Today I wanted to talk about advertising and its effect on our society, but especially your level of immunity (or lack thereof) to advertising messages.
The recent migration of this blog to a self-hosted wordpress.org structure has opened my eyes to the world of web-based advertising, as I must admit that I don’t pay that much attention to advertising generally. This has a lot to do with the “low information diet” that I switched to over 12 months ago after reading about it on the Mr Money Mustache site, which has seen me reducing or eliminating my exposure to many forms of advertising altogether.
Now that I am attempting to monetize this blog in a very minor way (it might get me up to a point where I get paid the hourly rate of the average unskilled worker in Somalia for every hour that I put into this blog), I’m starting to actually notice advertisements on the web. Up until now I haven’t even noticed advertisements on websites, with my eyes just brushing past them to move on to the next bit of content.
It makes me wonder though whether I am becoming “immune” to advertising, and if this is even possible?
Can one become immune to advertising?
Let’s face it, the tricks that marketers go to in order to make us think that we want their products are quite extensive. I wrote about many of the issues of advertising (and how exposed we are to it) here, but all of this was focussed on reducing exposure, rather than increasing your resistance to or immunity towards advertising.
Now that I have been away from advertising for so long though, I’m starting to think that it’s possible to build up your immunity to advertising as if it were any other disease. In the same way that we give immunisations to eliminate diseases like polio, I’m starting to think that my year-long cut in advertising exposure has gone some way to building up my resistance to the disease of advertising.
I would say however that I don’t think you can “cure yourself” of advertising, as it will always have some effect on you (especially if they are targeting you more directly with sophisticated algorithms like they do nowadays). Once they know what you like (which they would easily find out based on what you search for), then funnily enough all of the advertisements on the pages you visit will be for things that you actually like. And while this happens to me now (all of the advertisements I see are for things that I am thinking about or dealing with on this blog), I still feel that I have a high level of resistance to these advertisements.
A new generation that resists advertising?
Some people believe that younger generations are more sceptical and pessimistic about marketing offers, and this is therefore creating a generation that could have greater resistance to the evils of marketing. While I think this is quite possible, I think that it’s more likely that younger generations aren’t as susceptible to the old marketing tricks that worked on older generations, but are more susceptible to newer tricks that things like social media and smart phones have made more practical.
This issue also seems to be more prominent because advertising has become so much more pervasive in the internet era, with marketers endlessly finding new places to deliver advertising messages. The downside for the advertisers is that increased exposure could have the effect of desensitising people to the advertising, simply because it’s everywhere. In the same way that a red Ferrari seems special to most people, if red Ferraris were everywhere then they wouldn’t be a novelty any more. Perhaps the same thing is happening with advertising?
If you can’t become completely immune, then can you reduce advertising’s effectiveness?
Like any weakness that you may have, if you recognise the weakness and potential triggers for it, then you would have a far greater chance of reducing your susceptibility to it. For example, if you love pizza (like I do) and are hungry while being exposed to pizza (as I often am) then chances are you will eat said pizza. If however you know that pizza will be arriving but are on a no-pizza diet, then you would be best to leave the building and go somewhere that is pizza-free, or eat something else before the pizza arrives so that you aren’t hungry.
The same goes for advertising, with a practical example for me being Charles Tyrwhitt, that devious supplier of stylish professional attire at very affordable prices. I wrote about Charles Tyrwhitt here, and if you read that post you would know that their product range is actually quite exceptional, especially for people with non-standard body shapes. The problem with Charles Tyrwhitt is that their marketing department is very clever and very persistent, with email and hard copy offers arriving in our inbox and mailbox every week and month respectively. Their offers typically give you a special code for a great price or something that they throw in for free, and for some reason this approach is quite effective on me.
Knowing that this approach is very effective, I have recently indicated that I no longer wish to receive hard copy catalogues from Charles Tyrwhitt, and I only review their email offers when I believe that I actually need something new. In this way, I have identified my weakness and triggers, and taken action to reduce the likelihood of triggers and therefore counter the weakness. But I still have access to the promotional offers if I actually need something from them.
So what about you?
Do you think that you’re becoming more immune to advertising?
Do you have any tips for building up your immunity?
And what sorts of advertising are you susceptible to? Are some more effective on you than others?