📆 June 30, 2023 | ⏱️ 4 minutes read

Fuck Advertising

Blogger Hugo Landau wrote “Total Advertising Denial”, an article about their opinions on ads and also the name of their strategy for dealing with ads.

As a strategy, “Total Advertising Denial” means making it impossible for yourself to be advertised to. Some examples Hugo gives are using an ad blocker on the web and muting ads when they come on TV or the radio.

I support total advertising denial and would be pleased to see more people engaging in it. I fundamentally disagree with advertising as a business model. Commercial advertising wastes a massive amount of everyone’s time and attention collectively. It promotes overconsumption. It’s gotten far more pervasive and intrusive over the years, online and in real life, and the push back against it has been inadequate.

Like Hugo, I also use an ad blocker when browsing the web, which would be totally unusable for me without it. I don’t feel an ounce of guilt for using it either. It’s my computer and I’ll decide what content loads on it and what doesn’t. I see no reason why I’m morally obligated to forego control over my own computer and waste CPU, RAM, and bandwidth looking at ads for products I’ll never buy to financially support a business through a business model I’d rather didn’t exist.

Since most online advertising happens through Google, even allowing ads to load in my browser contributes to surveillance capitalism, a creepy business model which reinforces massive surveillance, threatening freedom and democracy. Hugo’s opinion on this from the article seems very similar to mine:

“Advertising is not socially neutral. It is shitting in people’s heads, or squatting in them. It is also the fundamental driver and enabler of surveillance capitalism as a business model. In this regard, I consider adblocking (with zero tolerance for adblocking failures) wholly non-optional. This is before taking into account additional advantages of adblocking, such as significantly reducing page bloat, bandwidth use, local resource consumption (CPU/memory), and exposure to potential malware.”

Another reason to hate advertising is the interests it creates. The world’s largest advertising company Google has made multiple attempts at sabotaging the open web for profit. Google has tried to make ad blocking harder and increase user tracking on the web. The world’s largest search engine, Youtube, is owned by Google. Youtube recently issued a cease-and-desist letter to Invidious, an alternative Youtube client which allows one to use Youtube without the annoying advertising, web bloat, and tracking.

“But Youtube is a business. Running ads is the only way it can pay for the costs of operations.” And that’s exactly why it shouldn’t exist. It is insane to have the world’s largest repository of online video content locked behind an ad-ridden bloated surveillance website subject to the whims of a single American company. The world would be a better place if companies whose primary business model is online advertising went out of business and their content was decentralized.

“Advertising transmitted via other mediums, such as TV, can be avoided by scrupulously consistent use of mute precisely as advert breaks begin and end, and monitoring the TV using only your peripheral vision during advert breaks. The frequency of cuts in advertising makes it easy to identify the end of advert breaks, without bringing the TV into enough focus to actually have any idea as to what is being advertised.”

While Hugo’s right that this strategy can work and I have employed it myself at times, I personally prefer to just avoid TV and radio altogether. Sure I can mute the ads, but the point isn’t just not seeing them. I don’t want them interrupting my life. For any information or entertainment on the TV or radio, I can probably get the same thing or its equivalent on the internet without ads.

My generation typically prefers privacy-violating ad-ridden DRM streaming services over TV or radio. Everyone just tolerates the ads because it’s easier just to stick with services one knows, the alternatives are less convenient, and most people can tune the ads out.

I think the fact that we can “tune out” ads is actually part of the problem. When one is complacent and gets accustomed to living in a commercial cesspool, no one fights against it and the situation worsens. More intrusive advertising pops up each year because advertisers know people will put up with it.

Well I have a policy to suggest that we could all follow. The only way companies are going to understand that ads have gone too far is if we hit them where it hurts: their profits. Here’s what I suggest: