My Advertising Crash Diet

Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday, and in large part that's because I spend it camping in Terlingua Ranch and hiking, backpacking, or kayaking in Big Bend National Park (about 15 minutes away from the ranch).

I get mixed reactions when I tell people that's how my family celebrates the holiday. Yes, we do have turkey — slow-cooked over a fire no less. Yes, we do bring toothbrushes and brush our teeth (no kidding, my dad was asked that question once). Yes, there are tarantulas, but they really just want to be left alone.

Silence and stillness
Besides the canyons, river, and wildlife, I look forward to the trip all year long for the silence and stillness of the biggest and least-visited national park. I work in a largish city, and most days I feel bombarded by marketing and advertising. I turn on the news, and I have to sit through ads. I check my e-mail, and inevitably some retailer is having a sale. I get free magazine subscriptions filled with ads. I drive and hear ads on the radio and see them on billboards. Sometimes it seems I can't escape. (Even Get Rich Slowly has ads!)

Reports and statistics vary, but most agree that on average a person is exposed to hundreds of advertisements every day, if not thousands. According to a Federal Trade Commission report, children ages 2-11 see more than 25,000 advertisements each year on television alone, targeted with advertising on the Internet, cell phones, mp3 players, video games, school buses, and in school.

We're even forced to endure ads during a TV show, as stations run larger and larger animated graphics in the corner or bottom third of the screen during TV programs.

There are studies and claims that ads make you fat, cause you to take out payday loans for insane interest rates, lead to alcohol abuse, and essentially ruin your life. That might be true, but more important than obesity and alcoholism concerns, I'm just tired of the noise!

The advertising crash diet
This week I'll have four blissful days of no one trying to sell me something. But rather than wait for Thursday, I decided to try an advertising crash diet this week.

The advertising crash diet is my way of purposefully reducing the advertising to which I'm exposed. This includes e-mail, television, magazines, radio, and, at the end of the week, billboards. The point isn't to save money, though who knows, maybe I will. The point is to reduce sound and sight clutter from loud commercials, obnoxious jingles, and spam in all its forms.

The plan
I won't try to avoid ads completely, just reduce the amount of exposure in a few key areas.

    • E-mail. If I have to shop for something, I prefer to do it on the Internet. This means I sign up for mailing lists with my favorite retailers because 99 percent of the time I won't buy without a free shipping or discount code. I don't want to unsubscribe, but I don't want to see these e-mails every day. My solution is to filter. First, I created a label in my Gmail account called “retailers.” Then I went into my inbox, flagged the e-mails from retailers, and created a filter that would automatically archive the message, mark it as read, and apply the retailers label. I'll never see these e-mails unless I purposefully look at them. If I have a need for an item, I can check the retailers folder and look for a coupon code. I've been so thrilled with this plan that I intend to keep the filters on even after the crash diet.

 

    • Television. This week, I'll pick a couple of programs that I truly enjoy, and watch no more than that. That's not much of a change for me. If there's “nothing on,” I turn it off.

 

    • Magazines. I'm a recovering magazine junkie, but I kicked the habit when I started to look at how much of a magazine was filled with advertisements. I still get a couple of free subscriptions, though, so for this week, I'm going to avoid perusing magazines all together.

 

    • Radio. There is a commercial on a local station that I turn off the second I recognize it. It has something to do with a mechanic that specializes in Jeeps, and the announcer says the word Jeep about 40 times in 30 seconds. A radio host actually counted it because it is that annoying. I don't listen to much radio, preferring my iPod, but during this week, I plan to listen to it less, or at least turn down the volume during the commercial breaks.

 

    • Internet sites. To avoid exposure to ads, I plan to only visit the sites and blogs that add value to my life in some way. This means food blogs from which I've actually cooked, personal finance sites that help me manage my money (like GRS, natch!), and even fashion sites, so long as they inspire ideas without encouraging consumerism.

 

  • Billboards and street signs. This will be easy once I'm in the Texas desert, but if I wasn't going camping, I'd still try to reduce my exposure by going for a hike in a nearby park or staying in with family and playing board games.

My husband thinks part of my irritation with the onslaught of advertising is my aversion to repetition (“Jeep Mechanics specialize in Jeeps, so don't take your Jeep somewhere else, bring your Jeep to Jeep Mechanics…”). Probably true. And I admit that some ads are quite clever and make me smile. But every now and then, I need a break from the noise. This year I'll be thankful for a little peace and quiet.

So tell me, is it just me who gets tired of the noise, or do you sometimes want to escape, too? Are there other ways to reduce exposure to advertising?

More about...Psychology

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Billy
Billy
10 years ago

I agree about the noise problem. I turn off the radio when certain advertisements come on. I find that the most anoying are actually some public service announcements. There are days where I drive to work without turning on the radio, come home and not check my email and never turn on the TV. I find peace in just reading a good book. It’s really is amazing how much crap can get into your head if you let it. It can be overwhelming.

Anne KD
Anne KD
10 years ago

We use Mozilla Firefox as our web browser. The biggest plus for me is that there’s an add-on, called Ad Blocker. As soon as I loaded that and told it to run, my eyeballs have been blissfully free of ad images. I’ve used my parents’ and in-laws’ computers occasionally and I’m just stunned by how much flashy noisy ad garbage is out there.

Oh, we don’t watch a lot of tv, but when we do, the ‘mute’ button on the remote comes in really handy.

Mary Ann
Mary Ann
10 years ago

Hi, April – The reader on IE7 just shows the blog post, so no annoying ads.

If you don’t have cable or a digital converter,glorious quiet will descend upon your household.

I love quiet.

Roxanne
Roxanne
10 years ago

Turn off network TV. I’m tired of having to resist advertising at the moment I sit down to veg out; those advertisers are no dummies.

Jessica
Jessica
10 years ago

YES! AdBlockerPlus! Amen! I hoping to say it first, but Anne beat me to it 😀 I (were I to be of the betting type) would bet you that there will be many, Many, MANY chorusings of agreements to this statement. I didn’t realize how much mental energy / frustration that I was spending in [trying] to ignore the ads (see ESPECIALLY Facebook ads) until they all disappeared. -Do spend some time poking around the FAQ so that you install the right code for your needs: IE: English language vs XYZ foreign language. They also have more specialized filters if… Read more »

Holly
Holly
10 years ago

I think most everyone agrees that modern-day advertising bombards us with noise! An afternoon quietly reading does wonders for the psyche. Product X was produced, shipped, and marketed, all of which costs money. If advertisers didn’t do their jobs, those in manufacturing, r&d, and services would lose their jobs, would no longer be able to feed their families, and so on and so forth. Like it or not, advertising sells and is never going to go away…so it’s up to us to decide how we’ll manage. I often read product reviews and Consumer Reports in order to single out the… Read more »

Michael
Michael
10 years ago

I gave up on TV last March when my mine went on the fritz. Initially, I ran out and started looking for a new TV until it crossed my mind that I didn’t actually have to replace it. My friends and family all looked at me weird as they were buying the latest and greatest flatscreens. On top of saving the cost of a new TV, I was able to knock $40 off my cable bill and just keep Internet. I also decided to ignore radio and newspapers and I’ve never been happier. I do catch a couple shows on… Read more »

ComputerHero
ComputerHero
10 years ago

Ad block plus works good, I use ad muncher, have for years. (http://hero.admuncher.com) the nice thing about it is it filters all traffic, so ads in IE, Safari, even MSN or Yahoo.

Katherine
Katherine
10 years ago

Re: Radio – why not listen to your local public radio station? No commercials plus the benefit of being well-informed

However, I will say that if you listen you should become a member 😉

Beth
Beth
10 years ago

I once had my media students count how many ads, logos and packages they saw from the time they got up to when they got to school. They were really shocked to find out we’re constantly surrounded by corporate branding! (Think about it — logos on cars, cereal boxes, etc…)

I’m with April on the email — except I use a separate email account altogether. That cuts down on the spam in my main account, and it’s an extra deterrent.

retired
retired
10 years ago

Oh for the days when you purchased a shirt and did not end up paying to wear the ad of the company that made it. tags with labels were never shown! Quality clothing showed in the cut and style, not a logo on the cloths.

Sam
Sam
10 years ago

I’m able to tune out most advertising. But one of my big pet peeves is the advertising that comes with the holidays. One it starts so early and two, to me, it ruins the point of Christmas. By the time the holidays roll around I’m already burnt out by the holiday advertising and the early decorations, etc.

deborah
deborah
10 years ago

We nearly always spend Thanksgiving camping and hiking instead of doing the traditional overeating and immersing ourselves in television. We watch nearly zero broadcast television. Hubby likes to channel surf cartoons on Saturday mornings, and the television is rarely tuned to cable otherwise. I find regular broadcast television extremely grating, and it generally has a pretty negative impact on my mood. I categorize standard news (local, CNN, Fox, or otherwise) in the same category as advertising – it’s loud, obnoxious, propaganda-filled, fear mongering, and sensationalist. I get my news from Digg and The Daily Show… if it’s really important news… Read more »

Noni Mausa
Noni Mausa
10 years ago

For radio, try streaming or satellite CBC (cbc.ca/radio) or BBC (bbc.co.uk/radio) and BBC TV (several networks.)

I watch almost no television, because of poor content and the ads. And CBC radio is some of the richest content available — I almost always have CBC Radio One turned on.

I have wondered if one of the reasons North Americans have gotten less sensible in the past few decades is the bombardment of ads — not because the ads are stupid or senseless, although many are, but due to people getting in the habit of discounting or ignoring written messages.

Noni

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
10 years ago

I’ve been exorcising advertising from my life *actively* for some time now. I pay $12/month for commercial-free satellite radio just to avoid ads in the car. I unsubscribe from any email newsletters trying to sell me things. I run ad-blocking software in my web browser. I don’t watch broadcast television — there are a couple shows I like, but I download them from iTunes where they come without ads. I even rewrite my favorite websites to remove the clutter. In fact, when I load GRS on my computer, it looks like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tylerkaraszewski/4125043192/sizes/o/ I have to say that materialism is… Read more »

lostAnnfound
lostAnnfound
10 years ago

I really like the tip for Google mail and I’m going to give that a try. When I’m in the vehicle I usually pop in one of my CDs instead of listening to the radio because I’m sick of all the ads. Same for TV. If I’m watching a show and an ad comes on I either mute it or I get up and go do something else for a couple minutes (switch over laundry, put away clean dishes, etc). And I am really, really, REALLY annoyed by the channels that put their logo on the bottom of the screen… Read more »

brooklynchick
brooklynchick
10 years ago

My favorite way to avoid ads is listening to National Public Radio for both news and music – I avoid both TV news and commercial radio.

I also use http://www.catalogchoice.org/ to reduce the number of catalogs I receive -which are GIANT ads that arrive in my mailbox to tempt me to spend.

PA Mom
PA Mom
10 years ago

I agree, there’s WAYYYY too much advertising. Here’s some of the things we do to cut down on all of it: We rarely listen to the radio, preferring CD’s or tapes (our car CD player is broken and we haven’t bothered to fix it since it also has a tape deck). We’re still “old fashioned” with regard to music. No live downloads to MP3 players over here. Too easy to spend money with that kind of gadget! We rarely watch live TV. We bought a TiVo several years ago and are quite happy to fast forward through all commercials. There… Read more »

Lucy
Lucy
10 years ago

I got rid of my tv about 6 years ago. Even those who claim to be able to tune out advertising or mute the ads still have the images filling the room – and if they’re in the room, they are having an influence whether you like it or not. I will be spending Thanksgiving with my parents. They have an average size living room that houses a 58-inch plasma screen tv, plus a 24-inch tv next to it on a shelf PLUS a 12 inch tv next to my dad’s recliner. Yes, all three tvs are in the living… Read more »

Jackie
Jackie
10 years ago

I get very tired of all the advertising noise. It’s literally exhausting to me, even though I do actively try to limit my exposure. I think Americans especially aren’t even aware of just how much advertising surrounds us — and I don’t just mean things like TV, radio and billboards. It’s literally everywhere you look.

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

I definitely get tired of the “noise” that comes with all of the marketing today. And I have also realized more than ever lately how easy it is to get wrapped up in the general busyness of life and miss what’s most important.

I find that taking time to do some creative writing on my blog and reflect on the blessings of family and marriage is a great escape. And it’s something I can do routinely without big plans or any expense.

cely
cely
10 years ago

Another vote for Adblocker. The interesting part was that when I installed it, a lot of elements disappeared from sites, and these were things that I didn’t even realize were advertisements. They were presented as blog posts or the like but were paid advertisements. Kind of opens your eyes to the number of ads you’ve been seeing that aren’t overt.

It also has the added benefit of making sites easier to read — more white space!

seawallrunner
seawallrunner
10 years ago

I turn all media off (iPhone, computer, tv, radio) for 24 hours every weekend and go for a hike or camping trip. I come back refreshed, quiet, peaceful.

Doing this weekly ‘media fast’ every week is as essential to me as breathing and sleeping every day.

Brenda
Brenda
10 years ago

I think I’m always on an advertising diet. I hate ads. Hate hate hate. They’re a major part of the reason I don’t own a TV. If I want to watch any TV shows, I watch them on Hulu, where they run only a few very short ads, and I don’t watch them…I usually read email in another window while they’re running the ad in the background (if they run at all, since I use FireFox with AdBlocker and that stops a very small percentage of them from running.) FireFox’s AdBlocker is awesome..you never see ads on the internet either,… Read more »

Tom Major
Tom Major
10 years ago

A shirt for the author…my apologies for implying that I would make you buy something.

http://www.bustedtees.com/advertising

Becky
Becky
10 years ago

Firefox adblock! It is wonderful. I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t use it!

Beth
Beth
10 years ago

Just to play devil’s advocate here… For all those who hate advertising, how do you expect people to make money? Web publications and radio stations aren’t volunteer organizations. I understand content isn’t free. If it’s isn’t costing me any money, then I’m paying for it indirectly via ads.

I don’t like ads, but I don’t think people like J.D. or his writers should have to work for free. (though I really appreciate the fact that J.D.’s ads aren’t obnoxious like the ones that over lay or play on top of content!)

Madeline Arce
Madeline Arce
10 years ago

Love the Gmail idea. Thanks for such a great tip.

Dave
Dave
10 years ago

Sort of a disconnect here – especially from the folks that use adblock. If everybody used adblock, this site and others like it would not exist.

Advertising runs the web – why do you think that there are so many Personal Finance blogs out there? Somewhere along the line, bloggers started tuning in to what people were searching for, and more importantly, what advertisers were paying for.

Notice that the author of the article carefully avoided the subject of ad-blocking – probably wouldn’t sit too well with the advertisers who are paying her salary!

Little House
Little House
10 years ago

What a wonderful way to spend Thanksgiving. If it were up to me, that’s what I’d prefer. I love camping because of the stillness and silence as well (or at least I prefer the sounds of nature!)

As for advertising, it’s gotten out of control. Advertisers seem to bombard us everywhere we turn. They try to sell us more and more stuff that we don’t need. I’m surprised they haven’t figured out a way to advertise to people while they sleep.

Lisa
Lisa
10 years ago

Five years ago whenever my husband and I told friends we didn’t watch television we were viewed with incredulity, and then with suspicion. That doesn’t happen so much anymore, apparently we’re becoming more mainstream. We had a TV and basic cable for his mother, but rarely wandered into the living room where she watched it. In fact, the noise from that room drove me a little nuts when I could hear it from anywhere in the house. She’s gone now and we didn’t bother to get a digital converter for the TV. We still own the small set, a VHS… Read more »

Bananen
Bananen
10 years ago

I don’t really feel bothered by adds. – We don’t have a TV, which is where the most hard-to-get-rid-of adds are. We do watch movies on the computer but DVDs rarely contain adds. – The online adds are often from Google (or inspired by the low profile Google adds) and I use AdBlock Plus on the few websites that still have annoying, flashy and irrelevant adds. – The adds in the snail mail go straight to the trash – Gmail sorts out most of the e-mail spam. I love to get away from the general noise but not because of… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
10 years ago

@Dave @ Accidental FIRE: if everyone used adblock, this site and others like it would be run differently, but they’d still exist. I’d pay $10/year to view a beautifully designed GRS site that focused more on pleasing the reader than generating traffic. JD has 67,000 people following this site. If only 1% of them would pay the $10, he’d bring in $6700/year from those 1% of people, while only losing 1% of his ad revenue. I guarantee he’s not making $670k/year in ad revenue right now. Or, in more general terms, if the world worked differently than it does, then… Read more »

Bananen
Bananen
10 years ago

Very interesting approach, Tyler. But I disagree with your conclusion for two (interconnected) reasons: 1. You lose very little from a page with (small, non-flashy) adds compared to a page without. If your choice is between paying 10cents for the page or paying 0cents + a bit of inconvenience, then you’d prefer the latter as long as the inconvenience is worth less than 10cents. 2. With AdBlock it will only take you a second to block an add and it will never be seen again. If your time is worth less than (10cent/second)/[number of times you would have seen this… Read more »

Ash
Ash
10 years ago

I don’t switch on my tv very often. And I appreciate that most people dislike ads. However, I’ll admit that I’m a freak who enjoys advertising: when I’m visiting a new country, the ads speak volumes to me about the kind of culture and preferences that exist (remember the 50’s cleaning ads?) I also like marketing, so I enjoy analysing the more sophisticated ads: who is the company targeting? Finally, I’ll chime in with Beth, who wanted to play devil’s advocate: advertising provides revenue to quite a few people, and it does increase the market for producers. So it may… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
10 years ago

Bananen: if the company showing you the ad is willing to pay $0.10 to make sure you’ve seen it, then they’ve already determined that your inconvenience *is* worth at least $0.10, and they’re paying for it. They are buying your influence because you don’t think it’s worth anything, but they’ve done the math and found that it *is* worth something. They can correlate the amount of influence they’ve purchased from you and others to increases in sales. If advertising works — that is to say, if advertising creates more revenue than it costs, then you’d be better off financially by… Read more »

Merri
Merri
10 years ago

Have a great trip! I was just saying (like I do every year) that my family’s holiday revolves around spending money, sitting on our asses, and eating insanely unhealthy food. Next year will be different!

Bananen
Bananen
10 years ago

@ Tyler
That is the thing about averages, as JD mentioned a few days ago. The average person may (or may not?) make it worth while for the advertising companies, but that is because _some_ people are easily convinced. Unless you are one of those people it is not worth paying to avoid adds. You actually gain from other peoples’ spending habits.

And my second argument still stands. If you use AdBlock you will only have to pay a few seconds to avoid an add forever. That must be the cheapest way to get around online advertising.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
10 years ago

@Bananen:
Yes, you’re right, but the problem is in determining whether you’re more or less influenced by advertising than the average person. No one *thinks* that they’re easily influenced, but many people are. Your own intuition isn’t a good indicator here.

friend
friend
10 years ago

Thanks for the tip about gmail. I’ve just set up filters for retailers and facebook notifications. I knew those filters were in there but didn’t really know how to use them. Easy. Much appreciated.

elisabeth
elisabeth
10 years ago

I really like my desktop slide program (I made it myself from pictures from the Astronomy Photo of the Day site), and so most often, I keep my browser screen narrow, about half of the full screen on my iMac, which has the additional positive that I only see the text I’m reading, not the ads on the right side of many web sites…

Sean
Sean
10 years ago

Even public radio seems to have a lot of advertisements to me now. I recently bought a used internet radio (A nice article by Bill McKibben: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200712/radio) on which I can listen to radio from all over the world. I discovered that public stations in other countries like the BBC and CBC have much less in the way of advertising than NPR (at least the local station here). You can also get the radio to play podcasts, which also don’t have advertisements (generally)! I imagine you could also find music stations in other countries that play music you like without… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
10 years ago

I sold advertising for years, and I’m pretty much immune to print advertising, but audio ads make me INSANE. We are lucky to have (and support) very good PBS and NPR stations, plus local independent radio stations. And when I do get to watch grownup TV, it’s usually on DVD. What I found is that I kind of miss the ads on TV, because I am not very good at sitting still for half an hour or an hour at a time. The PBS cartoon shows have music videos every so often for that reason – apparently I’m just not… Read more »

Patty
Patty
10 years ago

April – have a Happy and Nice Thanksgiving! Enjoy the quiet 🙂

Per
Per
10 years ago

I’m guessing the reason you’re not mentioning AdBlockPlus in your blog is that you’d be loosing quite a bit of revenue if all your readers got it. Still, I expect half of the comments will mention it – it’s such an excellent piece of software.

Alexandra
Alexandra
10 years ago

I don’t bother with ad-blocker – I simply reduce the size of my browser window to block out ads on the sides of the page content. I actually have never seen the ads on this site. Works doubly well since I am reading this at work – the smaller the window, the less obtrusuve my non-work activity is ;-). Also, I have a DVR, so I never watch live TV. No magazines or newspapers – I get everything online. And no car for me, so I only hear radio ads on the weekends when I am in the car with… Read more »

April
April
10 years ago

@Per–I didn’t mention it because I hadn’t heard of it before! I’m actually not as tech-savvy as I might seem. 🙂 Luckily, GRS readers share these kinds of tips in the comments.

GT
GT
10 years ago

Only tangentially related, but I bet Big Bend is AWESOME this time of year. I went last year in June (and also stayed outside the park but farther away in Lajitas, which was pretty far), and it was so hot I could barely enjoy the park (105Ëš every day!). I hope you have a wonderful time there this week.

April
April
10 years ago

@GT–Yes, it’s a great time of year to go. I, too, have been in June, and it’s pretty hot. If you go into the Chisos Mountains, it’s not as bad, but the desert floor can get pretty unbearable.

Jessica the hedgehog
Jessica the hedgehog
10 years ago

We’re some of the folks without a TV, so that cuts out much of the advertising we used to be exposed to daily. However, when we did have a television, we muted during the commercials. I know there’s technology today that lets you fast forward past ads, but simply muting them is very effective too.

That said, when we’re traveling internationally (and if we scored a TV in the room we’re staying) we *love* to watch the commercials. Like Ash (#35) mentioned, they can be a great insight into whatever country we’re visiting. 🙂

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