added feature (really, the removal of a ubiquitous mis/anti feature) continues to be something I appreciate.
This was in the last 5 years I am pretty sure.
The problem is that Type 2 ads are more effective than Type 1 ads for mainstream consumers, the ones that think with their emotions rather than carefully weighing competitive alternatives. So even though Google started as a Type 1 only company, the text ads on it have gradually been creeping back to Type 2 manipulation since, and they've expanded into more manipulative ad segments with the DoubleClick and YouTube acquisitions. They also face competition from Facebook (which has been manipulative from the start).
Manipulative ads became the face of the Internet because they work. For them to stop being the face of the Internet, they'd have to stop working. That either requires that 3B people take ownership of their emotions (which seems unlikely, given the general state of emotional education in the world) or that the Internet serve only the few million people in well-off, hyper-rational, educated professions (which also seems unlikely, and not even desirable).
Today, I run an ad blocker because most ads are manipulative again, I recognize I can be manipulated, and I have to do what I can to avoid it. I wonder if there is some way to configure uBlock Origin to allow informative ads while blocking manipulative ads.
I remember those. Those ads were actually useful and welcome.
I'd rather just consign the type 2 adverts to the nearest null device and pick up a copy of Consumer Reports when I want factual information about a product. It helps that most of the women used in advertising are just skinny blondes that you can get for a dime a dozen in Stepford, CT.
I'm not talking about ethics here, just straight facts.
This (2+ hours) documentary about status is quite eye opening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1MqJPHxy6g
So of course luxury goods are defined primarily by their capital cost, supported by subsidiary markers like cultural capital and social proof. Actual utility (and quality) come second.
Competitive status display is entirely about the careful curation of success tokens - clothes (+ accessories), car, house, sexual and breeding partner(s), and the amount of autonomy, agency, and political and cultural capital at work.
Ads exist to promote competitive status display through curated consumption of success tokens.
It's a sport no one can ever win, but for some people it's enough to be on the leaderboard for a while.
The problem with ads is that most of the times they promote a product for a need that either doesn't exist or does not apply to you, but still, after being spammed a lot you might give in and think you actually need that.
The punishment of prison isn't free food and shelter, it's a lack of luxuries. And people survive for decades in prison, so obviously what they're getting is, by definition, enough.
a position or the state of being covered and protected
a shielded or safe condition; protection
a place giving temporary protection from bad weather or danger
Add love to that list and it sounds like a good life.
That claim doesn't follow. Some people actually are unhappy, or would actually be happier if they discovered and purchased certain products.
I'm not claiming that advertising is or isn't a net positive, but this part of your argument doesn't hold up. It's kind of like saying "dating, or asking someone on a date, is fundamentally trying to convince someone that they would be happier with you; if they were perfectly happy already what else would they need?; so you have to convince them that they're not happy just to get them to go on a date with you; thus asking someone on a date if basically negging."
Optimistically: determine exactly what products they are looking for but aren't yet aware of,
Realistically: determine what high-margin products you could possible convince them of, and show those products in as intrusive a manner possible
The Internet seems to have made us all aware that the depths of human dishonesty and unethicality have no bottom.
If marketers had that power, that's not how they'd use it. Instead, what they'd do is deploy a powerful analytic system to determine what your touch points are, in order to learn how to more effectively manipulate you to make you want whatever it is they happen to be selling.
Or, to use currently fashionable marketer-speak, they'd use it to move you through the funnel more efficiently.
At the macro level, it's maximising needs met, but at the micro level this is done by both initiating and implanting desires that otherwise aren't present or necessary, and by creating problems/pain points (which then, as a second order effect, create a need, which is met by the product).
In economic terms, advertisers aim to maximise locally measured utility, but they do this by externalising the costs of the dis-utility they deliberately create.
Like the proverbial glass salesman, garbage man, or mafia, they provide a theoretical good, but they've found business booms if they can generate their own demand by throwing rocks through windows, trashing the town, or partaking in their own crime to sell their protection services.
In our instance, the town is our own psychological and social state, and while we don't account for these externalities andnegatives, they will keep actively damaging us because its in their interest and locally optimal from their pint of view...
Advertisers are putting customers in touch with marketers for products. Marketers are trying to convince those customers to buy the product. If the advertiser somehow magically knew a priori that nothing a marketer could say would change a given customer's mind, it's in everyone's best interest to not waste any resources on that customer.
> Advertisers are putting customers in touch with marketers for products. Marketers are trying to convince those customers to buy the product. If the advertiser somehow magically knew a priori that nothing a marketer could say would change a given customer's mind, it's in everyone's best interest to not waste any resources on that customer.
I agree with the point, but not the rationale. The difference between advertising and marketing is simply a syllogistic fallacy.
All fat men are men, all men are human, therefore all humans are fat men.
All advertising is paid media, all paid media is marketing, therefore all marketing is advertising.
Marketing is a superset of actions that contains elements of direct advertising, paid influence (PR, influencers, "brand ambassadors", employee advocacy...), product development and market research, events and announcements, sales, and distribution.
I'm a marketer - my main job at the moment is advertising (which I hate, but am stuck), but it's not the only element to the role of a marketer.
You might conflate all of the above under "advertising", but even if you think it should all be burned to the ground, it's still helpful to segment is so you can choose the order in which you set it alight.
secondly, if we take your definition (and call me crazy but if everyone in a conversation is using a certain definition I generally find it more amenable to participating in a conversation to adopt that definition), you've got it completely backwards.
Marketers use advertisers to get marketing into peoples heads. Advertisers exist to make money by meeting the needs and desires of marketers. Consumers are not, as a general rule, paying to see ads.
The idea that advertisers exist to try 'deduce peoples wants and then met them' and they're the ones just 'using marketing because they haven't found a better way' is so..., and I try to keep things civil here on Hacker news but can think of no other way to convey this thought..., naively stupid that it's borderline offensive and disrespectful to the people on the other side of the conversation.
> every person speculates on creating a new need in another, so as to drive him to fresh sacrifice, to place him in a new dependence and to seduce him into a new mode of enjoyment and therefore economic ruin.
Subtle, I like it.
That's not advertising. That's curation. Mixing these up is like mixing up astronomy and astrology.
There is no magical ethical kind of advertising based on informing the customer. All advertising is 100% biased towards the decision of purchasing the product. That's what makes it advertising.
Advertising makes you enjoy things more.
While I agree with your parent that advertising can help people enjoy things more, I don't agree with the implication there's a positive side to ads. Everything I can think of that people enjoy more because of advertising, they'd probably be happier not enjoying.
Also: advertising can make you enjoy things less (usually things you already have). Maybe things you'd be happier if you enjoyed more.
By pre-configuring your initial reaction or associating it with something positive you feel actually better about it. There are plenty of documented examples of this:
Patients being told that they are switched from a brand drug to a generic one report worse results, or the mere increase in the price tag of a drug increases placebo effects.
Its a completely different experience to drink a coke from an official can, than to drink it from a silver-slated can and being told "it is cola".
And lets not even get into politics! Basically the game of changing how people react to moral issues.
The person that believes ads and marketing have no effect on what they like simply doesn't understand himself.
I think this is how we have an increase in hoarding behavior.
I ask my dad, "Why do you pay $300/month+ to have ads shoved down your throat?" He responded with some non sequitur like, "How else do you know what's going on in the world?" Wat.
Apparently there is some value in watching the same catheter ads over and over that I was not previously aware of.
Have an in-law that does it (even when staying with us) and drives me insane...