The Daily Northwestern

Baas: It’s time for us to stand up to excessive advertisement

Jared Baas, Columnist

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Go to a movie, browse a website, check your social media feed or take a walk by The Rock. What do all of these things have in common? Ads.

Advertisements are a continuously growing part of our culture in the United States. It may surprise you that in the 1970s, the average American was exposed to about 500 ads per day. Today, the average American sees 5,000 ads per day.

With this constant exposure to ads, one wonders whether consumers actually care about what is being advertised. It was found that when a web page is cluttered with ads, only 76 percent of people look at an advertisement, as opposed to 100 percent when a page has a single ad. This should serve as a message to businesses: advertisements can be destructive to people’s focus, and the more there are the more people just don’t care. The problem with this statement, however, is that companies rely on advertising to spread the word about their brand and build their customer base. Without advertisements, how would anyone know which business to choose?

Often, consumers who either want or need a specific product go out to look for it themselves. Using the internet, word of mouth or social media, we read reviews and formulate our own opinions about a company. But many businesses also rely on the idea that consumers don’t even know they want something until someone tells them they do.

No real balance between the two methods exists. Advertising seems like it’s becoming so pushy and overbearing that it takes away all interest in businesses’ products. Anyone who has ever been followed by a street hawker or pulled aside by someone working at a mall kiosk knows exactly what this feels like. If you actually wanted the product, you would’ve already bought it.

Advertising is interfering with the nature of life in the U.S. Think, for example, on our very own Evanston campus. Walking through Weber Arch, one can look down on the path and see papers plastered across the pavement. Northwestern has one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, but student organizations regularly cover this natural beauty with something that they’re trying to sell. While Associated Student Government and other groups have discussed ways to limit ground flyering, the bigger question is why this practice has continued so long in the first place.

On a larger scale, our world gets covered up by ads all the time. Television often feels like it has more ad time than actual content, highway billboards block out natural landscapes and websites will put anything in front of our cursors to lure us in. Our time is sacred, and every day more and more of it is taken up by ads. It’s time for our generation to take a stand against excessive advertisement, and learn how to see life through our own eyes, not those that marketers put in front of our faces.

Jared Baas is a Weinberg freshman. He can be contacted at jaredbaas2021@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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