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HANNAN: Bombarded by advertising, though not necessarily by choice

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HANNAN: Bombarded by advertising, though not necessarily by choice

Photo by Maryam Tunio / maryam.tunio@marquette.edu

Photo by Maryam Tunio / maryam.tunio@marquette.edu

Photo by Maryam Tunio

Photo by Maryam Tunio / maryam.tunio@marquette.edu

Photo by Maryam Tunio

Photo by Maryam Tunio

Photo by Maryam Tunio / maryam.tunio@marquette.edu

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In 2014, U.S. cable television networks averaged over 15 minutes of commercials per hour of broadcasting, according to the L.A. Times. That means a quarter of the time you’re watching television, you are watching advertisements. Why do we tolerate being bombarded with constant sales pitches while we are trying to relax with our favorite shows? Mostly because we don’t have a choice.

Television commercials can be avoided be using video streaming services like Netflix and HBO Go, but using them requires Internet access and a paid subscription. And as bad as TV advertising seems, it’s nothing compared to online advertising.

It seems like every website contains some form of advertisement. You can’t go on your computer for more than a couple of seconds without encountering a barrage of ads. And with digital technology continuously advancing, these ads are becoming more and more sophisticated.

The internet has progressed from a “pull platform” to a “push platform.” Instead of simply entering your search terms and receiving results, we are now met with suggestions, related items and personalized recommendations.

Sponsored content, another new form of digital advertising, further blurs the line between regular information and advertisement. This is popular on social media websites and search engines, where sneaky ads are guised to look just like your friends’ status updates and organic search results. The only difference being a tiny ad or sponsored content label.

Naturally we find the omnipresence of advertising in modern society annoying. Having to filter through sales pitches to enjoy your entertainment is extremely frustrating. This is not a new concept. People have been annoyed with advertising since its inception. The difference now is that we aren’t always sure what is and what isn’t an ad.

The smooth integration of advertising alongside organic online content is arguably too subtle to notice. We have unconsciously learned to ignore many ads, and the habit is so deeply engrained in our daily lives that we don’t even think twice about them anymore.

But this instinctive adaptation has left us glossing over the ethicality of contemporary advertising.

It is no secret that our world is gripped by consumerism. Everyone wants to buy the newest and shiniest everything. Companies want to ensure their products are the ones being purchased so they focus on selling since they know that people are almost always willing to buy goods. With the unprecedented amount of time we spend online, digital advertising has the ultimate marketplace.

This means there is a lot of money at stake. Companies have virtually unlimited competition in online advertising and are subsequently desperate to reach as many consumers as possible. This means auctioning every square inch of real estate on your computer screen.

But is this really just something we have to get used to? Should we be forced to deal with constantly being sold something just because that’s the direction in which digital advertising has progressed? Personally I don’t think so. But at the same time, I have no alternative plan.

Paid advertising is legally sound, and I’m not sure what regulations could be implemented that wouldn’t infringe on free speech. So unfortunately we’re going to have to learn to deal with this problem – at least in the foreseeable future. Perhaps one day we will see the value of not being constantly pressured to buy and sell.

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