To Ad or Not To Ad

That is the question: whether it is nobler to support the hosting web manager directly or to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous advertisements that defray his costs.  Or to take up arms against capitalism and occupy cyberspace, thereby ending it.

My apologies to the honorable Bard.  I woke to a dilemma this morning when my sister noticed a “goofy” ad showing up on my blog that was totally incongruous to the serious, graceful tone that I’m trying to achieve.  I found out that through the Terms of Service that I agreed to when I started this blog, I had given my permission for WordPress to run ads on my page to defray their costs.  If I want to ensure that there will be no ads on my blog page, I can pay a yearly fee of about $30.  So much for the idea of truly “free” hosting.   To be fair, though, this is only the second time since August I have seen an ad on ANY blog that I’ve visited.  I suppose I harbor a vain hope that there is a way to avoid capitalism in my daily life, and unfortunately, that is just not possible.  What I do have is choices about how I will interact with this system.

What kind of choices do I get to make?  Well, I can choose to avoid advertising by paying the fee, like I would do with Public Television (if I had a TV).  I can choose to support local small businesses, like the family operations that fixed my car this week.  I can choose “no ad” products at the market and avoid mega-stores and franchises.   I can unsubscribe to all the junk mail I get online or through the Postal Service.  Come to think of it, I need to find a better way of doing that.  I am still getting junk mail in my late husband’s name at my current boyfriend’s address, which is kind of creepy in an absurd sort of way.  It will be four years in February since he died.  How do you turn that sewage off??

The fact that advertising is so ubiquitous is one of the things that makes it so objectionable.  We are bombarded to the point that we stop paying attention.  Our awareness is compromised, and that goes against the very thing I am trying to develop in my life.   How many advertisements do you see in your average day?  If someone came up with statistics about how many you encounter, how much time you spend reading them or viewing them in video, how much time you spend trying to dispose of them or avoid them, how much money you spend funding them (whether directly or indirectly), and how much noise and visual pollution they add to the environment, don’t you suppose you’d be surprised?  Possibly appalled?  Angry? Or wouldn’t you care?

I think that the sheer volume of advertising and the phoniness of it creates an atmosphere that is potentially damaging to the human spirit.  I want to point my canoe in another direction entirely.  My relationship with my blog host is not one that will allow me to get away from using currency, but I can get away from using advertising.  I wish I could trade singing lessons or a home cooked meal for the use of cyberspace. … Yeah, that would be neat.

Hey, WordPress! I'm making risotto tonight!

10 thoughts on “To Ad or Not To Ad

  1. I’m going through a similar dilemma…$30 is steep enough to think about. WordPress should charge $20 and it would be an easier choice!

    Yesterday I discovered that if you are logged into wordpress you probably won’t see the ads. Tricky.

    Robin

    • Yeah, I haven’t seen many…which is good, but makes me more incredulous when someone else does. I think about the NPR and PBS pledge drives as well as the alumnae association ones that I haven’t supported, and I realize that I’ve cut back on a lot of donations since I’m unemployed. So this and my Diabetes Association donation get my yearly designation. It’s all about choosing your rationale and selecting your own delusion, right?

  2. All of the ads I have seen on your blog have been for an eco-blogging site, leading me to click on it because I thought you might have been featured. Not offensive, but misleading. On a different note, what do you think of the idea of the “artful ad?” (Like the ones that get all the sports-phobic people to watch the Superbowl.) Is creative and rhetorical skill misdirected when it’s used to sell a product rather than an idea? Have we blurred the line too much in terms of equating ideas and products (eg. in encouraging people to “develop their brand” when we mean “present a polished, cohesive, and approachable face to advocate for yourself.”) Are there nouns it’s okay to advertise and nouns it’s not? (I say “nouns” rather than “things” to include abstract concepts, people, places, viewpoints, etc.)

    I don’t personally have a defined opinion one way or the other– jes’ curious 😀

    • Good questions. The “artful ad” would be what I’d call “clever”. Clever carries a connotation of being amusing but perhaps manipulative and not very deep or authentic. Advertising is often clever instead of persuasive. What if instead of marketing a noun, you simply describe it honestly and allow the consumer to make a response? Would that make us more responsible consumers? I posted a comment on a “How to sell sustainability” blog in a similar vein. You can find it here.
      http://jonathanwise1.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/dont-talk-about-sustainability/

  3. Apparently that comment is still awaiting moderation, but this is what I wrote:
    Hmm. This strikes me as manipulative. I care about this, you care about that, so I want to trick you into doing something I want by appealing to something you want. Can’t we just be honest and compassionate and appreciate what each other wants? You may be able to manipulate in the short term, e.g. while it’s fun, but then that isn’t sustainable in the long term. In order to appeal to a long term value, you must deal with the understanding of ideas.

  4. “Advertising is often clever instead of persuasive. What if instead of marketing a noun, you simply describe it honestly and allow the consumer to make a response?”

    Honest descriptions come in lots of flavors. If there is something I passionately want others to buy into, then it is honest for me to use emphatic language. Persuasion is not necessarily manipulation, and though I may use cleverness to catch the attention of my desired audience, that doesn’t mean that I can’t also give information that appeals to long term values. It is very easy for people to compartmentalize their values so that what is important in one context is less so in another. For instance, I am a vegetarian for my well-being, as well as for compassionate & environmental reasons. However, I just bought a pair of leather shoes because I was persuaded that they would keep my feet drier & warmer than a similar pair with web mesh. If the man-made materials had clever advertisements that reminded me of my compassionate & environmental concerns, I might have been swayed more towards buying them, since it was a consideration I was weighing anyways. Instead, the leather shoes had a tag with a comparison of water resistance rates between leather and other materials.

    • I think that’s a great example. I like the way it illustrates your awareness of what you value in the short and long term. It also shows that man-made materials attempt to mimic qualities that are found in nature and often do that less elegantly or efficiently. That makes me appreciate the environment in another way. It’s not a black-and-white decision; it’s an opportunity for you to engage in different aspects of the situation and respond. Isn’t that what we mean when we try to “act responsibly”?

  5. “act responsibly”

    This raises the questions “responsible to whom?” and “responsible for what?”, the kind of questions you are struggling to answer. In my example, I broke my boycott of the cattle industry for the sake of my comfort. I could argue that is exactly the kind of selfish behavior that needs to change to get this planet out of the mess it’s in.

  6. Here’s a site that can help you get rid of the junk mail: https://www.catalogchoice.org/. I got this reference from my city’s Environmental Services Dept. website. I haven’t used this one myself; I used another website some years ago but can’t find the reference now. Try it and let me know how it works as my junk mail volume is going up again.

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