this new bus shelter was put in front of my house about a week ago. it's amazing to me how beautiful it was without advertising or graffiti. (sadly, it now has meta-advertising in that spot, a "your ad here" kind of ad.)
seeing it, i found myself imagining what the world would be like if companies didn't feel the need to constantly clamor for our attention and our money. if every blank space we encounter during the course of a day wasn't plastered over with ugly, garish, distracting visual clutter. and think how much cheaper products and services could be if the cost of all that crap didn't get passed down to the consumer!
now, i have a strange relationship to advertising. i think i notice it more, and am less susceptible to it, because i am exposed to less of it -- i don't watch TV, listen to radio, read magazines or newspapers, or even see ads on the internet (thanks adblock!). and since i live in NYC, when i eat out it generally isn't at chains like Applebee's or Taco Bell.
i'm a company's nightmare when it comes to advertising. if i notice it at all, i find it aesthetically displeasing at best, and actively offensive at worst. i have definitely been known, in making purchasing decisions, to consciously decide against companies who have annoyed me in particularly obnoxious ways. i often notice ads but then am unable to recall what company was being advertised, even a few minutes afterward. Pepsi or Coke? Nike or Reebok? Washington Mutual or Wachovia?
with a very few exceptions, brands and companies are basically interchangeable as far as i'm concerned. at the grocery store, i mostly buy the cheapest brand, the generic version or whatever happens to be on sale. for anything else it's a combination of my own evaluation of the product (including my emotional reaction to it) vs. how much it costs, and if i need recommendations or advice i read customer reviews on the internet and ask my friends and family.
it's funny, i recently had to call my credit card company to activate a new card, and they took the opportunity to attempt to get me to take them up on a balance transfer deal. now, the deal she offered me over the phone was one that they'd offered me online for some time, and i was seriously considering taking advantage of -- but i wanted to get them to waive the fee, so i told her i was kind of interested but wanted to think on it. well, she didn't budge on the fee, but boy did she not want to take "no" for an answer! in the end i'm left with a hugely negative feeling and am thinking i won't actually use that balance transfer, after all.
tangentially, i think this may be why i so dislike politics and am so disinclined to "follow" the pre-election lead-up the way that many people do. you may be surprised to learn that i have yet to see any video of Obama or McCain, and i'm not sure i'd even recognize McCain in a photograph. basically, political speeches are just advertising, and a particularly nasty sort of advertising at that. when it comes time to vote, i'll read up on their histories and voting records and read their stated platforms -- but i have no desire to listen to them trying to sell themselves to me, especially because i pretty much assume all politicians are dishonest and will say anything they feel will get them votes. as far as i'm concerned, it's content-free and annoying (because it tells me nothing "real" about the candidates and is also a too-blatant attempt to manipulate my actions).
maybe this is an introvert/extrovert thing; i don't consider myself a good judge of character (or at least, not of someone i'm not actually meeting in person), and prefer to make a decision based on facts, not emotions. i think that the only effect keeping up with politics would have is that i would be biased by emotional reactions to the candidates (which is exactly what they're trying to accomplish, after all), so i avoid exposure to that as much as possible.
i guess i just have a "pull" model for this sort of data; if i want to know, i'll do my own research, thankyouverymuch. i don't see an ad and then go "oh, i need one of those!"; if i have a need, i shop for it, but not otherwise.
is the internet going to change this business model? we're already seeing things like referral bonuses, Facebook applications, fake testimonials. "viral marketing" has become common parlance amongst the business-school crowd. but somehow, i don't see billboards ever going away.
which is sad, when you see something like this bus shelter and are reminded of all the beauty we're covering up. it's almost soothing, isn't it? so clean and modern. i was talking about this with squishyent and we came up with the idea of taking out advertising space in order to put art there. it's been officially added to the list of things i'm going to do if i ever become filthy rich.