This was published on Multiply Sept. 17, 2008, 3:03 P.M.
A leaflet here and a banner there. Tarpaulins featuring famous people endorsing products loom over the metropolitan streets. The television and radio scream brand new products and technology, and mobile phone companies send you a message or two regarding promos and rebates. Buses and Jeeps have ads painted or sticked on them. A pop up appears when you click a link, and a mail or two in your inbox may contain promotional messages. And, as if an insult to injury, a window appears after closing the browser, encouraging you to get new screensavers for your desktop.
In this interconnected world of ours (and may be all virtual in the near future), information dissemination has become cheaper and faster. From the earliest practice of sending and receiving messages by mouth, we have moved to the point where almost all is electronic – thanks to the help of gadgets such as the iPhone and the computer. With these, information dissemination has become more easier and widespread.
Starting from barter to the invention of money, people sought to trade with others. With this goal in mind came the need of promoting and spreading to the world what you are offering. Thus came businesses, and alongside with them, advertisements.
Advertisements probably started via a man-to-man approach, where the person personally promoted the product to a number of people. Being a social person, the word of mouth became an important aspect of advertising. As society progressed and technological advances made, information dissemination became high tech and more affordable, and companies began taking advantage of it. Thus came television and radio advertisements, leaflets, brochures, newspaper and magazine ads, and tarpaulins. Then came the computer and Internet, with its promise of interconnectivity and cheap and fast transmission of data. Hence, with the application of graphic design for commercial purposes, came into being websites, animated ads, and spam.
Literally, we are surrounded by advertisements, to the point that we became irritated with them and simply wished they are gone.
Recently, there had been a talk about privacy and targeted advertising, and the effect of the Yahoo-Google agreement to the advertising industry. However, one question sure remains: is advertising a boon or a bane?
There are many obvious reasons why advertisements and advertising in general is a boon to the society:
- It enables a company to promote its product to the general public.
- It provides jobs. People who design the ads make an income, and job offerings are made through advertisements.
- It allows the people to choose what they want to buy and want to scorn at.
- It provides a source of entertainment.
- It helps circulate money to the society. Advertising companies pay other companies for showing their advertisements, therefore allowing these companies to offer “free” services to the public. Without advertising companies, we would not have a free yahoo or Gmail account, and also “free” channel stations like ABS-CBN or GMA-7.
- It engenders creativity by “forcing” companies to male good and worth-to-look-at advertisements in order for potential costumers to be attracted to the product(s) and/or service(s) they are selling/offering.
- It encourages a competitive marketing atmosphere, thereby helping keep commodity prices down.
In lieu of these are also reasons why advertisements are bane:
- They can be interpreted as unwanted graffiti, appearing in places where they shouldn’t. This is evidenced by users infuriated with pop ups and pop-unders when visiting sites, and sites that offer an advertising-free environment when users upgrade to a “premium” or “exclusive” account.
- They violate a person’s security by the use of targeted advertising, where advertisements are flashed according to a person’s preferences. This type of advertising frequently, though not always, are based upon the data collected by third party companies, such as search companies and electronic mail companies, which uses the data fed to them by users, such as search data and scanned e-mail contents, in order to display to the user the right advertisement. This type of advertising has received a lot of criticism and objection, for in the process of collecting data, privacy of the user is obviously breached.
- As an irony, they can also be a source of frustration and irritation, as advertisements tend to be intrusive, often disrupting your happy hours of watching a movie by interrupting it with a 15-minute commercial or making your browsing experience unbearable by those ads that pop up or zoom over your computer screen or do other irritating things when you accidentally place your mouse over them.
- Advertisements constitute a large amount of unsolicited mail we always encounter, not only in our electronic inboxes but also in our snail mail, with topics ranging from bogus lottery winning notices to penis enlargement. Unsolicited mail has become so proliferated that they have earned a special name: spam. The volume of spam sent everyday is increasing, thanks to automated software and malware installed unknowingly in our computers, making them like zombies spewing out mail uncontrollably using port 25. We are grateful that at least existing mail filters are capable of blocking most of these unsolicited mail, for we do know that they are really damn annoying.
- Advertisements are sometimes simply so annoying and plainly stupid, for they show things that normal people won’t do, such as ruining consumer trust and making dubious claims.
Advertisements: boon or bane? You decide.