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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