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Advertising Is a Cancer on Society (jacek.zlydach.pl)
692 points by TeMPOraL on July 31, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 640 comments



He doesn't quite say it by name, but most advertising is a classic arms race. Especially given how the internet now makes information easily available, a great deal of advertising is about manipulating consumers to pick company A's products over those from competitors B, C, and D. This forces those other companies to spend to get and keep customers. It's pure waste.

For example, everybody on the planet is now familiar with soft drinks. If anybody has never tasted Coke, it's not by accident. But Coke's ad budget is enormous. If all soft drink companies stopped advertising tomorrow, society would not be worse off. And we'd have billions of dollars [1] to spend on something useful.

Like the author, I won't work on ad tech. I don't like manipulation and I don't like waste, and most advertising is both.

[1] e.g., https://notesmatic.com/pepsico-advertising-and-marketing-bud... https://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets/081315/look-co...


I would have agreed in the past but now that my SO has started an escape room, if your ideal world existed, she would be bankrupt right now.

Most ads isn't about manipulation, it's just about getting your attention and reminding you that this product exists.

Ads are the only way to reach her market. You could argue that search is a good one too (which is true), but sadly people have trouble paying to watch videos online, there's no way they would pay for a search engine. We are still not really high in the search result after a year of existence either and paying for ads is a good way to get people on the website (which I'm sure will help our position in search results).

EDIT: In case it's not clear, I don't believe she deserve to be higher than other escape room in the search result, we have actually almost no competition close to us and it's pretty much why she started that business. Simply that Google have no metric to know that her website has to be higher than another one, so clicks are needed to provide some.

She always asks people what they think of the experience once they are done and recently one even said that we are not visible enough. It's a pretty great feedback, we are lucky that's our main issue, but sadly ads are the only way to become visible to others.

Ads are almost amazing by allowing investment into market that people aren't ready to pay for but yet provide great entertainment, learning experience or a great service. Without ads, I probably wouldn't be the developper that I am today because the guy that did the great tutorial that create the passion in me wouldn't have time to works full time on them.


Yes, you are right, there are (at least) two effects of advertising:

1. Education (let people know a company/product exists)

2. Manipulation (by various means)

From a moral point of view, the first effect is not bad. It actually helps people to make better decisions and extend their knowledge about available products and services.

However, the second effect is the harmful one. Since companies are trying to make money, they want as many people as possible to buy their products. So they start lying, leaving the negative aspects of their products out, use visual material that creates yearning contexts, present the information at a higher frequency than relevant and so on. So saying it is just about getting your attention is a huge understatement.

Simply put, the advertising industry tries to find human vulnerabilities on a daily basis. Sadly, not to inform and help protect us, but to exploit them. If advertising was actually about helping society, the spending would be more like a tax (independent from the effect), the visual appearance would be standardized and the process of presenting ads would be strictly controlled by a neutral entity. Furthermore, everybody would be allowed to not participate. Maybe the receivers of that valuable, educating information should even pay to have access to it.

And I am sure, at this point you are with me, that the majority of ads aren't about educating people but about placing information in their heads.


Agreed. A couple of exercises I recommend to everybody:

1) Take a day and for each ad you see note how much novel, useful information you receive from it.

2) For any ad that had significant novel, useful information, redesign it in a format that is optimized to be informative, with any manipulation subtracted. (E.g., imagine it written in the style of the best encyclopedia articles.)

Doing this makes it pretty clear that pure information is a very, very small portion of what's going on with advertising.


> if your ideal world existed, she would be bankrupt right now

[citation needed]

You're making a couple of mistakes here. One is imagining that in a world without ads, her experience would be the same as her not advertising. The other is that something that is bad for a given business is something that's bad for society. Both of these are at best unproven.

> Most ads isn't about manipulation

For every ad you see today, ask yourself how much useful new information you have gained from it. I've done that a few times and it's pretty close to zero. Note that the biggest spenders on ads are brands you've already heard of, suggesting that your theory needs some revision.


> [citation needed]

I can't really give financial, but believe me, after having to spend 30k$ more because of some problems, we only had about 6k$ to pay for 5k$ a month of expense. After a year, in a location surrounded by restaurants (more than a dozen), with quite a bit of event closeby, with quite a bit of people going around, the amount of people that found out about us outside of ads, is barely a handful.

After a full year, even while spending for ads, even if we can count on 1 hand the number of people that had a bad experience, we are still barely profitable and still, almost everyone only finds us with ads and not word of mouth. We still have a pretty big list of people that wait after our third room impatiently, I think there's not a day where there's not someone that mentions it.

The thing is, even if an escape room is fun, even if I think that anyone can enjoy them, sadly our public is a tiny fraction of the population and even if theses enthusiast talks about it to others, it just doesn't reach enough other enthusiast people.

> One is imagining that in a world without ads, her experience would be the same as her not advertising.

Then you would have to explain to me how she could reach people between 10 km to 300 km aways without ads in the first 6 months of existence.

> The other is that something that is bad for a given business is something that's bad for society.

Her business is great, people are all crazy about the experience, that's a few thousands of peoples that wouldn't have that experience that they enjoyed quite a bit, simply because they are too few in a huge market.

> For every ad you see today, ask yourself how much useful new information you have gained from it.

From the ads itself? More than 0. From the content that has been paid from it? More than thousands actually. I wouldn't have read your comment, simply because Hacker News is a place that advertize ycombinator startup.

> Note that the biggest spenders on ads are brands you've already heard of, suggesting that your theory needs some revision.

It's actually exactly what I'm talking about. You think about Coke regularly? I'm pretty sure you don't.

It's sad but in this world of so many choice, you need to keep reminding people you exist or else they may switch to another choice they may see more (doesn't even have to be ads related, could be just more people that consume it at that moment, could be a location that have a contract with that brand, etc..).

So both in a world where you are known or not, you need to remind people that you are a possibility to even be considered.

Even in the amazing marketing space that is a supermarket where you can extremly easily browse a good amount of choice, brands pay for the right of a specific shelf because that will sell more.

Imagine how much worse it is when you don't even have all the choices in front of you.


The world would certainly be a worse place without escape rooms existing too :|

Many people seem unwilling to admit what they do is bullshit. Not judging that at all, virtually most jobs are bullshit, I've done far more useless things for big companies earning good money too. Yeah it offers entertainment value but were it to disappear humanity would not suffer for it.

I'm honestly amazed at the number of people who truly believe what they do offers value, long lasting, real value to society. Have quite a few friends in advertising/marketing and they've drunk the kool-aid thinking that because they bring in X amount for bigcorp their existence is justified and if they didn't someone else would. Without this delusion it's likely not an easy thing to live with.


> Yeah it offers entertainment value but were it to disappear humanity would not suffer for it.

You underestimate quite a bit the value of entertainment, but that's your right.

In my case, it was a single example for which I have information about and can talk about. The same will apply to anything which is niche. You can't constantly search for things that fix your problem, even if you know exactly what is required to fix it, and you can't be aware of everything that could fix your problem. Ads are the only ways for theses niches problem to be fixed.

If you think you can do it more efficiently than ads, go for it, you'll be amazingly rich.


Do you know how to tell whether a transaction is beneficial to both parties? It’s mutually voluntary. Some third party thinking it’s bullshit is just meaningless noise.


Again, you are extremely fixated on her specific case in the current environment. I get it, it's your girlfriend, you're protective and defensive. You seem entirely unable/unwilling to see beyond that situation, which I get, but that means I don't see further explanations as likely to change anything.


I don't have a dog in this hunt, but perhaps one problem is assuming that people know what an escape room is?

I certainly don't, and if that's all it said on the door as I was walking to a restaurant, I certainly would not stop in.

Maybe the benefit of online advertising is simply making people who know what it is aware that there is one in their zip code. (Option awareness for the primed is a thing.)


> I don't have a dog in this hunt, but perhaps one problem is assuming that people know what an escape room is?

Oh yeah definitely, that's something that we will need to do in our city because the concept is too new. We just don't have too much time and money to invest in that. We were going to do that recently in a festival, but we learned too late that it wasn't going to happen in an adjacent park ^^' like it always did in the past.

> Maybe the benefit of online advertising is simply making people who know what it is aware that there is one in their zip code.

Yeah that what ads does in our case. We hope that word of mouth will help show more people it's fun.


Thanks.

I guess also embedded in my comment was a question: what is an escape room business?

It appears to be a game?

How long does it take?

How much does it cost per encounter?

Can one do it with friends (like lazer-tag) or is it a single-person encounter?

How much space does the facility require to process how many customers per hour?


I would disagree with the proposition that "most ads [aren't] about manipulation" (especially if we are talking about "most exposure time" rather than majority of ads being created regardless of the number of times they've been viewed).

Of course, I don't have data to prove my statement, but I doubt you have any to prove yours either.

And without ads and that "great tutorial", maybe you'd be something of greater value to society rather than the "developer you are today". (Just saying that what-ifs are even less of a support for any thesis)

Note that the original article does not complain about informative ads, but about manipulative ones.


> Note that the original article does not complain about informative ads, but about manipulative ones.

It’s funny because the title would suggest that “all ads are one of the worst things that happened to humanity”. So it’s a click bait headline = manipulative ad. Maybe without a different title nobody would read the article.


The entire article argues how advertising parallels cancer: as such, title is appropriate.

As I said in another comment, I am not a big fan of the analogy because it's unclear: you have to work backwards to reconfirm it.


> maybe you'd be something of greater value to society rather than the "developer you are today"

I'm a pretty great value for my works actually. Could do more? I don't actually believe it. I learned what I'm doing since I was 8. There's no way anyone would have paid for theses learning experience for me except advertisers.

You could certainly argue that I could have a more fun childhood if I didn't dedicate so much of it to learning. That could certainly be true, but I still enjoyed quite a bit my childhood doing theses crazy projects.

> Note that the original article does not complain about informative ads, but about manipulative ones.

> Advertising Is a Cancer on Society

Sure he talk against manipulative ones, but he fight against the whole advertising industry.


I thought about being explicit: I am not questioning your work or your worthiness or your satisfaction with life. But nobody knows if different circumstances would have led to a life more valuable to society. I am surprised you don't think there was anything better you could have done in your life, but to each their own.


It's like saying maybe with the light off you could have done better navigating through theses rooms. Free learning experiences was available pretty early in my life because of ad suported content.

Maybe I could have done better in something else, who knows, what I do know is more learning experience is ALWAYS better.


You are repeating one logical fallacy: the fact that you perused ad-supported "free" content does not mean that there wouldn't be non-ad-supported "free" content without the internet turning into an advertising mess.

I've grew up on the free Internet resources without ads (banner ads just came to be). I've read free books on highly technical topics, on Mathematics...


> there wouldn't be non-ad-supported "free" content

I'm not arguing that at all. I was pretty specific saying that the one that provided my learning experience couldn't have done it full time.

There wouldn't be as many learning opportunities. I also consider that I can't expect others to do work for me for free, that's just wrong.


> Most ads isn't about manipulation, it's just about getting your attention and reminding you that this product exists.

That is manipulation. If they weren't actively thinking about visiting one or actively looking for things to do and your advertising convinced them to do it then you've manipulated them into doing something the otherwise wouldn't have.


> If they weren't actively thinking about visiting one or actively looking for things to do and your advertising convinced them to do it

... which is exactly what our ads are doing. None of the targetting that we do is related to anything else than entertainment, or activities to do. I even had to black list plenty of keywords that triggered our ads, some for prostitution service even.

Believe me, if we weren't targetting like that, it would cost WAY TOO MUCH. I'm pretty happy right now with an average 4.95% of CTR for the past 2 weeks.


I think the other user here had a great example with his sister’s escape room. If you want to visit one how would you find it if it’s not on your way to work?


The traditional solution to this is the Yellow Pages. The business owner would pay a small fee to be listed. In the internet age, Yellow-Pages-like directories of business do not need a publishing house generating them. You can basically build one yourself from OpenStreetMap data, and if it gains traction in the community, you could turn it into a side business by taking a small fee from businesses, say 10$/yr, to offer them "OpenStreetMap update as a service" for their business's POI.


> The business owner would pay a small fee to be listed.

I don't understand how you could do that without being an advertisement. How can you make a few businesses pay a fee without being advantaged against a business that doesn't pay that fee.

You do bring an interesting idea, if it's a directory financed by the government, which is neutral and randomize results (or else we would see much more A* companies ;) ), that could works in a way.

It may become an administrative nightmare to manage though with categories and stuff.


I don't think that is true at all. Without advertising you would just have the information elsewhere. Let's take an example similar to your girlfriend's case: entertainment. In Paris you have plenty of events, of all kinds. And that did not start with the internet. And promoters can be very small and have a marketing budget of around 0. Now how did they get people without advertising? You had a collaborative newspaper every week showing all the events with a small comment. Everyone interested in going out had access to it, either because they bought it or read it at school/work/library/press stand. You also have informative stands for small theaters in the metro. No advertising does not mean no information. At last, the majority of ads budget is taken by huge corporations with famous products, like Unilever, and really don't bring anything to society, not even information.


If the current ad model of the popular search engine(s) was made extinct by law. I would be extremely surprised if search simply disappeared rather than move to a paid model. Who wouldn't pay to have any information in the world reachable in the 30 seconds it takes to craft a query and scan the first page of results? It is a huge competitive advantage.


Nobody ever paid for something like that. If there is anything on the internet people assume it should be free. Taking example of the HN crowd, every time there is a pay walled article people ask for web links, praise outline links and generally complain.


This is because there are free alternatives. When 99% of the articles on the frontpage are freely accessible, it feels "wrong" to find an article that requires you to cough up money first, especially when it does not hold up to the insane quality level implied by that price difference.

If there were no free search engines, I can see people paying a few bucks a month for Google. Even more so if Google would then again make their results as useful to users as they once were.

A practical example: I'm incredibly price-sensitive wrt productivity applications because there are many great such applications available as open source. I'm much less price-sensitive when it comes to video games (e.g. I spent 300€ on Breath of the Wild since it required buying a Switch) because the selection of open source video games is very limited.


> Nobody ever paid for something like that.

Sure, because the web was ad-funded from the early days. People have an irrationally strong preference for "free". Even though in this case "free" really means "paid for by people manipulating how you spend your money".

But I think it's implausible that if ads didn't happen the web would just be an empty wasteland. Up until the web existed, people paid for all sorts of information and informational services. And plenty of people still do. I spend maybe $1k/year on journalism.


I would gladly pay, say $2-8 a month, for a search engine that actually delivered good results. Nowadays it's just SEO garbage and blog spam.

Try searching for product reviews for example. It's almost impossible to find good, honest review sites via a search engine (they definitely exist though). Most are shopping sites or fake reviews that just list scraped product information.


My guess is that the vast majority of people wouldn't pay. Firstly, because it's notoriously difficult to get people to pay for something that used to be free. Lack of tracking and respect for privacy is not something most people would recognize as an obvious upgrade - hence the need for legislation in the first place. So the public will see it as paying for the exact thing that used to be free, and just won't do it. If Google won't find a loophole to bring marketing, paid results or some other monetization back in such a legislative environment, someone else will. You'll end up with something that's won't necessarily be better for consumers than the advertising model.


> I would be extremely surprised if search simply disappeared rather than move to a paid model.

Sure, but that would be available to the ones that can profit from it directly, not the mass population that would have an hard time seeing value created from it.

Instead they would expect word of mouth to be sufficent, and in a way they wouldn't be wrong in that world because in that world everything would depends from it. They just wouldn't have the luxury of having all theses others experience that depends on ads to exist, simply because ads wouldn't be there to allow them to exist.


> Most ads isn't about manipulation, it's just about getting your attention and reminding you that this product exists.

I'd wager you're wrong, unless of course you are an ad executive which it doesn't sound like you are?

Maybe, maybe, most ads by dollar spent is about brand awareness.

But for sure, most ads by quantity are about manipulation.


I would pay for the search and to watch videos as long as the price were reasonable. I already pay for SlingTV and Netflix for example. Yet there is free to watch PlutoTV, filled with annoying ads. There should at least be an option to pay for ad-free, tracking-free, service.


> I would pay for the search and to watch videos

We are sadly a tiny minority. I keep seeing people talking against Youtube Premium.

> There should at least be an option to pay for ad-free, tracking-free, service.

Agree completely, but the existence of ads isn't what stops that sadly.


The existence of ads definitely stops that. People were happy to pay for newspapers for decades before they appeared for free on the internet. They are still happy to pay for news that isn't available for free, as Bloomberg, the WSJ, etc show. It's only when there are "free" alternatives that people flock in droves to the "free" options.


> It's only when there are "free" alternatives that people flock in droves to the "free" options.

People were happy to pay 10$ for something until there was the same thing for 5$ and theses peoples thus flock to the "5$" options. This is why we should stop the 5$ option because it hurt the 10$ one!

People that paid more, just did because they had no alternative to get that. In that amount, there was some that couldn't pay that and didn't, and maybe you don't know them, but they exist. The cheaper option still provide enough value, or else why would the one that paid more move to the cheaper one? It also allowed the one that couldn't afford the previous price, to afford it and get that value too.

It's even possible that it was in aggregate delivering more value in total when the people that wanted the 5$ options were paying 10$ for the one with more things in it, but is it ethically right to force them to pay 5$ more for something they don't care about? Isn't it one of the important point here in this discussion manipulating people to pay for something they didn't want?

> The existence of ads definitely stops that.

It thus doesn't stop that, it only show that people were forced to pay more for value they didn't care for.

The people that want more and can afford it are still there. Like you said, they are still happily paying for Bloomberg and WSJ.

Talking about that, I don't read theses newspaper, yet they are annoying me enough that I may pay for it one day just because I keep getting linked to their article on Hacker News. It's weird how the paying one is giving me worse experience than ads ever did in my case, but I still believe that option is needed.


If you have to tell people they need something then they don't need it. Escape rooms are an entertainment luxury. When there is essential work that needs to be done (infrastructure, healthcare, education, &c.), it makes sense that it takes psychological manipulation to convince people that what they really need to do with their time and effort is temporary entertainment. If you want more customers, provide something that people find more necessary, like childcare.


But we live in a culture that can afford entertainment luxury, if people don't find this gals business, they will spend that time on Netflix or at a bar instead.. The zero-sum game you propose is not really close to what would happen without advertising imo.


We only tell our selves we can afford. The truth is we are constantly putting off work that needs to be done as if some future generation will fix all these problems.

There are tens of millions of Americans living in homelessness, shanty towns, and trailer parks. We need to build housing (apartments, homes) for them. No individual person can do that. We have to organize ourselves to tackle these kinds of problems cooperatively. However, our society insists that we allow the market to organize our activities.

The market is controlled by exchange, and people who can afford to exchange more than anyone else can control the market. The majority of our wealth is concentrated in the hands of a minority of people. Thus the market mostly organizes people to solve their concerns while paying no mind to people who cannot afford to engage with it.

Either you can fix the market (something arguably impossible to do) or you can use a different method of organizing humans into cooperative efforts.


Even with absolutely 0 advertising I probably wouldn't be working to build apartments for the homeless. Sure maybe I'm not seeing some movie, or buying some piece of chocolate I heard discovered through advertising but in that case I'm going to be spending my time watching/reading/playing/indulging in various other hobbies and vices and any money I would otherwise have spent I'd be saving.

Absolutely no benefit to future generations or my fellow man, and I'd assume the case to be true of most people. It isn't as if advertising has made me more callous or lazy.

Unless your point is that companies could be doing those things instead of spending ad dollars, but that is a ridiculous proposition because they'd be using it to make more capital in some other way


You believe these things about yourself, but it's not like you have much evidence, so maybe consider the alternatives.

One function of advertising is demand generation. It makes people believe they need things they don't. The broad message of most ads is "spend more money to be successful/popular/happy". Is it really impossible to think that if people stopped getting told that all day long they'd focus less on spending/consumption and more on other things?


Well yes, but that doesn't mean those "other things" are not entertainment related. I am not a very lavish spender myself. I rarely buy things and have ad-block on every platform I use. However, I read books, or exercise, or hangout with friends and discuss theoretical topics. My lack of major participation in consumerism, doesn't de facto lead me to become a saintful servant. Everyone is different, but one of my key drivers is mental stimulation; this is a big reason I read so much and advertising has nothing to do with that.


Your argument sounds an awful lot like "how dare you do anything escapist when there are big problems in the world."


There are so many other ways to escape, something virtually everyone needs to do at some point, that don't require someone else's time and effort to do. There are even productive ways to escape, like sports (can keep you healthy). If your escape detracts from essential efforts, it is counter-productive.


No it's more that I'd your product fulfills a real need, people will find you. The fact that people don't without advertising says it isn't a real need.


There's just a lot of presumptions buried in statements like this that I have trouble getting past. What criteria do we use to establish a need is "real" once we get past life requirements? Do I need a better chair? A better keyboard? A more efficient car? A monthly rail pass? The criteria you and several other comments in this thread use seems to include "if you found out about it through an ad, it's not a real need," which is the original canonical definition of "begging the question."


If nothing else in your life gave you the idea to buy something but an advertisement did, it's not your idea to buy the thing. I needed a new chair because the one I used to have gave me back pain. I went on Amazon to look for a replacement chair, and because I use an ad-blocker (uBlock Origin), I didn't see any advertisements for chairs (whether there are other features of Amazon that could count as advertising, like the Amazon's Choice branding is, sure, debatable but also besides the point). Instead, I saw a list of chairs with information about them. I looked through the list and found the one I thought would best suit me and bought it. Why did I buy it? Because I felt I needed it since I was concerned that my old chair might have caused back problems if I kept using it.

Since I bought the chair on Amazon, when I don't have an ad-blocker on, like on other people's computers, I can see Amazon showing me advertisements for other chairs. Why? They are trying to convince me, because I showed a willingness to buy chairs, that I need more chairs. There are all sorts of flashy listings showing off the neat gimmicks their chairs are capable of, all to convince customers like me that what we have isn't good enough.

They can't make money if they solved people's problems, so either they design things to break (like planned obsolescence) or they psychologically manipulate people into thinking they have problems they don't have and sell them the solution (InfoWars is this taken to the extreme).

There is a difference between putting information out there for people who want to find it and blasting information at them to get in someone's head and convince them they need to do something for your own benefit.


> If you have to tell people they need something then they don't need it.

None of the ads we got say to anyone that they need it. No one thinks that they need it when they see it.

What the ads say is that we exist. When they look for entertainment, and the debate isn't about whether entertainment should or not exist, they see us in the search engine (which is ads financed). When they search for movie theater (which is not related to our business, so it's fair that Google doesn't show our business in the results), they see us.

Actually, it's not even possible trying to convince people that they need us, even if we would want to. We NEED to target people that want entertainment because that's already pretty expensive for us to do.


You're not describing an advertisement, you're describing a listing in a business index like a phonebook or a classifieds section. You don't have to buy ads to show up in a Google search. You buy ads to float your Google search entry to the top so it's right in people's line of sight. If you want people who are looking for entertainment to find you, give pamphlets to your local tourism bureau or travel agencies and hotels to put in their lobbies so that when people are looking for things to do they find you. Advertisements don't provide information to people seeking it, they shove information down people's throats and try to convince them with messaging that people need what is being advertised.


Entertainment and relaxation are not unnecessary. Especially in our late capitalist civilizations.


True, but because all ads are spread via media, and interrupt the experience of enjoying that movie, song, paper or magazine or book, the delivery of every ad inevitably lessens your enjoyment of whatever activity they interrupt.

Nobody chooses to watch a TV or radio show that's all ads. Ads are the opposite of entertainment, otherwise we'd tune in Wednesday at 8 PM to watch our favorite ads.


Entertainment and relaxation are necessary, you are right. However, both can be done in ways that are at best productive and at least not-counterproductive.

Entertainment does not have to unproductive. People who play sports or do other recreational activities are working to maintain their physical health while having fun. There are games of all sorts you can play to help you improve life skills or even physical and mental abilities.

If your relaxation requires someone else's work, it is counter productive (think resort-type venues that need staff to operate). There are plenty of ways to relax and unwind that don't take away from other people's efforts. Visiting a nature park or a museum, for example. The work to maintain natural resources or to educate and inspire people is necessary beyond simply pleasing people.


All entertainment must be productive? That's what you would decree? Ugh, very free people would want to live in your horrible nanny state.


It's not my decree, it's nature's. The world does not have infinite resources. We have to be careful how we use them.

If you cannot live efficiently, you will exhaust your available resources and your lifestyle will die out. Humans have put in a great amount of effort in the last few hundred years to make as many resources as possible available to use, but this only encouraged us to use more. If you want to see how to live life efficiently, look at present and past cultures that do. They seem to be plenty happy living on much less than the average person in the first world.

You don't exist to be happy, you exist to survive. What would we have accomplished as humans if after thousands of generations of working to build a world with more possibility if all that work is dashed by a bunch of greedy, selfish idiots who think pleasure is more important than the sustainability of human life?


You don't exist to be happy, you exist to survive

Speak for yourself. You exist to survive apparently, and what a meager and sad existence that seems to me. Good thing there's no authority telling us why we exist and we're each free to decide for ourselves.

What would we have accomplished as humans if...

What would we have accomplished if we survive until eternity without being happy?

The world does not have infinite resources. We have to be careful how we use them

"All fun must be productive" doesn't follow from that.


> Good thing there's no authority telling us why we exist and we're each free to decide for ourselves.

You aren't. Everything you do, even doing nothing, has consequences that are beyond your control. Even worse, your actions have consequences not just for you but for others, even people who don't yet exist. We only exist today because generation after generation of the people that came before us have worked together to survive. You absolutely can choose to be a selfish idiot, but selfish idiots go extinct very quickly because they greedily consume the resources they depend on. There are also people who recognize the threat selfish idiots pose to themselves and others and may intervene to stop them from mucking things up not just for themselves but for others. Remember, you yourself took the effort and resources of the human race to get you where you are. Your life is on loan to you from the universe.

Just like the cells in your body, humans work together to make things more capable than themselves individually. Just like the cells in your body, humans are constantly replaced by a new generation that takes our place. If you want to live life as a cancer cell on the human race, you can expect it will react the same way we react to cancer in our own bodies.

This article is about this very problem. Advertisers are abusing the fact that our brains have not adapted to their schemes to trick people into spending their effort supporting not just the advertisers but the enterprises that advertise through them. They climb over the backs of their fellow man to selfishly guarantee their own survival, paying no mind to the consequences their actions bear for others and for the generations that follow us.

> What would we have accomplished if we survive until eternity without being happy?

Doing what we are here to do. Life exists because the universe had latent potential that unthinking matter could not release. The whole universe is working to exhaust its potential. Intelligent life is just another step in that process.

You also don't seem to get what happiness is. Happiness is not a state of ecstatic joy, it's a state of contentment, free of threats and concerns, when you can be at peace. Like all emotion and sensation, we have them because they were useful to our survival. Mental reward mechanisms don't exist because you can't be conscious without them, they exist because without them survival is more difficult. Happiness is always a temporary, illusory, and fleeting feeling. There will always be more mountains to climb, happiness just rewards us for getting to the next peak.

You can choose to live a willfully ignorant life and pretend to be confused just to feel better, or you can see what the world is telling you and listen to it.


Doing what we are here to do. Life exists because the universe had latent potential that unthinking matter could not release. The whole universe is working to exhaust its potential. Intelligent life is just another step in that process.

Haha... yeah ok. I know better than to try to convince religious people that their irrational views are baseless. It never gets anywhere. But you snuck by my guard because your religion is somewhat non-traditional.

Let's go our separate ways, you believe whatever you want :)


I'm not sure what you think religion is. But this is not religion, nor is it baseless. In fact, the opposite. This is ordinary, empirical science.


Gotta admit is sounds like pretty spooky-lukey crystal pyramid stuff. Stringing sciency words together doesn't qualify as real science.


"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." ―Arthur C. Clarke

Wikipedia has several articles about these phenomena (e.g., information theory, thermodynamics):

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_level

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metastability

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_vacuum

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entropy_in_thermodynamics_and_...

PBS Space Time has some great videos on the cosmological side of all this. Their video "Are You a Boltzmann Brain?" does a great job of explaining entropy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhy4Z_32kQo

Kurzgesagt has some entertaining videos on the subject, too:

* The Most Dangerous Stuff in the Universe - Strange Stars Explained: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_8yK2kmxoo

* The Most Efficient Way to Destroy the Universe – False Vacuum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijFm6DxNVyI

Most of this is unnecessary for the subject of this thread, which is more about biology, ecology, and evolution than physics.


> I would have agreed in the past but now that my SO has started an escape room, if your ideal world existed, she would be bankrupt right now.

In the old days, if her product -in this case escape room- would be good, she'd get enough customers by word of mouth alone.


Why is that necessarily so? Maybe some products inherently can't be sustained by word of mouth, and in a world without widespread commercial advertising they wouldn't exist at all.


We may assume there are fansites for escape rooms available. Such serve as word of mouth advertising, just like reviews do. There is more focus on facts, and the user voluntarily participates (in contrast to all the billboards, online advertising, useless pages in magazines)


A great many potential escape room customers are not looking specifically for escape rooms, they're looking for something fun to do in the area. So, again, no ability to advertise would be a gigantic advantage to established incumbents in the "something fun to do with friends" category of businesses.


What city doesn't have brochures of fun things to do, community newspapers where new things like this can be announced or meetup groups for people that like activities like this? There are a lot of ways potential customers can actively find you without manipulating random people who weren't looking.


Those brochures are literally ads.


Maybe technically, and mostly because of how they're typically implemented. I'd call providing brochures to people that explicitly request them information not advertising.


So you start Apple Maps and look for fun to do. You know the data in Apple Maps does not contain spam. Even the local tourist center might have information available. Or you ask around on an escape room subreddit or escape room community forum.


>Maybe some products inherently can't be sustained by word of mouth, and in a world without widespread commercial advertising they wouldn't exist at all.

Maybe those products shouldn't exist, then. Just because someone has an idea or wants to sell yet another iteration on an existing product or service, doesn't mean they deserve to. Maybe advertising allows markets to be far more diverse and saturated than they should be?

Also, maybe advertising isn't as necessary as it once was in a world where search engines and online stores exist and you can literally see a product and its competition all listed in one place if you're looking for something.


Don't be so reductionist. Someone could find this escape room via a search ad, have a blast and tell all of her friends and none of them may never choose to do the same. And an escape room experience isn't something you can easily bring people back for - you need to find new customers every single time.

I suppose a good way that could make word of mouth work is to create two experiences and recommend the other in an email afterwards.

Advertising has made the internet a bit shit, yes. But let's not pretend it has it's upsides because it really does. That's why people pay for it. Now I'll grant that old school banner ads aren't worth much and we'd probably be better off without them. Most of what they're funding is garbage, not independent bloggers like I'd want to be funding.

Disclaimer: Small Google Ads customer.


>Someone could find this escape room via a search ad, have a blast and tell all of her friends and none of them may never choose to do the same.

And they could ignore the ads, too, which most people probably will because it's not that common a thing to want to do. But at least word of mouth can be expected to be reasonably accurate. If this escape room were terrible, the word of mouth would be terrible, but the advertising for it would never reflect that.

>And an escape room experience isn't something you can easily bring people back for - you need to find new customers every single time.

Maybe that makes it a bad business model?

>Now I'll grant that old school banner ads aren't worth much and we'd probably be better off without them.

I'll be honest, if I had to choose, I'd prefer old school banner ads. Get rid of modals, pop-ups, ads in video, javascript tracking, and just give me a banner with a link, or even just text. Something that doesn't intrude on the content.


> Maybe that makes it a bad business model?

Maybe it is. But I'd argue having something is better than not having it.


Here's an alternative. All escape rooms need a steady stream of new visitors, so they have a good incentive to cross-promote. Hang a "if you've liked this room, you might enjoy" board by the exit, filled with flyers for other escape rooms in the area, and ask those other escape rooms to put your flyers on their "escape-room-ring" boards.


Funny, such webrings used to exist in Web 1.0 as well. You could even argue this is the point of a franchise. Need a McDonald's (not my cup of tea but a known international subject)? You know what they got, you know the price. There's some culture-specific deviations, too.


Maybe there could be a middle ground: keep most of the internet ad-free, but allow users to do explicit "commercial searches" for e.g. vacuum cleaners, or hotels, or fun things to do in their area. Then the escape room would show up there.


I've actually thought about that model a lot recently. If Google does this then it's one more step towards their goal of getting somebody what they want. Ads usually only show when you're typing a phrase which correlates with a product. Whenever you type "vacuum cleaners", that's you signalling you're likely searching for a commercial product. If not, ignore the ad.

But let's be honest, search ads are not the problem here, toxic banner ads across the web are.


Yeah, I've been saying for years that someone should make a search engine for the ad-free segment of the internet :-) Then we could use it most of the time, and fall back to Google explicitly when doing queries with commercial intent.


How much per month would you pay for such a service?


Advertisement-bugged content is indeed essentially content for the poor. The rich just buy an iPhone and buy the apps they use on it so they don't see advertisements.

I'm willing to pay for Mozilla Firefox and Duck Duck Go and Wikipedia. I'm not sure it should be paid in month or by amount of usage. The beauty of Wikipedia is that it is open source, same with Firefox. Not sure about DDG.


You would need to pay for such an ad-free internet in some way, other than being an ad target. This is a critical point of you expect the variety and quality of this ad-free internet to approach what we have now.


The first spam on Usenet was by a company called DEC. DEC was known for its great products (VAX, OpenVMS, Alpha) but for shitty management and marketing.

I've witnessed the Internet before Web 2.0. Yes I received Viagra spam on my mailbox as well. Amount bought thanks to all of that spam: zero. The marketeer does not care about any second in my life I wasted thanks to their spam. Neither do the assholes who hosted them. And still, that Internet functioned. Of course the bills for the IRC server and Usenet server need to be paid. Usenet access was just part of my monthly dial-up subscription though.

As far as I am concerned the invention of high quality (relatively) search engines and high quality (relatively) fact sources such as Wikipedia as well as high quality, honest reviewers could easily make up for advertising. How is such paid for? Donations and credit card.


I’d like to see the outrage if google and Facebook were added to the internet bill of everyone around.


That's only because the current business model is very closed source (proprietary) a danger RMS warned about decades ago. The original GPLv3 was meant to address that, and websites such as Wikipedia and I suppose OpenAI don't work that way.

If we were used to no advertising and paying for services, we'd be outraged by if there was advertising. Ironically, that way is more efficient. The ideal model for data is a Patreon/Kickstarter/Indiegogo-esque project where people are able to offer bounties. This way you could pick a journalist (who's self-employed) and pay them to write an article to research a subject. Such research could then save other people time and money. I mean, if only 100 people in the world pay 10 EUR each then you already got firepower to do some research already.

Advertising and 'free' (where you're the product) is a race to the bottom, and ultimately a product for the poor.


Podcast hosts (at least those I listen to) are often asked to provide a paid version of their content without ads. The answer is always the same: ads bring way more money in that a subscription would.


There are examples where subscriptions work perfectly well. Is the model perfect? No.

Podcast hosts are biased either way. Ads waste people's time while a subscription doesn't. The subscriber amount is inflated, and the quality of content is lower than it could be because of clickbait and other non-content.

One subscription-based model for news I'm looking forward to gaining adoption is essentially a Spotify for news, called Blendle. I also believe we focus too much on news, and not enough on in depth articles which is a model De Correspondent pursues.


> independent bloggers

Aka "influencers". Our children are growing up with YouTube idols who don't have integrity. It is even illegal here to focus on children with advertising (which these buggers do).


If a product can't be sustained by word of mouth, it's because it doesn't fill a need that wasn't artificially created by advertising. These products shouldn't exist.


You're describing a commodity. So what's an example of a popular product that no longer differentiates on features/quality yet exists solely due to advertising? ... Actually I'm having a hard time thinking of mature products that DON'T meet that description.

Soft drinks, insurance companies, investment advisors, pretty much all prepared foods, all over-the-counter drugs, shampoo, deodorant, desktop computers, etc, etc -- these are the sources of 95% of ads. Yet the difference among them is almost nonexistent.

The ads for these products don't inform the consumer; they exist only to push the brand into consumer consciousness, a necessary evil because otherwise your company's commodity won't survive competition with other companies's commodity products without fabricating mindshare via by constant repetition of media promotions.

Branded commodities exist at all because advertising has constructed a fantasy around them intended to give consumers a sense of identity, and ultimately, meaning in their lives. Buy this slightly tweaked commodity to become smarter or sexier.

Without ads, 95% of everything we guy will quickly drop by at least 50% to match that of the nameless generic commodity that it is.


> Soft drinks, insurance companies, investment advisors, pretty much all prepared foods, all over-the-counter drugs, shampoo, deodorant, desktop computers

Soft drinks / prepared food / shampoo / deodorant I never buy due to ads. Heck, I never buy soft drinks. I drink a beer once a week, usually a special one. I find it by looking around at the liquor store dept. of the grocery store. I have zero brand loyalty in this regard (the amount of choice is a fata morgana anyway). I have a sensitive skin as well, so I can't stand a lot of these deodorant / shampoo.

I go to the grocery store to buy my food. The only time I may differentiate is when something is on discount. Which, true, is advertising, but its a clear deal. I don't follow the "saving" deals where you need stamps or whatever because it creates artificial brand loyalty / expenses.

OTC drugs I only buy when I need them. I'd buy the cheapest of active substance. I don't give a rat about which brand. If its insured, I get the cheapest one automatically cause otherwise I can't get it back.

Insurance, water, electricity, I go with the cheapest I can find. No commercial is going to tell me about which one's the cheapest. Comparison websites will, and there are good ones. My favourite one is the national equivalent to US Consumer Reports. To which I'm also an active subscriber.

Quite frankly, all I get from your post is that advertising is pushing crap we don't need. Cause we don't need to buy the branded versions.

If you want an example of a website which is doing great yet doesn't advertise nor contain advertisements then you're currently visiting it.


I don't think that's necessarily true. If you and I both enjoy escape rooms, but we aren't friends/don't have a way of contacting each other about it, one of us won't hear about something that would bring us value. Good advertising would take out the roll of the dice that comes with social networks.


Advertising is not information. If i like invite rooms I can search for <myplace> in best escape rooms.com and find what other people are saying on this forum. Has worked before, can work. Hosting prices for those can be low.


It can easily be a matter of timing/bootstrapping. Great idea, great service, not enough word of mouth initially, business burns through cash and fails. Who's better off? Established incumbents, of course. This would create a completely artificial disadvantage for new businesses.


Also, plenty of useless junk is peddled through "word of mouth" (MLM, anyone?). Fake reviews, paid word of mouth - banning ads won't ban marketing, it will just force marketers to change tactics to ones that aren't clearly better for customers/consumers. Maybe much worse.


Its a cat and mouse game but easy fact checking is the enemy of all the marketing examples you gave, including MLM. If I learn that MLM is a pyramid scheme where the word ethics does not exist, I look up the company name and run away.


Certain medical products, various hygiene supplies, or other things that cannot be talked about in 'polite society' would fall into the realm of things that are very hard to spread by word of mouth. Additionally, things that are rarely used by a person but are widely used by society, like stump removal services, plumbers, etc.


All of those can do just fine with a general search engine.

You just need to know that removing a stump is generally possible. That fact itself can be advertised by a the guild of stump removers if it is obscure enough. "Tired of hitting your toe on the stump in your backyard? Ask you doctor for an eye check!"


> the guild of stump removers

What?


> In the old days, if her product -in this case escape room- would be good, she'd get enough customers by word of mouth alone.

We get clients from 5 m away to 300 km away. The product is great, on a few thousand client, only an handful weren't happy.

> she'd get enough customers by word of mouth alone.

Word of mouth works when there are enough people to listen to it that may be interested in the experience. I'm a fervent believer that anyone can enjoy it, but let be honest, not everyone believes that being locked somewhere is fun ;). Believe me, it's a complaint that we hear often from our client that they weren't able to convince people around them about how awesome escape rooms are.

There's actually money to be made in something that could allow people to find others people to do escape room together, it's something that I often see people asking for in escape room communities.


My SO has claustrophobia. I'm pretty sure she won't enjoy it. I've never done it, but I like the challenge of a puzzle element combined with working together. I don't think such is for everyone. What I've learned from gaming is that a lot of people (most) don't want to be challenged, and M&S (morons & slackers) tend to get away in groups. In general, people just want to be entertained.

> [...]

> There's actually money to be made in something that could allow people to find others people to do escape room together, it's something that I often see people asking for in escape room communities.

Especially something with a small community could use this exposure of word of mouth, or having a platform for their community. You could also be part of the things to do list with the local tourism bureau.

The problem is a lack of standardization/consensus on communication method. You could use Facebook for this, or Mastodon, or Discord, or Slack, or Discourse, or Subreddit, or ... someone with authority just has to pick one, make it half decent, spread it by word of mouth, and you're done. If you can find volunteers for this, great. Otherwise, escape rooms could make a non-profit for this to maintain it. Of course, an escape room in Poland can afford to pay less for membership than one in San Francisco.


How old are the days you're talking about? Archeologists have found commercial messages going back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. According to some historians, the first printed advertisements go back to the Song dynasty a thousand years ago.

I just don't buy the argument that all kinds of advertising for anything at any time are intrinsically evil and must be stamped out. Even in a post-scarcity utopia, writers, artists and other creators would very likely be promoting their creations in an effort to reach people who might not otherwise hear about them.


What old days are you talking about, exactly? That's a pretty nebulous term. Before advertising? That's a few thousand years ago, so maybe?


When I grew up football (soccer) matches had virtually no advertising. Driving around, virtually no advertising (you gotta be kidding me regarding safety). Magazines had barely any (pages of ads is my last memory). The internet when I joined had barely any. All the free shit existing thanks to advertising is a race to the bottom. Premium brands can sneakily do such too, all in the name of profit; not the customers interest. And it's worse. Clickbait is a byproduct of it because journalism is no longer about observing, research, hear multiple angles which is all too expensive; it is about page views. Which you can observe here in linked items as well as in YouTube videos. How often do you have the phenomenon where you feel you could have summarized it shorter? Where you feel come on, get to the point. Or where you feel deceived after reading the article? All because of page views.

As soon as I got to play with AR (such as Google Glass) the first thing I will look into is filter out the shit I don'tn need.


> For example, everybody on the planet is now familiar with soft drinks. If anybody has never tasted Coke, it's not by accident. But Coke's ad budget is enormous. If all soft drink companies stopped advertising tomorrow, society would not be worse off. And we'd have billions of dollars [1] to spend on something useful.

Not that I disagree, but where do you draw the line? Sure, if Coke stopped advertising we'd have billions of dollars to spend on something "useful". On the other hand, if Coke stopped making soft drinks, we'd have billions of dollars to spend on something "useful" AND significantly decreased obesity.

If you are going to make the argument that having soft drinks improves life somehow, then that implies it's better for people to know about soft drinks, and how will they know? Advertising.


As a doctor, I'm all for banning soft drinks, recognizing that it probably will never happen.

But, the health externalities associated with drinking such beverages should get priced in and be used to offset eventual health complications. This is not easy because no one likes taxes, but you get what you pay for.


I think not in terms of should, but as a bare minimum. You sell a product with little socially beneficial upside and significant negatives. Then you should be happy to only have to pay a Pigouvian tax instead of being banned outright.


How is there an externality? It's not like smoking where it affects other people.


Why does it have to? Coke as a company is responsible for some horrifying effects on the world. Health effects, economic depression in the developing world, ongoing environmental harm. And for what? Sugar water. Not space travel, not energy, not transportation, not safer aircraft or cars, not saving lives, no. For fucking. Sugar. Water.

And they're far from the only company burning energy, effort, time and knowledge to accomplish nothing but profits at the expense of virtually everything else touching them.


The parent comment said that externalities should be priced in, I am saying it's not an externality and is already "priced in" if it hurts only the drinker. That's orthogonal to Coke being good or bad.


The externalites aren't priced in though. Heavy consumers of soft drinks require more health care on average which affects insurance prices of non-drinkers. To be truly "fair" this should be factored into the price of such products so that buying a coke includes an x dollar tax for your estimated increase in medical needs. This is however only doable with a socialized medical system.

The other option is to let insurance companies monitor your diet, but that sounds quite a bit more dystopic...


This view is too myopic. In India, for example, Coke sucks millions of litres of fresh water when surrounding areas are suffering from drought or mostly barren. There has been cases where Coke was forced to move out of a location due to outrage from people ... Personally, I'm of the view that individuals should be responsible in their decisions and how banning advertising of toxic products or the product itself will lead to a better society ...


Coke is enjoyable to many, that's a benefit. Air travel and space travel also cause ongoing environmental harm, whose says the benefits of those outweigh the environmental cost?

Maybe we should ban them as well. All companies "burn" energy, effort, and time to produce profits, that's pretty much the goal of a company.


> Coke is enjoyable to many, that's a benefit.

True. But would people enjoy it as much if it were priced accordingly to give the workers who made it a living wage? If they had to pay full non-subsidized prices for the corn sugar they use, and to give those workers a living wage as well? In other words, would people enjoy it as much if it was instead of a dollar a bottle, more like four dollars?

And don't even try and shift to a different company. It is not unreasonable to assume that there is ethical compromise involved in purchasing anything from a company Coke's size. Chiquita almost started a war so they could continue exploiting South Americans for cheap bananas.

I take issue with this "well there's no haaaarm" point because there very often IS harm. There is tons of harm if you follow the supply lines back to the developing world where western corporations exploit entire nations for the sake of cheap goods that then are consumed at a break neck pace in the West, far more than they should be, which then even harms THOSE people by making them overweight.

If your company could do actual good in the world by ceasing to exist, then I question why you need to exist in the first place. That's all I'm saying.


I would bet excess sugar (and carbohydrate) consumption is the second largest externality via taxpayer spending on people’s healthcare due to obesity and diabetes. The biggest externality is destabilization of the environment from pollution.


That's only a problem if healthcare is taxpayer-funded. Otherwise it's your and your insurer's problem to price this in somehow, maybe even offering cheaper plans for people living healthy (e.g. meeting weight goals).


The whole idea behind insurance is that the unlucky ones who require more care than average have their costs covered by those who require less than average. Taxpayer funding systems are literally the same thing.

Yes you can get cheaper premiums by living healthy, but how far do you want to go? Are you going to let your insurance company log everything you eat and how many steps you walk every day? Seems much easier to just factor in the external cost of goods into their price.


The whole idea of insurance is amortization of rare costly events over large numbers of people. Ideally, each person's insurance cost is equal to the expected value of the payout.


When I got my driver's license at age 17 (or possibly the learner's permit? I forget), we learned that the car insurance company would reduce the premium for me if we regularly submitted them some kind of proof that I was getting good grades. It's possible this was some kind of "public-service program to encourage desired behavior", but I suspect that at least part of why they did it was because straight-A students are less likely to get into accidents.

For medical insurance, it seems they could at least do something like "if you send us evidence of healthy exercise/diet/weight, then we'll lower your premiums; otherwise you'll get a premium based on the estimated risk of the set of people who don't do this". (If the government doesn't forbid it. healthcare.gov says "They also can’t take your current health or medical history into account", which sounds like it might rule out some of that.)


I’m much more cynical:

1. It was probably a tax write off.

2. It was probably also both a community service project AND a reflection of lower expected insurance payout.

3. Maybe the straight-A students are correlated with insurance payers that would rather pay the repair known 1-off payment (or skip doing anything at all) vs the unknown recurring increase in insurance payments?

(Source: drove a dented-up pickup for over a year after a short romp along/into an orchard)


1. What would a tax deduction have to do with an insurer charging lower premiums to its customer?

2. The lower expected payout is exactly what an insurance company is trying to determine, and they’re very good at doing that assuming they have lots of data.

3. Most vehicle insurance cost are liability related, meaning the damage their insured to others, and namely healthcare costs. A collision with another person or their property will not be fixed without the insurance company getting involved, and a reduction in those is what the insurance company is betting on.


This already happens, health insurance plans and employers give rebates in exchange for proof of gym visits/daily steps/gym membership.


I don’t foresee any country with a high standard of living start to turn people away at the emergency room who are experiencing heart attacks.


The environmental externalities of bottling and shipping flavored water are considerable, though Coke is not the only offender.


May we be allowed cake and ice cream or would you ban those as well? Maybe you can get a special license if it's a birthday?


May we be allowed cake and ice cream or would you ban those as well? Maybe you can get a special license if it's a birthday?

Absolutely reasonable question. How about coffee? Soda-prohibiters usually ignore it, because, I guess, they like it themselves, or expect a huge backlash. However, it's a very common way of excessive sugar consumption world-wide.


You don't have to drink coffee with sugar, and in fact, many people do drink it "black".


Even coffee with sugar has way less sugar than a similar volume of soda.


You missed the message in my comment. Soda don't have to be too sweet either.


Yes, it does. You don't get to choose how much sugar is in a can or fountain drink when you buy it, it's pre-made.

You could buy reduced-sweetness soda I suppose, but I don't know where you're going to find that. Even the boutique brands are very sweet.

You can also buy artificially-sweetened soda, but lots of studies are now showing that crap isn't any healthier for you.


No, it doesn't, not sure where you live, but I see low-calorie soda drinks in every supermarket I visit. You also, believe it, or not, are free to not buy any soda at all, in the same way you may decide not to put any sugar in your coffee. Probably, it's true to say that majority of buyers still prefer sugary sodas, because simply put people like sweet tastes a lot. Logically, it means that forced unavailability of sodas will be compensated by other means, including oversweetened coffee, chocolates etc. and I'm just asking where this I-save-you-whether-you-like-it-or-not zeal will end: would you regulate a number of grams of sugar allowed to buy per day as the next logical step?


As I said, the zero-calorie stuff uses artificial sweeteners, which is just as unhealthy and likely to cause diabetes as the stuff loaded with sugar.

There's no option to just have less-sweet soda. It does not exist. (Unless perhaps you're counting the fact that artificially-sweetened drinks simply don't taste sweet to some people, but that's a different argument.)

Whether you want to believe it or not, it is very easy to control how much sugar you pour into your cup of coffee at work (and you don't have to put artificial sweetener in it either as the only alternative; you can simply not put anything in it). There's no such option with soda, because it's premade. I don't know why you're arguing about this, because it's a simple fact.


As I said, the zero-calorie stuff uses artificial sweeteners, which is just as unhealthy and likely to cause diabetes as the stuff loaded with sugar.

Not sure I see what do you mean by "artificial" here. Making extracts from stevia is not more artificial then from sugarcane. What is more (un)healthy is still matter of gathering data, but it doesn't make an argument in either case. The argument is that you are not obliged to buy soda, as you are not obliged to put sugar to your food, and drinks. As well you are not obliged to drink alcohol for which WHO says there's no safe dose - unlike sugar. And which if we stick to your reasoning should be prohibited in the first place. But wait... does it sound as if it was tried already?

I don't know why you're arguing about this, because it's a simple fact.

I don't know too, because I'm nor arguing about exactly that. I suggest you to look at my previous comment again, you probably glanced over it too quickly.


I don't know why you keep bringing up the obligation to buy soda thing. I never said you were. You aren't obligated to buy coffee either. What's the point of this argument?

The whole thing started when someone compared soda to coffee and said coffee had sugar too, and I responded that you don't have to put sugar in it, or as much, since you're the one controlling the sugar addition. We're not talking about safe doses of sugar here, or the WHO, or whether you're obligated to drink anything besides water. We're just comparing the sugar in soda and coffee, that's all, and the simple and completely undebateable fact is that you can put a little bit of sugar in coffee, whereas there is absolutely no way for you to control the amount of sugar or other sweetener in your soda. (I guess you could try adding sugar to non-sugar soda, but you can't take out the artificial sweetener (or stevia, which just tastes bitter), and good luck getting sugar to actually go into solution while the soda is still cold.)

Finally, I don't drink soda at all, or coffee either, I'm just pointing out that the drinker is the one in control of the sweetener with most coffee, and this is simply not the case with soda.


Or beer? Are all these soda banners ready to give up their IPAs?


You need to judge a social impact of something before you ban it. The reason why soft drinks are under fire is because there is a lot of people who drink them literally every day. I know several people who drink 8-12 cans of diet coke every single day. On the other hand people usually don't eat cake or ice-cream everyday. I mean, I have no doubt that you could find someone who does, but it's not a widespread behaviour, so there is no reason to ban it.


If we're basing this on anecdotal evidence, I've worked with entire departments who ate cake or ice-cream every day.

That doesn't mean cake and cookies should be banned, nor should soda. It's nanny state nonsense, and one of the more steeply graded slippery slopes...

If you're really concerned for people's wellbeing, ensuring access to healthcare goes a lot further than denying people snacks..


Really? Entire departments that ate cake and ice cream every day of the year? Where was this and why?


It was at one of the behemoths now owned by IB.

As to why, clearly it was due to people wanting to eat pleasurable food.


People with riskier lives should simply pay more into healthcare insurance.


People with riskier lives

Glad you phrased it that way, because a lot of the people who want me to pay a tax for eating a cookie probably aren't imagining themselves paying a tax for going Whitewater rafting, or for driving their car multiple times a day.


One general way to achieve that is sin taxes (on sugar in this case).


> I know several people who drink 8-12 cans of diet coke every single day.

Interesting. That's not even sugar water. We're going to need some pretty elaborate regulations at this rate.


I guess you'd be for banning alcohol then? The aggregate negative effects on society due to alcohol are incredible, extending far beyond simple healthcare questions.


It's very shaky reasoning. For starters, I'm sure you are seriously underestimating how much per time unit, and how much people do eat sweets. Second: if someone likes taste of sugar, and you deny that person sweet drinks, you likely to see increased consumption of sweets, or just plain sugar added to other drinks (coffee anyone?) How deep are you ready to go with prohibitions in that light?


>I know several people who drink 8-12 cans of diet coke every single day.

Are these people not aware of kidney stones and the associated pain?


Just tax sugar.


Small funny story about that.

In Finland we do (or did, it might have changed on 2017) tax sugar. Then they added artificial sweeteners and even mineral water under the tax because it’s ”fair” that way. Thus negating the original point.


Yeah, just drink tap water. Bottled water is quite a big waste with all the plastic, transport etc. Especially in countries with great water supply like Finland, it shouldn't exist were it not for marketing.


That's not entirely true. Artificial sweeteners are suspect of (indirectly) causing diabetes, too. For mineral water, on the other hand...


Or stop subsidizing corn


Why don't we have both? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


You can have it - just don't expect me to pay for your coronary. A long and painful death that costs millions. Was it worth it?


Thank god, an argument against universal healthcare.

I’ll eat the snacks I want.

I’ll pay for the healthcare I want and need.

You do what you need. And neither one of us is responsible for the other.

Now leave me be.


Problem with this argument is: what do you do when someone who can't pay shows up at the ER.

They will die without treatment. They can be saved, but not for free. What action, if any, do you recommend?


Leave it up to the hospital. They are best equipped to assess the cost and likelihood of being able to save the person. They also are most responsible for the repercussions in terms of positive/negative publicity and reputation.


Won't this lead to a situation where some hospitals are known for doing free work, while others aren't? The former will quickly go bankrupt if they aren't subsidized by a charity or religious organization, which has serious drawbacks in itself.

As for the rest, the doctors, nurses, and paramedics are now going to be required to do something that's against their training and likely their nature, by letting people die on the sidewalk out front. Do you suppose this policy will be workable in the long run?


Thinking of the parallels with public defense.

Basically, if you're poor, you will get a public defender. Someone who is overworked, underpaid and probably won't give your case the appropriate time it needs to develop a valid defense..

Whereas if you have money, you can afford an attorney that can spend the appropriate time to create a robust defense.


Eat all the sugar you want... just make sure your bank account is full when you have your heart attack.


> and be used to offset eventual health complications

that would be predicated on an honest and direct pricing scheme for healthcare. taxing soda may be a feel-good thing to do, but how can you say - with a straight face - how much dialysis treatment or 'beetus meds actually cost? The whole business model of healthcare is built on information hiding.


Wow. Banning something unhealthy. That didn’t work out so well for alcohol or drugs. The last thing I want is more government power.


he also said "health ... associated ... should get priced in" - how about 6€ for a can of coke?

people would drink it, but far less.


It still has the same problems, in that people can bootleg it. Just at a smaller scale. Remember, they have low-grade turf wars in NYC over cigarette sales due to the really high taxes.


Cigarettes have cost $6 a pack in the US for over a decade and nobody bootlegs these. Same for beer, at $6-12 for a 6-pack.

Bootlegging is generally a short term response to diminished access. But soon after the controls arise, demand generally shifts elsewhere to less inconvenient alternatives.

I can think of no examples of continuing bootlegging in the US, aside from piracy of media, which is another kettle of fish.


This is the result of giving the police yet another tool to harass people for minor offenses.

Whether Eric Garner was bootlegging cigarettes or not - do you think it was worth it?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Eric_Garner


And that also goes to my other point. They have the police another tool to harass people and the police ended up choking a man to death for selling cigarettes illegally that he brought across state lines.


Can't help but think the only reason for that attitude (government power is bad) is that the government isn't representative of its people.


Or if you belong to a demographic who is routinely stopped for the color of your skin or you look like you “don’t belong”....


Rather than banning, how about having an age minimum, something that’s worked fairly well* for alcohol and cigarettes?

*depending on your definition of working fairly well


Because a law has worked really well to stop underage drinking, smoking, and weed.

It’s the same consequences. Little Johnny with well connected parents and a judge who doesn’t want to ruin the life of someone “who could be his kid” gets off easy while they expel little Jerome who is just “going to turn out to be a thug anyway.”


The good solution - already practiced in many European countries for alcohol and tobacco - is to punish the store if they sell to a minor, not the kid who buys it.


The store is punished. The store usually doesn’t sell to the minor, a minor can get someone overage to get it from them - especially in college.

It also hasn’t stopped kids from getting weed and cigarettes.


A government does not gain power by exercising it.


A government has power only if it does exercise it. If all government employees sat around all day and did nothing, the government would be powerless. The more a government exercises power, the more power it takes away from others (like the people).

It's only through action that power manifests (and the inaction of others to oppose the use and abuse of that power).


> A government has power only if it does exercise it. If all government employees sat around all day and did nothing, the government would be powerless. The more a government exercises power, the more power it takes away from others

That's bullshit. A government can't take away power from others by exercising the power it doesn't have yet.

> (like the people).

A democratic state cannot take away power from the people, the people cannot take away power from itself. And non-democratic states don't have a legitimate government anyway.


The more laws you pass where the government can decide to punish people for their own choices that don’t hurt anyone else. The more tools you give them. There is long history of public officials not applying laws equally.


If you live in a country where the government decides to punish people (as opposed to the courts), you do indeed have bigger problems than advertising.


As a doctor, I'm all for banning soft drinks, recognizing that it probably will never happen.

Just curious, what are some of your hobbies? Things you like to do in your spare time?

LOL, looks like some people can see where I'm going with this.


There is no epidemic of dangerous hobby-related health issues, but obesity is aone of the biggest health problems in the developed world, especially the US.


There's no epidemic that can be ascribed to one food item in isolation, either. Why pick on soda? Where are the (reproduced!) studies that justify that? (Standing by for the inevitable authoritative-sounding pubmed link that actually proves nothing of the sort.)

Meanwhile, why should my health insurance rates go up because Dr. Joshgel is into cave diving or parachuting or enjoys the occasional track day in his GT3?

Or because someone else leads a sedentary life playing video games? How about banning those? There's no valid science behind claims of an "epidemic" of soda-induced obesity, but if you're going to generalize the argument to include all common causes of obesity, I'd respond by pointing out that there's certainly no shortage of studies showing the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

Rest assured, after the Dr. Joshgels of the world have come for my soda, they WILL come after something you enjoy. Maybe your steak, maybe your beer, maybe your guns, maybe your Playstation or your sofa. The slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy, but these people aren't logical. They're too busy being right.


People who are seriously into extreme sports already have pay for extra insurance as related injures aren't covered for such high risk activities.

There's also huge taxes on alcohol and tobacco for instance.

There's also a lot of other stuff that is banned already or strongly regulated or taxed heavily. Recreational drugs, medicine, certain additives that turned out to be harmful. Or rules like having to buckle up in your car. A lot of nanny state stuff that saves people from themselves.


People who are seriously into extreme sports already have pay for extra insurance

No, they don't, unless they are doing something their policies call out explicitly. Which is extremely rare.

There's also huge taxes on alcohol and tobacco for instance.

Because unlike soda, the damage done by those products is unequivocally identifiable.


The damage in excessive sugar intake is unequivocally identifiable as well.


I especially like how every time I state something specific, you respond with a vague generalization that, if acted upon, could be used to justify all kinds of bans, laws, and taxes... some of which, once again, you would not personally care to be subjected to.


I responded to the extreme sport one. As for the sedentary lifestyle that's not directly a product in itself.

Maybe you're just not convinced about the actual harm that sugar and obesity causes. I won't be able to write a good summary of the research here and now,but there's a lot of evidence out there. It's more dangerous than many people would assume.


Soft drinks aren't an arms race where most of the money spent is pure waste. When I buy a soft drink, I value it directly, so it isn't waste.

> that implies it's better for people to know about soft drinks, and how will they know? Advertising.

Are you really saying the only way you have ever known about a product is advertising? I honestly have trouble believing that, but if that's the case please consider that you're an outlier.

Me, I avoid ads vigorously and have for decades. I have no trouble learning about new products.


How do you define "Something useful" though? The advertisement money eventually makes it to Google, broadcasters, sites, TV-channels, sports events and people running those organization in term gets more money to spend on [Potentially useful stuff]. It's not like the money magically vanishes to never be seen again, and business to business transaction like this make the money flow faster instead of slower.

Economy is basically production vs consumption, money is just the grease to keep the cycle flowing, to follow the money isn't getting to the base cause of our problems.


> It's not like the money magically vanishes to never be seen again

No, it remains in corporate budgets, which, without all the marketing spend, can be shifted to better wages, charity work, capital investments, better wages, safety and health initiatives, better wages...


At the expense of all those marketers who just lost their jobs. Oh, and all those Google employees because nobody is buying ads anymore.

I think Aperocky observation that following the money doesn't get at the root of the problem is spot on.


We'll find something else for them to do. Something that isn't just systemic waste.

A good example for me comes from SF's MUNI system. For decades, they had people whose job it was to track bus arrival times so that schedulers had good data to work from. Eventually, the buses all got computer+GPS devices so they could be tracked continuously. Should we have refused to enable those because of the job losses?

I say no. There's no point in having people doing something wasteful just to protect jobs. Where we find systemic waste, we should eliminate it and shift the people to doing something actually valuable. To say otherwise is a variant on the Broken Window Fallacy.


But it doesn't really work like that, does it? After all, it's up to an individual to create something meaningful. The money will always be there in one form or the other. Without google or facebook relaying on advertisements as their business model, coca cola would go for other channels. They'd pick billboards instead of instagram ads, or local newspapers ads instead of native ads. Now I may be a bit biased, however can you really argue that local newspapers and billboard owners will make better use of that capital? And it's not facebook/google restricted either; big companies like that have a very wide range of things they do and ways in which they promote the brand. And come to think of it, facebook, google, and all the other advertising giants we here seem to hate are in a much better position to use that money in a meaningful way. Definitely better then a random wannabe instagram influencer.


....and without some of that marketing spend, revenue would decrease (or be co-opted by competition) and then we're back at the same problem. Companies probably over-index on advertising spend, but it's not as simple as "look no ads, now we can raise everyone's salary 2x"


More likely it would go to stock buybacks and shareholder dividends.


The money itself doesn't vanish obviously, but the work does magically vanish, in the form of human consumption. The sheer amount of useful energy and resources required to feed those people, power their computers, etc. is being "burned" in the same sense that bitcoin mining "burns" something. It's millions of hours of work for simply redistribution of demand.

Bill Gates could pay 10000 people $10/hour to dig a hole and 10000 people $10/hour to fill the hole back with dirt. Obviously this money doesn't "vanish", but millions of hours are wasted (and the food and resources needed to power this work).


This is basically the broken window fallacy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window

If I go around smashing windows, I will make money move faster. The people who install replacement windows will have more money to spend. It's not like the money magically vanishes! But it's still a terrible idea, because all this economic activity is based on systemic waste. It's the same for most advertising.


If Coke does not buy the large ad campaign, the available advertising resources can be used by the next-highest bidder, and that bidder might potentially be selling something with a higher social utility function value. Since the ad infrastructure does not get as much money from that transaction, less is then reinvested into ad infrastructure. If McDonald's stopped advertising on billboards, billboard advertising would be cheaper in the short run, and then there would be fewer billboards in the long run.


And how do you measure social utility? Price is currently the best measure of 'social utility' that we have.

People choose to spend their hard-earned dollars on the products that provide the most utility. Companies spend their hard-earned dollars on the vehicles that allow them to sell the most product.


But advertising is explicitly designed to skew that measure - the purpose of essentially all advertising, and certainly all of Coke/Pepsi's advertising, is to convince people that they need something that they don't need; and to make them appeal to their feelings instead of their rationality when doing purchasing decisions (e.g. by inspiring brand loyalty).


That's the problem with saying Coke shouldn't buy so many ads. Coke got all their ad spend from people who gave them money in exchange for Coke's products.

Coke is rich because society likes drinking Coca-Cola and pals.


I find advertising useful mainly when it’s an event I didn’t know was happening and aren’t always checking for. Usually for consumer products I find it not so useful.


A problem we could pretty easily solve with event listings and maybe some subscription-based notifications. That would be both more fair and more effective than depending on the luck of seeing something that somebody with money wants to promote.


A lot of advertising money is actually lost from the economy to profit for advertisers, stock buybacks, bonuses for the ultra-rich etc.


I'd really love to have an AR real-life ad blocker. Replace all billboards with works of art.

Separately I think advertising will have to find new forms of expression that are less repulsive. I won't want to block ads if they are actually fun and interesting.


I am not sure this is a technology problem, this is more of a societal problem. This city had the will to experiment with removing ads, and it had good results

https://99percentinvisible.org/article/clean-city-law-secret...

How many cities have the will to even attempt something like this? Maybe a handful.

I understand the irony of that page having multiple ads :P


The city of Calgary has pretty much no billboards or ads except on public transit property. Its very refreshing.


What makes you think the company that makes the best AR wouldn't put ads in it. The top 3 in the field Microsoft, Facebook, and Google to some extent, would never let you disable ads let alone override them with something you wish.


If people are buying the AR to remove ads, the company that makes AR that just replaces ads with other ads probably won't sell much.


If I own a piece of physical hardware, they can't dictate how it runs software. Hardware ultimately listens to its owner, which is me, not them.

If they try to interfere with that, I will try every route I can to ensure my personal freedom.

For phones you can do most of what you want with LineageOS and Xposed; for AR headsets I'm sure something similar can be done and it's just a matter of time before hackers get together and make freedom a reality.


This is demonstrably not true today because Google wrote the operating system of my phone and I block all ads on it.


To your point, I was about to respond to OP as well, and point out that ad-blockers can be installed on Chrome. Then, I remembered that that's not likely to be the case in the near future[1].

https://www.wired.com/story/google-chrome-ad-blockers-extens...


> and point out that ad-blockers can be installed on Chrome

On desktop, yes (not for much longer). But not on Android.


FireFox on mobile can run plugins including ad-blockers. The lack of plugins on mobile Chrome is starting to become a deal-breaker for me.


IIRC Firefox Mobile is not going to allow extensions anymore within the near future. Although finding the article that brought it up is proving difficult.


Are you thinking about their recent "new Firefox" beta that didn't include extensions? AFAIR this was because they deemed it non-essential for the MVP - but the public response quickly corrected that mistake.


Oh sweet I'm glad they backtracked on that.


You don't think they have ever tried that. They stopped ad spend in certain locations and in those locations sales went down.

People don't have time to research every single choice in their lives. At some point you just go with brand trust. When I see Uncle Floyd's Cola and CocaCola, I just go with what I know. Advertising establishes brand trust.


Yes, they did that and sales went down because competitors did not stop advertising. I doubt that if all advertising stops tomorrow that globas usage would stop. Who would suffer would be companies that rlie on hype instead of quality.

Advertisement is a zero sum game.


Some advertising, like Superbowl ads, does establish brand trust - because you know a fly-by-night company couldn't afford a Superbowl ad. But targeted advertising, which is the whole point of adtech, cannot do that - because you never know if it was shown to a million people or just you.


It works like this but I still don't understand why people trust a company that has the resources to buy a Superbowl ad. If they can afford that ad they must charge their customers more than needed. In other words, the product is more expensive than necessary and the brand isn't offering the best possible value.

The brand is signalling that they have convinced many people, or otherwise, they couldn't afford that ad. So I can trust in the choice of those people. But why should I trust the brand itself?


> The brand is signalling that they have convinced many people, or otherwise, they couldn't afford that ad.

Or they just convinced a bunch of investors. See e.g. Uber.


All advertising is targeted; the granularity and fidelity of targeting are what changes. Also, the systems used to calculate conversions from Superbowl ads, TV ads, cross-reference multiple data sources that often contain more private information than whatever data sources are consumed by your regular targeted banner advert.


That's part of the problem imo, these companies have done nothing to earn trust (and often are significantly worse than companies that actually try to earn trust by being trustworthy), because they can just rely on the ads to build it for them.


> People don't have time to research every single choice in their lives. At some point you just go with brand trust. Advertising establishes brand trust.

This is a non-sequitur. Brands existed long before advertising, and regardless they aren't the only way to solve the problem of choosing what to buy.

If you really care about making things easier for purchasers, you'd be eager to eliminate advertising, which a) adds a great deal of confusion and distraction, and b) reduces the value of earned brands in favor of whomever can spend the most money.


This is why the problem cannot be solved without regulation of the market.

Each individual actor is working in their best interest, but as a society it creates unimaginable amounts of waste.


I constantly think about how the world would look if even a fraction of the people doing creative for ads were free to be creative elsewhere.


They are free to. There s just no money in that.


No, there's plenty of money in alternative careers to advertising. It's absurd to claim otherwise.

But advertising is an easy way to make money fast, that is, if you're happy to sell people stuff they don't need at triple the commodity price. Or... you could turn your hand toward more constructive and lasting alternative endeavors like treating / defeating disease, cheaply desalinating sea water, or a zillion other ends that would do more than pry money out of the clueless hands of fools.


And if all of the people doing creative elsewhere didn’t advertise, how would they get the word out about their work?


While I’ll agree he never uses the phrase “arms race”, he does say this:

>The growth of advertising is fueled by the enormous waste it creates. In any somewhat saturated market - which, today, is most of them - any effort you spent on advertising serves primarily to counteract the combined advertising efforts of your competitors.


I didn't use the term "arms race", but I tried to communicate this point in few places, calling out the zero-sum and negative-sum properties of advertising, and the waste it creates. I'll update the post later on to make the arms race aspect more visible.


> but most advertising is a classic arms race.

Small brained primate thought du jour; advertising shouldn't be an allowed business expense.


I'm no fan of ads, but that would only result in making ads ~30 to 50% more expensive for pass-through small businesses and ~14% more expensive for most [1] large US companies.

[1]: https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/tax-rate-paid/


If every company stopped advertising then google and facebook and twitter will disappear. Are all these companies pure waste? How do you fund a replacement for them? Should these services be provided by governments?


I do not have the sources by hand, but I think google and co make only about some $ per user per year.

In other words, most users could easily afford it.

And yes, here is the current problem, the mindset of the people. Not willing to pay for services and rather get it for "free" and accept manipulation and time waste. On the other hand, where services are adfree avaiable, like netflix, users indeed do pay. So I am positive that it is about to change.


Facebook and twitter are pure waste. Google is 90% waste. Google should just be a search engine and live on donations like Wikipedia.


Each of those companies has a FOSS competitor that does not rely on advertising money yet still exists.


There's a FOSS competitor to Google?



Yes. There is plenty.

One company that does exactly the same things? No.

Companies that do part of what Google does? Absolutely, duckduckgo for search, countless email services to replace gmail, openstreetmaps to replace gmaps, the list goes on.


It wouldn't be that big a deal. Ad-funded commercial services like Facebook and Twitter would probably just be protocols, if not for all those ad dollars incentivizing moat-creation and jealous user capture. We'd figure something out to replace google—the need's too strong not to. The replacement(s) probably wouldn't make $3,000,000/employee or whatever Google does, though. Which is fine.


It seems that the cancer creates, allows or at least sustain a coordination that society can't achieve by other ways.


> If every company stopped advertising then google and facebook and twitter will disappear.

I don't see the downside.


I would argue that society would be worse off. There are a lot of things we enjoy, for free or cheap, because of advertising. Tv, radio, street fair, among other things

And no, we wouldn't have billions of dollars to spend on other things. The soft drink companies would have billions of dollars more profit. And fewer people would have jobs

The cost of drinks wouldn't go down. Basically the only thing that would change is we would lose a lot of free things, and fewer people would have money.


Every single day, new people are born who actually do not know what Coca-Cola is and thus have never bought a Coca-Cola.


The same is true of cocaine. Yet without advertising the people who 'need' cocaine manage to learn about it and acquire it, often at great personal cost.


Dealers advertise their stuff. Otherwise you have a chicken and egg problem


Smart dealers don't "advertise". They communicate their available goods to individuals who are already looking and who pass a basic smell test. While on vacation a few years ago, I went out at night to see if I could find some plant matter, and passed a guy on the street who looked like he might know the score. (Being present at a particular time/place to serve a market and dressing in a non-official manner is not advertising). So I said "got any green?" and he said "no...white?" and I said "ah, no thanks" and moved along. No advertising required.


Didnt he just advertise that white stuff to you? How else you call that?


If I call up a restaurant and ask "do you have fish today" and they say "no, today we have steak" I do not consider that advertising.


That's because it's like targeted advertising: Now that they know you 're looking for food, they can make the advertisement relevant. It would sound worse if they said "No but would you like a pair of sandals"


Advertising is understood to be push and broadcast (or at least multicast) communication. If I initiate the communication, that is not advertising. If it is targeted to an audience of one, that is not advertising. The OP was lamenting the ubiquity and tactics of abusing broadcast media to manipulate consumers en masse. I'm taking a wild guess here that the OP would not put consumer-initiated communication into the bin of "advertising" they were talking about.


OP also mentions targeted online advertising which is central to the current debate and has even led to specific legislation. That is targeted to an audience of one, and is initiated by the person herself, by visiting the website.


"we'd have billions of dollars [1] to spend on something useful." - If companies stopped advertising tomorrow the people doing those ads wouldn't go building space rockets.


But Coke could be sold for less.


There are examples when companies are doing well without advertising: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oettinger_Brewery


The wikipedia page literally lists them as a sponsor of a team:

"From 2006 until 2018, Oettinger was the official sponsor of Rockets, a professional basketball club based in Gotha. The Rockets played as "Oettinger Rockets" in Germany's first distribution, the Basketball Bundesliga.[5]"


> It's pure waste.

And yet capitalism is still lauded as the most efficient economic system...


Ah only a strong central government could redirect resources and restrict freedom of speech in such a manner.

In theory this works, in practice it doesn't. Nobody is quite sure about what the dichotomy is between the theory and actual results. Basically by allowing commercial interests to control the direction of capital you get useless areas of inn-efficiency like advertising. The weird thing is, these types of economies still thrive. However, when you restrict and redirect resources in a centrally controlled manner, the economies tend not to thrive.

Nobody really knows why. However there are hints as to why it works. Google, gmail, search, google docs, hangouts and google maps would not exist if it wasn't for advertising. Google and the services and technologies they provide to the world would not exist if they did not receive revenue from ads.


I heard a hypotheses that one reason planned economies failed was available computing power and communication speed at the time. To manually calculate how many screws each little shop will need takes an ever growing army of bureaucrats, is prone to mistakes and lags a lot.

So lots of uneven distributions (anybody growing up in USSR will know what I mean), and lots of overhead.

A modern networked infrastructure could mitigate that. A general AI could solve it (but that has its own drawbacks, great if you like your paper clips though).

Markets in a sense create that distribution system organically, but they pay efficiency costs (comparing to a strictly optimal solution). One of those operational costs is advertising.

Market has its own deficiency/glut profile too -- instead of whole city lacking butter and drowning in socks, we have individual people lacking everything evenly and others having abundance.


Good comment. I agree but I feel even an AI can't deal with it. The system is chaotic so it's like predicting the weather. If we can solve the problem of predicting the weather to 99% accuracy with AI then we can do the same with the economy, if we can't then we can never manage the economy with AI.


That's why a strong central government is important. To make sure resources are allocated to useful purposes rather than garbage like advertising.


But then you wouldn't have services provided by companies like google.


If they're useful, they will be provided by other companies and organizations instead.


for a fee. The services google provides are widely used because they are free.


No, they aren't. It's paid by advertisers, advertising makes products more expensive. Ultimately, you do pay. Advertising has no benefits.


I pay regardless whether I use it or not.

It's like a sales tax more efficiently allocated towards google services rather than military.


If you aren't happy with what your government go into politics, don't just hand money and thus power to some random capitalist that doesn't even remotely try to work for the common good.


If you were to take away all of the coke tomorrow, the first thing I'd spend all that extra money (and more!) on would be to try to invent a new cola.


They aren't saying get rid of coke. They are saying get rid of coke advertising. Everyone already knows about coke and is indoctrinating the rising generations without the need for additional advertisement.


You realize you could make an equally damning article about Coke, don't you?

The meta question is about how we decide what gets banned.


Nobody's talking about taking away soda. People would still buy soda if there weren't ads for it.


Exactly. I drink energy drinks pretty regularly. With the sole exception of Monster, I've yet to see any ads for any of them (and the Monster "ads" are more sponsorships for various motorsports events that postdate me actually starting to drink the stuff).

Of course, the packaging itself is technically advertising, but still.


But would they buy Coke?


If they didn't, they'd be buying something they were even happier with. So from both a consumer perspective and a societal perspective, it's a net gain. It's only from Coke's perspective it might be a problem. But I think it's wrong to privilege their success over everybody else just because they have enough money to manipulate people.


Perhaps because they like it?


Why? They're a net negative to society (soft drinks themselves, that is)


Couldn't the same be said of any luxury?


No. Refined sugar is incredibly toxic. It doesn't just rot your teeth, make you obese, and eventually turns you into a Type 2 diabetic, but it also raises the risk of heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer's, and many other conditions.

The direct economic costs - health care costs, lost productivity caused by illness - are immense, and the soda and junk food industries make no contribution towards them.

There are also less direct personal and emotional costs, in the form of family/partner illness and sometimes death.

Some luxuries are similarly toxic, but as a "cheap" luxury sugar abuse affects a much larger demographic.

IMO the ad efforts that support these products are unconscionable, and there's no question the money would be better spent elsewhere.


It hasn't done any of those things to me, however, so kindly get your hands off mine and out of my business please.


Are you sure it hasn't raised your risk?


Whatever marginal risk increase I suffer from my moderate consumption is well worth the guaranteed enjoyment I gain.

A lot of HN users wish to "optimize" these facets of other people's lives through government regulation, but it's no less odious than going up to people in person and knocking their drink to the ground. It's not your choice.


Exactly. I'm more than happy for more labels saying how bad sugary drinks are - like a less extreme version of smoking warnings - but taking a choice away for someone because you think you know better is authoritarian, even if we're only talking about a drink.


It's far more authoritarian to promote industries that spend outrageous sums on manipulating people into harming their own health, with incredibly expensive social and personal consequences.

It's absolutely and completely false to frame this as a government vs individual issue. It's actually corporate propaganda vs the individual.

No one who supports individual freedom has any business encouraging corporate propaganda, because it's the psychological equivalent of sugar - absolutely toxic to genuine free choice.

Big Tobacco has already discovered this strategy doesn't work in the long term. Big Pharma is catching up slowly. (Ask the Sacklers.)

Big Sugar is still lagging behind, but it's only a matter of time.


I'm not really disagreeing with you. Like I said if we had more warning labels and less corporate branding I'd be perfectly fine with that. I'm yet to be convinced that Coca-Cola is as bad as cigarettes and needs to be totally banned/heavily taxed though.

You know the one of the things the worse off in society enjoy doing? - drinking a soda. They need to know the health risks, yes, but taking that away/adding a sin tax makes their quality of life measurably worse even if their health would be slightly better off in the long run. You're either taking away some of the little enjoyment they have or more of their money and I don't think that's fair.


> You know the one of the things the worse off in society enjoy doing? - drinking a soda.

Wait, what? This exact same argument could be made for cigarettes or hard narcotics. This argument is a non-starter. Especially since advertising is targeted at this demographic to convince them that a sugar addiction makes them less miserable.


You're talking about banning advertising, I'm talking about banning products. It would be ass-backwards to ban soda itself and claim you're enabling free choice.


Fitting name.


Not a luxury when it's a net negative to your health to drink it.

Lawmakers have slowly banned advertising for more and more obviously addictive and harmful things.

They just can't make headway against the most pervasive and least obviously harmful things.


I’ve not considered coke to be a luxury product before. But if you mean that it’s not a necessity, it guess... maybe?


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