Ads, Ads And More Ads

by Katy on December 4, 2008 · 16 comments


Every now and then I see a statistic that the average American is exposed to something like 67.5 zillion advertisements per day. (Okay — perhaps I’m exaggerating a teensy bit, but you get my drift.) Whatever that huge number is, it never fails to shock me.

Like an alien presence on The X-Files, those invasive ads are out there.

They’re on our computers, on the backs of grocery store receipts, on the fronts of T-shirts. 


Why do companies advertise? 

An advertisement exists to convince you to shell out for something you might not have otherwise bought.


I rarely watch commercial TV. But when I am watching, it’s usually library DVD’s or DVD sets of a TV series. (Lately — Whose Line is it Anyway? and Star Trek: Enterprise.) There’s no commercials this way, so not only am I sparing my family from Madison Avenue’s magic touch, but an hour long program becomes a 42 minute show. Which is 18 minutes I didn’t spend cringing at commercials.

One of my readers tried a grocery shopping expedition where he wouldn’t buy anything that had been “marketed.”

“I tried that in the supermarket last weekend, and I found that I was buying unprocessed, whole foods that I proceeded to cook and bake.”

I’m not sure this would be the answer for me, but it’s certainly an interesting concept to ponder. (My main processed food purchases are cereal, although I usually just buy the generics.)

This really got me thinking. If a product is being aggressively marketed, then it’s something consumers have to be convinced to buy. If I’m needing convincing about a purchase, then that’s a pretty good sign that I shouldn’t be buying it. 

Am I saying that all advertising is evil?

Of course not. But you should ramp up your Non-Consumer awareness, and pay special attention to the advertisements you and your family are exposed to.

How is your life affected by the advertisements in your environment? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Gerard kiernan December 4, 2008 at 5:11 am

Advertising certainly isn’t evil; it will allow me to become fantastically wealthy when I invent a penis-enlarging dietary supplement.
If you are going to be a non-consumer, though, you need to be mindful about who/what labelled you a consumer to begin with!
Advertising is there to create a need for consumption, whether it is by cleverness, humor , or preying on insecurity/fear.

As a physician, I am a lucrative target for drug company marketing. It is interesting to me that they are always looking for the ‘thought-leaders’. In fact, they offer to pay me to identify ‘thought-leaders’.

It is always particularly nauseating to see marketing/advertising in healthcare , though. It is always for orthopaedics/cardiology/ob, things that lead to high priced procedures or to wicked expensive medications. Yuck.

A few years ago , I decided to have no contact with these people and to focus on inexpensive, yet effective , medications.

My unexpected allies are WalMart and Target, who price many of these at $4 a month, perhaps so that you walk through the whole store prior to saving. then you buy a lot of plastic crap from china prior to getting your hypertension medication, for the illness caused by eating the food that was marketed to you.

It is like a hall of mirrors!
Anyway, a person needs to be thoughtful/mindful as they navigate the information overload. Perhaps we consume too many ideas sometimes!


Jinger December 4, 2008 at 7:01 am

I enjoy the ads that are well done on TV as a sort of art form…doesn’t mean I buy the products, just appreciate the cleverness of some advertisements…like the turkey being thawed in the dryer! I don’t even know what product was being advertised. I just enjoyed the humor. And Target always has such creative ads.


GLM December 4, 2008 at 9:16 am

But I LIKE lard! Well, bacon fat, anyway.



Di December 4, 2008 at 9:30 am

We are celebrating one year of cancelling our cable TV. At a friends recently they had their TV on, and we were amazed at the quantity of ads. It’s only when you don’t see them for a while that you realize just how many there are!
Ads are everywhere now though! Internet is full of them, email is spammed with them, and you can’t walk in a city anywhere without seeing benches or vehicles plastered in ads


Becca December 4, 2008 at 10:06 am

I never thought of something being fairly unnecessary if it had to be marketed. Just think of all the things last century that had to be extensively marketed before people would try it (margarine, for one).


Deb December 4, 2008 at 11:11 am

We are bombarded by advertisements constantly in our daily lives. From the ads in the newspapers and magazines we read, signs on the roadsides or flashing at us from screens everywhere, television, radio, and if you’re not on the do not call list, sometimes via telephone. has some great information, and they also produce “anti” ads, which of course you won’t see on television. Very creative and clever if you want to go check them out.

My father used to call televisions “idiot boxes”, party based on the programs, but in large part due to advertising. It’s to the point where 90% of what I watch is on PBS (which isn’t a bad thing at all, great programming ~ although I’ve noticed that the sponsor acknowledgements are becomming a bit like advertisements). No cable for me, even the most basic plan includes shopping channels and others that I don’t want. Everywhere you look, there’s something or someone telling you how much you need a whatchamacallit to be happy, or how perfect a thingamajiggy will make your life.

Most of the time, when I take a moment to sit and relax I read. The librarians know me by name because I’m in there so often. If I’ve got the urge to watch something, it’s PBS or a movie of some sort.

When my daughter was younger, I always discussed advertising with her, and how marketing works. She’s 19 now, and I hope that those talks have made her more conscious and intelligent about it. When she was very little, we didn’t even own a television.

At this point in my life, I’m much less susceptible to the lure of the advertising industry. I can’t avoid all of the fairly constant barrage, but I can say “no”.


Amber December 4, 2008 at 12:01 pm

The BBC documentary The Century of the Self was a real eye opener for me, when I realised just how much media, advertising and marketing attempts and scarily succeeds in manipulating thoughts, behaviours and emotions.

My personal, non-consumer habits come largely from a place of trying to have a lighter impact on the environment. When I talk to other people about it, a common response I hear is that people don’t want to be told what to do. (i.e. reduce their consumption), yet I can’t help but think that through advertising, we are constantly being told what to do all the time.

Century of the Self


thenonconsumeradvocate December 4, 2008 at 9:35 pm


“Thought leaders?!” That sounds Orwellian.

To follow that logic — If there are thought leaders, then there are thought followers.

-Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


S.R. December 5, 2008 at 4:09 am

I imagine a day when billboards are banned
they are such an eye sore and as you said there are so many other places to market

Gerard kiernan I really liked your comments, Im glad theres a doc out there who just said no to the drug reps


Magdalena December 5, 2008 at 4:58 am

My husband, who has played league hockey since he was five years old (and he reaches the half-century mark tomorrow) objects to the advertising on arena boards and embedded in the ice. The CFL jerseys (that’s Canadian football) have advertising sewn on them. About all he watches is sports, and this seems so demeaning – after all, is he going to run out to Rona (lumber) and buy some stuff just because they sponsor the CFL? Yeah, that’s where real men shop! Is anyone that naive? Or is it the constant bombardment of the same brand name, over and over, so that when you do need some 2×4’s you will think of nothing but Rona? And is there anything in as poor taste as Viagra’s name painted on the hockey boards?

When I worked as a chaplain in a Canadian hospital, I found that the drug companies couldn’t push their products the same way they do in the states. The reps were relegated to a card table in a back corrider, and couldn’t hand out freebies worth more than a pad of Post-its. I don’t know if that means that Canadian doctors prescribe less expensive drugs, but the idea is to keep the pressure off the medical staff and let them have the intellectual room to make good prescription decisions.


Jessica Wolk-Stanley December 5, 2008 at 6:33 am

Below is a link to a recent article from the New York Times Magazine about how repeated exposure to logos and brand names DOES subtly influence our buying choices. It’s not very long and I think worth a read.


Wendy December 5, 2008 at 6:41 am

Di Said, “It’s only when you don’t see them for a while that you realize just how many there are!” It’s so true. I think the advertisements have a mind-numbing affect, which we are oblivious to during prolonged periods of high exposure. After giving something up, whether it is a service (ex: video club, delivery pizza, cable TV, etc.) or consumer product (paper towels, prepared glass cleaner, commercial laundry detergent, etc.) hindsight exposes the unnecessary and/or irritating qualities of said product. Certainly, this exposes one purpose behind the cyclic aspects of ads.


Gerard Kiernan December 5, 2008 at 8:13 am

Marketing/Advertising surely works. There are lots of smart people working in those fields and they do a lot of decent science to hone their skills.

They are now finding that even fast-forwarded ads on TIVO have an effect on consumers, and will work to maximize the yield.

The drug companies in USA spend about 12-14 billion bucks on advertising/sales directed at docs, and that does not count direct-to-consumer. They would not do it if it didn’t work.

So, even when we think we are immune or somehow smarter than marketers, they are , on the whole, making progress that they are happy with.


Marj in Wyoming December 5, 2008 at 3:51 pm

We are not a world of children whose minds are watching ads and saying gimme, gimme, mama and papa. (And that is another story) We have one channel our TV can pick up and we find it amazing how long the commercials are compared to the programs.
Please use the mind God gave you. Just because ads say it is good, don’t believe it.Big thank you to the one Dr. I have ever heard of who refuses to comply with drug reps.


Jacquelyn December 5, 2008 at 5:49 pm

What a thought provoking post. It’s true that advertising is everywhere, and the best marketing is also the most insidious – you may not even know a product is being marketed to you. In my home, we have relegated our tv to a dark corner of the basement and haven’t missed it for years. I dread going to the grocery store because it is sensory overload anymore with all the advertisements. And I definitely agree that if something needs to be advertised, then I probably don’t need it. It’s amazing how few things we truly need to thrive and be happy – although you wouldn’t think so if you believed all the advertisements.


Susan Lee December 11, 2008 at 7:25 am

Nothing would please me more than to ditch our TV set – I would love to. My husband, however is a 23 year Cable tv engineer and needs to have one for his job of keeping the channels pretty in our region. (he has way too much power!!) He also happens to love TV because, as a child, it was his babysitter – there is a certain comfort there for him, sad.

As a homeschooling Mom of two girls, ages 10 1/2 and 14, I have taken a stand to “just say no” to TV when I have the reins. Which is basically all the time unless my husband needs or wants it at night. The commercials are hideous. They are sexual in nature from everything from car ads to viagra! I have educated them from toddlerhood how these ads work and how to recognize their strategies and resist the pressure. Even the trailers for upcoming night time shows are absolutely grotesque to me. I have had enough! The remotes will remain secluded until the man needs them and he can go searching for them! :-)) THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER THINGS TO DO IN LIFE THAN WATCH COMMERCIAL TV!! I say, how about our own “reality”? We avoid our own lives by becoming glued to some fantasy “reality” that is by far, so bizare. You have to wonder that if, when our children are grown, will we wonder what our own children were like because we were too busy watching Ozzie Osborne’s family life? Or Paris Hilton? Or Ashley Simpson?

O.K. I’m off the soapbox. I’m preaching to the choir here, for sure. I needed an outlet for my TV angst. I’m so glad to have found this website – it’s awesome and resonates with so many of my deep-seated feelings. Can’t wait to read more!!


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