"Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” - Will Rogers
It feels too obvious to mention that advertising has a number of negative effects on us, and it bombards us in this day incessantly and unavoidably. It is intended to make us feel inadequate. It makes us want to buy stuff we don't need, and deep down may not even truly want. It creates "needs" out of "wants;" it creates needs in our minds that don't exist in reality. It leads us to believe we lack for something, when the truth is, we more than likely already have too much, and are enormously wealthy compared to billions of people in the world. In short, advertising confuses us. It gets in our heads and then into our wallets. I've been trying to combat this persistent stream of marketing and advertising in the last year especially, and I've brainstormed some ways to reduce my exposure to advertising.
My thinking is that since advertising makes us want stuff, it follows that we can decrease our perceived material wants by minimizing our exposure to advertising. These are a handful of steps I've taken myself recently or at some point in the past:
-Cancel magazine subscriptions. The vast majority of what you are paying for is simply advertisements. You'll receive a partial refund for issues not yet sent.
-Cancel subscriptions to catalogs you receive automatically in the mail.
-Cancel any store/shopping-related email mailing lists you may have gotten yourself onto (or simply direct these emails to your spam folder).
-I find TV commercials to be incredibly obnoxious-- but that may be because I so rarely encounter them. Three tactics to avoid them: mute commercials, watch less TV (better option), or eliminate cable (best option-- watching DVDs and using a cheap Netflix plan is a great alternative).
-Eliminate window shopping; shopping is not entertainment or therapy. Last year I decided to no longer go to the mall-- and I'm only happier and more contented for it. Remember that retail stores are purposely set up to manipulate you and get you to part with as much of your money as possible.
-Cease online shopping for entertainment-- even just browsing. If you need to make a specific purchase, just make it, and then exit the shopping site.
-When you must shop, have a plan. Go armed with a shopping list, stick to it, and then leave the store.
-Use a pop-up blocker in your browser to block the most obnoxious ads (though hopefully you already do).
One last thought-- Though we can purposely reduce the barrage of advertising in our lives, we will never be able to eliminate it completely without living in a remote village. So, another helpful tactic to keep in mind is to remember to think critically when you are confronted by an advertisement: Think, what is it trying to make me want? How is it trying to manufacture a mental or emotional "need" for this product? How is it trying to manipulate me, the viewer or reader or shopper, emotionally? How does it try to make me feel inadequate or incomplete-- without what they are selling?
Book recommendations for further reading on the subject:
Why We Buy by Paco Underhill
Can't Buy My Love by Jean Kilbourne
And, lastly, this is a fast-paced, entertaining video short I highly recommend:
Annie Leonard's "The Story of Stuff"