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Why is it Hard to Accept Advertising?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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The past few days have seen some intellectual heat thrown down upon advertising. It is easy to say that AdLand is not looked on favorably. As companies find ways to rely on advertising for revenue, those consumers being reached think that the brands they patronized sold out, only to be thrown to the advertising wolves.

This week in Forbes and The Atlantic, AdLand received some back-handed compliments. The writers both realized the importance of advertising, but they were considering it to be "lesser evil."

How nice.

First up was Adam Thierer from Forbes, who wrote this piece about how "we all hate advertising." He even brought up the article Ezra Klein wrote that we talked about here. Just about all of our media consumption and information sources are in some way subsidized by advertising. If you think you are living an advertising-free life but get the newspaper, you're wrong. Advertising helps businesses pad their operations costs. It's not a bad thing; businesses use advertising to bring you information that you usually consume, and in the meantime other businesses pay to get in front of you in case you would be interested in a similar good or service. Why all the hate?

Think of how expensive society would be without advertising. Imagine if you had to pay each time you watched a show on Hulu or read a news article online. "Free Press" and other "freedoms" you take for granted wouldn't be so free.

This is where Conor Friedersdorf's article comes in. He was commenting on Thomas Friedman's pseudo-economic analysis about how the United States is going from a "market economy" to a "market society." Friedman argued that in the former state we see productivity and the separation of markets and civil values. The latter is dangerous. In a market society, "everything is up for sale" and people are looked at as consumers rather than citizens.

We see the argument...to a point.

But we agree with Friedersdorf that Friedman was analyzing and criticizing the hand that feeds him. It is because the New York Times has advertisers that people can jump online and read his "observations." Conor countered Friedman's other point by saying that advertising has delayed the separation of income levels, making certain experiences accessible to all.

Yes, advertising at times can be intrusive (or "disruptive" — we think that's the word gurus and "change wizards" are using these days), and unfortunately there are going to be more bad apples than good ones. As humans we have an difficult time looking at things as they could be versus as they are. You complain about advertising now, but our society would be much more segmented, much less accessible, and much less free without advertising.


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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