Friday, September 01, 2017

Advertising: Waste of Time, or Major Annoyance?

And now, in other “holy crap but this is stupid” news ... the Tea Party has posted a graphic to Facebook (and, I assume, the fourteen people using Google+) that shows an American flag waving in dappled sunlight as it is being carried by a guy in a t-shirt and a baseball cap at what looks like a picnic. Pretty much your generic, all-American, mom-and-apple-pie stock photo.

However, being the Tea Party, they couldn’t just give leave it at that. They had to fuck it up with what is arguably one of the dumbest captions ever.

“Like if you agree: The American flag should be allowed EVERYWHERE in the United States!”

Now, before some right-winger gets his nineteenth century bloomers in a twist, and starts hurling spittle-flecked invective at me for being a socialist gay-loving gun-hating anti-christian muslim abortion-having terrorist, let me say right now that, first, I’m a guy, so I CAN’T have an abortion, and second, I resent being called a terrorist. Moving right along ...

My issue with this post isn’t that it is in support of flying the flag. I fully support that. No, my complaints with this piece of dreck are:
  1. By asking people to support the idea that the flag should be allowed everywhere in this country, they are implying that it is currently NOT allowed everywhere. I challenge anyone, right or left, to find any place on American soil where the flying of the American flag is prohibited by law.
  2. It’s not ideology. It’s marketing. Every time someone likes this post, or shares it, the people who put it up are notified, and bingo! You now end up getting “sponsored content” from every right-wing nutjob franchise with a message and a few bucks to spend on a mailing list.

This same approach is used by the posts that challenge you with something ridiculously simple, such as “I bet you can’t name an American city that doesn’t have the letter ‘E’ in it!” (side note: you’d be surprised at the number of people who answered “New York”). You accept the “challenge” and post your answer, and then, shockingly, you are now getting approximately 600,000 emails every day for Canadian Viagra.

This middleman economy is getting ridiculous. First, there were salespeople ... middlemen who performed a useful function, allowing people to buy products from distant manufacturers without having to actually travel to the manufacturing facilities.

Then there were advertising guys. It could be argued that they served a useful function as well, by allowing producers to get the word out about their wares in an efficient manner, even if it was a pack of lies.

Now we’re at the point of having entire businesses based around the idea that advertising is a product in and of itself, something to be bought and sold on the open market. And in what is the most idiotic variant on this concept are the aggregators: those links (you know the ones: “This is the one trick insurers don’t want you to know!”) that take you to another web site that collects your information ONLY SO THEY CAN SELL IT TO PEOPLE WHO SEND YOU MORE ADS.

A few years back it reached the height of absurdity when there were ads on television ADVERTISING THE ADS FOR THE SUPER BOWL. Not the Super Bowl itself, which in my opinion is the height of overblown silliness (it’s just a football game, people!), but the ads they were going to show during the broadcast.

This is getting out of hand. At the rate we’re going, the employable population of this country will be broken down as follows by 2050:
  • 1%: CEOs who make insane amounts of money for playing golf, having affairs, and testifying before Congress.
  • 98.9999999999999999999%: Middlemen of one form or another: sales, marketing, customer service, lobbyists, assistants, etc.
  • 0.0000000000000000001%: Some guy named Steve, who is in charge of watching the robots on the assembly line and calling the IT guys when one of them goes berserk and starts outfitting Camrys with roof-mounted missile launchers (not that this would be a bad thing, especially in DC traffic).
So this needs to stop, m’kay? We need to rise up and show that we’re not going to take it any more! Let’s join together and start a movement that responds to anti-advertising! Any time you see an ad for something write a letter to that company that says “I saw your ad for (Buick/Samsung/McDonald’s/some random pharmaceutical company), and as a result I will NOT buy (the new LaCrosse/the latest tablet/a Quarter Pounder/drugs) from your company! Further, I will urge all my friends to follow suit! Neener, neener, neener!”

That’ll teach ‘em. Smug bastards.

This points to a larger issue: we are rapidly devolving into a “middleman economy”. Let me back up and ‘splain ...

‘Way back in the olden days, the economy was simple: one group of people grew (or made) stuff, and another group of people traded their stuff for the stuff from the first group of people. Once all this trading was going on, soldiers would show up, take everything, and leave both groups with nothing. This system was in place for centuries, and worked pretty well ... unless, of course, you were in one of the two groups of people who lost everything, which let’s face it you probably were because the people who ended up getting everything were the nobility and there were only, like, six of them.

Then some mud-spattered peasant came up with a brilliant idea: instead of carting around livestock to trade for bushels of grain, what about an easily portable marker, made out of a semi-precious metal, say, that could be used instead? This way he could go to a farmer with the grain and say “Look, I’ll gladly give you a cow in exchange for this big pile of wheat, but I don’t have it on me. Tell you what. I’ll give you this metal disk -- let’s call it a coin -- and take the grain. Then you come by my place later, and when you give me the coin back I’ll give you the cow”.

So this worked well for a while, but eventually the number of coins got to be so huge that some guys decided “Hey, wait a second. Why spend our days climbing around in the mud with livestock for a few coins when we could keep track of everyone else’s coins for them, and leave the livestock-climbing for the weekends?” And thus was the concept of a “middleman” born.

At first, middlemen served a useful purpose, especially once the Industrial Revolution got into full swing. Instead of a manufacturer of plows selling directly to the customer, forcing everyone to go to some bleak, desolate area in Pennsylvania to get the damn thing and then lug it all the way back to Possum Junction, Alabama or wherever, they could just trot down to the friendly neighborhood plow dealer, who would sell them the plow and even deliver it for them, all for only slightly more than what the manufacturer would have charged.

However, as time went on, more and more people saw that the middleman actually had it pretty easy. The guys making the stuff worked long, hard hours in dangerous conditions, and they often were left high and dry when the manufacturer picked up and left for cheaper locales. The consumers were usually farmers, who spent months in the fields, getting sunburned and bitten by bugs, only to have everything wiped out when the frost came earlier than expected.

The middlemen, however, did okay regardless. This caused a lot of people to sit up and take notice, and pretty soon almost everyone was involved in selling something to someone else. This became so popular, in fact, that a new breed of middleman popped up: the broker. This was a guy who would (for a fee, of course), help you find the right middleman for what you wanted to buy.

Time continued to pass, and things became even sillier. Soon there was another, slimier, creature that appeared on the landscape, whose job was ostensibly quite simple: he was tasked with telling you about the stuff you wanted to buy before you knew you wanted to buy it, thus making you want to buy it even if you didn’t really want to buy it before. This is called “advertising”. It is also known as “lying”.

Okay, so the hierarchy so far is that the Manufacturer/Grower (Maker) comes up with something he or she wants to sell. They get the advertising guy in on things, who then comes up with a way to make whatever doohickey the Maker has come up with sound like the greatest thing since sliced bread (unless, of course, the product is sliced bread, at which point the ad guy’s job sucks). The ad guy then gets the word out to the consumer. The Consumer would then contact a broker to locate a sales guy to sell them the doohickey, and the sales guy would then pay the maker.

Now, here’s where it gets REALLY stupid.

Some time in the late 1990s, someone realized that the best way to make money on the internet was to sell advertising. Sure, there are sites like Amazon and eBay that actually sell stuff, but for the most part the internet is driven by advertising dollars.

So now we have a situation where you have entire companies who DON’T MAKE ANYTHING, and whose sole purpose is to have other people pay them for the privilege of being able to annoy even more people with ads about stuff that they don’t care about. Further, there are people whose ENTIRE CAREER is based on doing this.

Pretty soon you’re going to have a situation where the United States is nothing but porn, ads, and fast food*, and we will be a nation of fat, one-armed slobs with no money who are being laughed at by the Chinese or the Germans or whoever rises to the top of the international economic dung heap next.

I gotta lie down.

Please like and share this post on my Facebook page at (you can like and share the page, too!), and please consider donating to my advertising campaign (oh, the irony!) at And enjoy your Labor Day weekend, everybody!

*Note: It’s too late. This has already happened.

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