Saturday, June 13, 2009


Argument to suppress marketing as we know it:

By Andrew D Atkin

I would like to express my argument for why we could consider getting rid of ads on National TV.

If the average New Zealander watches 2.5 hours of TV per night, and we price their time at the average wage of ~$20/hr, then that would cost about $40-million worth of New Zealander's time each day to watch about a 1/2hr of ads, and that would equate to a national cost of about $14-billion per year. I don't know what the exact figures are, but in these terms TV-advertising would have to be incredibly expensive whichever way you go.

And then there is the fact that the consumer pays for all that advertising through product mark-up. And only a part of that mark-up pays for their TV coverage, because TV only charges for the ads distribution, not construction.

If we made national TV adless then we would have to increase taxes a little, but we should ultimately get it all back and more through reduced product mark-up.

I know people want to know about new products, but the Internet can now provide that service. The government could even commission Trade-me to provide a national product-consultation service.

Because advertising favours big companies, this would also help to level the playing field to create a more competitive market for the consumer i.e. product success is dictated more directly by product quality, as opposed to your ability to effectively market it.

You could even go a step further and mostly outlaw advertising - we would all probably be better off for it, especially considering that the Internet is shrinking the argument for advertising's informative function (not to mention that half the time 'manipulative function' might be a better term).

I've heard some people argue that advertising drives the economy - that argument is rubbish*. If people don't spend their money on advertised products, then they will spend it non-advertised products - consumer spending drives the economy, not advertising as such. Advertising only creates biases for some industries and at the ultimate expense of others. And if the bias is not positive, then the value of advertising can only be negative.

And then there is the argument that business has a right to advertise. They do I believe, but no more right than New Zealand has to regulate any given business that chooses to operate within its borders - it's our country.

My conclusion is that I don't think it's logical for NZ to tolerate advertising like we do today. Why should we pay to receive something that we do not usually even want, and does not deliver a true net advantage? We do have the right to suppress advertising, I why not?

*I mean driving the economy in a socially positive sense (improving productive efficiency to lower real costs). I do not mean driving the economy in the sense that people are stimulated to work harder, to earn more, to buy more, as a consequence of professional advertising.

The act of encouraging people to trade their spare time for more products is no virtue in itself, especially if the manipulation is unasked for, and especially if the manipulation utilises marketing techniques specifically designed to induce the consumer to believe that the advertised product will be worth a great deal more to them than it really would be in practice i.e. creating artificial demands.

Forcing an exaggerated "consumer society" onto people, against their will, can hardly be regarded as real progress. Getting people to buy what they don't need or even really want is only a waste of human and environmental resources - nothing more.


  1. The most successful advertisements are the ones aimed at the most powerful needs of the consumer. Most people can't be bothered with the trial and error phase to discover the best product. They just want to 'feel good' about the product they have chosen.
    Fear and self-doubt are the golden tickets for selling a product or service. If you are not using a manipulative marketing strategy, then you are wasting money. I should know - I worked in an advertising agency.
    I am not a fan of manipulation. I think it is unethical. In an ideal world there would be no attempt to manipulate when it comes to any type of information distribution. That means no attempt to say "we are bigger, better and more affordable..." (than what?) and "this cream will make you look younger or your money back" and even the news and current affairs shows would ignore all financial incentives to be selective with information.
    It is almost impossible to enforce this ideal through the law because there would be too many 'accidental' cases of manipulation. The courts would be over-burdened.
    This is why I agree that the only real way to supply accurate information is via the internet. Ignorant or busy people will be informed by friends who have the time to search for information.

  2. Richard,

    Yes that's true. I have often said myself "There should be no such thing as salesmen - only sales consultants", i.e. people whose only concern is to help the consumer make the best possible decision for themselves.
    Fundamentally, it is quite peverse that we PAY salesmen considerable money (through product mark-up) to manipulate us, rather than just give us the real service that we want.

    It is so stupid that our society continues to tolerates this. WHY?

  3. Well, much as advertising is annoying and a crass waste of time for viewers, it does pay the bills for our “entertainment.” What I find far worse is the entertainment itself. Watching some older programming of the 60s, primarily, what I noticed was that life was portrayed as people who were very nice, very diligent and moral, respectful. Of course, most of us were more that way then. But the world presented was far nicer than it really was.

    The world, even then, was not that nice. It did not become what it was and is overnight. It was a slow gradual change well underway by the 60s. but the real harm and danger was that the world on TV was not the real world we were living in. But we took it as if it was. So we thought more of people and the system when the system was long ago corrupted and had been throughout history.

    To present something or some situation as it is not, is to lie and misrepresent. It is the worst of fraud. So we walk around innocent ad trusting, having faith that we would get a fair treatment if things went bad. Only it does not work that way.

    So entertainment and programming are the ultimate fraud. In fact, as time went on and things got worse, it became impossible to pull off the lies of old so they had to present more harsh reality and less lies so that the lies would not stand out. But if you watch the old stuff with an analytical eye, you begin to see the illusion.

    Ban advertising? I would not mind it but that is speaking from the present where individuals are much more empowered to make quality presentations that would have popular appeal. But since schools keep all dumb and uninformed and uncritical, the masses would still prefer the mindless entertainment to anything meaningful. Can we force good tastes on people? Sadly, no. But an all powerful God could. Nothing else could.

    No matter what the problem, it has multiple causes. Schools, government, big business, TV and movie producers. To fix the problem, you have to fix all the problems. Far easier said than done.

    It needs to be up to the people to see their best interests and pursue those. What are the odds of that? Not Good. But if people saw their own best interests and pursued those, they might win over time, if they had recognized it soon enough. It is too late to fix it now. Not enough see and for those who do see, the powers that be can blind them like Samson and leave them to rot in prisons or execute them or make them slaves.

    In essence, we are in a hole we can not crawl out of. We need a force bigger, stronger, and much wiser than ourselves. But such a force would also have expectations and would be quite choosy about who would be useful and who would not. It was not be blind salvation of all but only those who saw and could be worked with, which are only a few.