The average person sees 3,500 ads a day.
In a capitalist society the only real moral imperative is to consume. And whether we have the cash or not, you can always count on Americans to keep spending. According to CBS News, American households had a net increase of $57.1 billion in new credit card debt in 2014, and the average U.S. household with a credit card owes a balance of almost $7,200. We can all look at our bank statements to see what we’re spending our money on, so the bigger question is, Why are we spending money we don’t have? A major reason is the unprecedented pervasiveness and unbelievable effectiveness of advertising.
Why is advertising so effective? According to Jonah Sachs, the former CEO and co-founder of Free Range Studios, “We see 3,500 [ads] a day, and a majority of them basically tell us ‘you suck’ and if ‘you don’t buy this product you aren’t going to be rich enough, smart enough, hot enough.’ And so we walk around every day being told how deficient and lame we are.” The video’s host, Francesca Fiorentini, sums up Sachs’ thoughts perfectly, saying, “Advertisers are like crappy friends: They make us feel needy, ugly, and uncool, but we keep them around anyway.”
Knowing that advertisers have no problem demoralizing the public in order to sell us their stuff, how do we confront a beast that we see 3,500 times a day? The biggest weapon we have is critical thinking. Successful ads sell you not on logic, but on emotions and associations. There’s no question that powerful brands and their advertisements generate strong feelings, but ask yourself, “Does the product actually deliver on the brief emotional satisfaction that comes with the purchase?”
You can also inoculate yourself from some ads installing ad blockers on your computer and by being judicious with the DVR’s “skip” button while watching television. Finally, in a capitalist society, its important that everyone votes with their dollars. When advertisers use destructive techniques to promote their products, it’s in everyone’s best interest to stop buying their products.