In Praise Of Ads

As Katja and I discussed in our podcast on ads, most people we know talk as if they hate, revile, and despise ads. They say ads are an evil destructive manipulative force that exists only because big bad firms run the world, and use ads to control us all.

Yet most such folks accept the usual argument that praises news and research for creating under-provided info which is often socially valuable. And a very similar argument applies to ads. By creating more informed consumers, ads induce producers to offer better prices and quality, which benefits other consumers.

This argument can work even if ads are not optimally designed to cram a maximal amount of relevant info into each second or square inch of ads. After all, news and research can be good overall even if most of it isn’t optimally targeted toward info density or social value. Critics note that the style of most most ads differs greatly from the terse no-nonsense textbook, business memo, or government report that many see as the ideal way to efficiently communicate info. But the idea that such styles are the most effective ways to inform most people seems pretty laughable.

While ad critics often argue that ads only rarely convey useful info, academic studies of ads usually find the sort of correlations that you’d expect if ads often conveyed useful product info. For example, there tend to be more ads when ads are more believable, and more ads for new products, for changed products, and for higher quality products.

Many see ads as unwelcome persuasion, changing our beliefs and behaviors contrary to how we want these to change. But given a choice between ad-based and ad-free channels, most usually choose ad-based channels, suggesting that they consider the price and convenience savings of such channels to more than compensate for any lost time or distorted behaviors. Thus most folks mostly approve (relative to their options) of how ads change their behavior.

Many complain that ads inform consumers more about the images and identities associated with products than about intrinsic physical features. We buy identities when we buy products. But what is wrong with this if identities are in fact what consumers want from products? As Katja points out, buying identities is probably greener than buying physical objects.

So why do so many say they hate ads if most accept ad influence and ads add socially-valuable info? One plausible reason is that ads expose our hypocrisies – to admit we like ads is to admit we care a lot about the kinds of things that ads tend to focus on, like sex appeal, and we’d rather think we care more about other things.

Another plausible reason is that we resent our core identities being formed via options offered by big greedy firms who care little for the ideals we espouse. According to our still deeply-embedded forager sensibilities, identities are supposed to be formed via informal interactions between apparently equal allies who share basic values.

But if we accept that people want what they want, and just seek to get them more of that, we should praise ads. Ads inform consumers, which disciplines firms to better get consumers what they want. And if you don’t like what people want, then blame those people, not the ads. Your inability to persuade people to want what you think they should want is mostly your fault. If you can’t get people to like your product, blame them or yourself, not your competition.

Added 10a: Matt at Blunt Object offers more explanations.

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  • James

    It’s possible for all that to be true and for most of the people *you know* to have legitimate reasons to dislike ads, namely very low expectancy for getting useful or high-quality information from them. Advertising is basically always trying to appeal to the median of some large demographic, and your social circles may not contain a lot of medians of large demographics.

    My dad insists that ads are useful to him; he resisted my offer to install Adblock on his computer, and despite owning a DVR, he tends to watch live television most of the time.

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    • kebko

      Emergent irony.

    • cbj

      possibly the best comment possible!

    • I believe the TV

      Best comment ever!

    • I almost always delete ads in OB comments, but since so many seem to like this ad, I shall leave it.

      • IMASBA

        Why would you so cruelly deprive us of the important information contained in those ads?

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  • Siddharth

    Also, denouncing ads can be signal of your intelligence and discrimination.

    • Yes, to the extent that ads are targeted at mid customers, you can signal they don’t target your high tastes.

  • B_For_Bandana

    I don’t know. I think the following two more mundane reasons are more likely:

    1. We see them over and over, and the repetition is irritating.

    2. Most ads are for things I’m not interested in right now: cars I’m not in the market for, kinds of food I don’t like, appliances I don’t need, medicines that cure diseases I am not afflicted by, clothes that don’t match my preferred gender presentation, and so on. The advertisers are only aiming to reach a certain number of customers, which is generally only a small fraction of the total population, so pretty much everyone sees mostly ads for things they don’t care about, and this is annoying.

    > But if we accept that people want what they want, and just seek to get them more of that, we should praise ads.

    I don’t accept this. What you’re essentially saying is that everyone is perfectly rational: we can tell what people wanted via revealed preference, and incredibly they are successful at getting it 100% of the time, because, why, that’s what they got! I think it’s far more likely that ads’ primary function is not to inform or entertain but simply to keep people aware of the product, so that when we go out shopping we notice that one more than all the others, and become more likely to buy it. Naturally it is annoying to be on the receiving end of this, no matter how well it succeeds at changing behavior.

    All this said, you do have a point about people who talk a lot about how much they dislike ads: those people are just trying to show how cool they are, no question. But just quietly being irritated by them is not hypocritical, I don’t think.

    • James Best

      “those people are just trying to show how cool they are, no question.”

      Some people are just more vocal about their feelings than others. If something annoys me I usually tell people that it annoys me. Some of my friends keep it to themselves. Doubt we want to live in a world where no one is vocal when they think something is problematic, or too many.

      So there is at least some question.

    • Saying that people on average get more of what they want via ads is not at all to say that everyone is perfectly rational.

      • tenmileisland

        But, to say they don’t would be irrational.

  • At least in principle, though, news and research want you to know everything they know, and do not have deceitful intentions. Advertisements exist to change your beliefs/opinions in the way that benefits the company.

    • Um, what principle is that exactly?

      • Stephen Diamond

        The principle: Commercial news is interested in selling itself; advertising is interested in selling something else.

        ADDED. This feels like an exercise comparable to when Wiblin posted his untimely April Fool’s joke.

    • Old OddJobs

      Where’s the deceit? You must be one of the gullible ones, right? ….or is that everyone except you?

  • Damien S.

    ” But given a choice between ad-based and ad-free channels, most usually choose ad-based channels,”

    What’s your evidence for saying that?

    Most people choose ad-based channels over PBS but that doesn’t tell us much; do most people who are vocal about disliking ad choose those channels, or do they back it up with preferring PBS/NPR/ad-less cable/etc? Are most people who choose ad-based channels vocal about disliking ads?

    “So why do so many say they hate ads if most accept ad influence”

    What does “accept ad influence” mean? If I watch WB so I can watch a show I like, but I mute the sound for every ad and avert my eyes to defocus the visuals, am I accepting influence? What of someone who records and fast forwards through the ads? Or uses AdBlock to make Facebook adfree?

    If most people don’t use AdBlock, is that because they like ads on the web, or because they don’t know it’s an option or installing a plugin seems too hard or too risky?

    • There are also cable channels like HBO which don’t have ads, but also have fewer viewers (in part because they cost more) than ones with ads. There are also people with DVR who watch the ads anyway (this is measured and taken into account when determining the “ratings” of a show).

      • IMASBA

        Not in part, it is 100% because they cost more and I can’t fathom any waking human being voluntarily putting up with American commercials breaks (every other minute it seems and 99.9% of horrific quality and preying on people’s fears).

      • There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, IMASBA. Like I said, networks and advertisers track whether people skip the ads on DVRs. I have seen people sit through them, whether you can fathom it or not.

      • IMASBA

        You should’ve told them how to skip the ads (that is if they were actually paying attention), not telling them constitutes abuse.

    • Cambias

      I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but PBS and NPR can scarcely be called “ad-free.” They run what can only be called ads in the guise of “thanking our supporters.” The only real difference is that they don’t have in-show breaks. Yet.

      • Damien S.

        Fair point. OTOH, last I watched, those were (a) much shorter than commercial ads and (b) much less cognitively intrusive. A simple “Paid for by X, [optional slogan]” rather than 30 seconds of acting, cleavage, brights lights, music, or whatnot. The entire PBS sponsor sequence could probably fit in less than a single commercial slot. And it happens just at the beginning or end, rather than interrupting the program. And it’s almost always the same, so habituation kicks in.

        All these differences… add up to big difference.

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  • James Scott

    To me, the real value of advertisements is that they invisibly distribute costs across large numbers of people. Lots of things I like just plain can’t exist without advertisements, because they’d have no way to get and keep a paying audience. The interest for them exists, but the psychological cost of paying even small amounts of money for them – and the clunky mechanisms we have for distributing small costs in general – make then simply impossible in an ad-less world.

    • rrb

      I hope people get micropayments to work for thinks like webcomics and search engines. I would love to have some kind of account that was automatically deducted pennies every time I made a google search, or read 3 pages of a fanfiction. I don’t know if this is a common attitude though.

  • MalcolmMcC

    After reading Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss, I’m afraid I can’t agree with you. The food advertising industry exists to convince people to consume things that are optimized for cost at the expense of health. Sometimes lying or stretching the truth really far, e.g. ads to the effect of “X cereal had been scientifically shown to boost children’s test scores” but they’re comparing it to not eating breakfast at all.

    What’s to praise about that?

    • MalcolmMcC

      Or perhaps I should clarify a smidge. I DO recognize that appropriate, accurate, targeted ads have lots of value. I simply think that the advertising industry is more broadly evil in that they sell people things people don’t naturally want (and that are bad for them).

    • JW Ogden

      “The food advertising industry exists to convince people to consume things that are optimized for cost at the expense of health.”

      In other words they make it as tasty as possible per dollar. That is what I want them to do. I used to work with an old chef who would on busy days jokingly say “Don’t make it too good or they’ll come back.” Is that what you want?

      • MalcolmMcC

        Food is tasty enough already. I’d like it if they started making it healthy. Unfortunately, once one has become accustomed to extremely sweet, fatty, and salty foods, that becomes very difficult because anything healthy simply doesn’t seem as good.

        …but it was partly the food ads industry that taught us what “good” was in the first place. Partly not: they did exploit the natural superstimuli that are sugar and fat. Salt appears to have been manually hacked into our craving systems.

        Knowing that consumers (myself included!) are not rational agents, I would appreciate external influences to help me eat in a manner consistent with my goals. If that means a sugar tax, I’d be happy to pay one. If that means limiting the amount of ads that can be run by companies using lies to try to make me eat garbage, then I’m all for it!

      • Old OddJobs

        You are gullible. Therefore everyone else should be taxed. Get a clue.

      • Damien S.

        “That is what I want them to do”

        No you don’t. Pretty sure you also want your food to not unnecessarily slowly kill you, and that you’d object to lead being used as an artificial sweetener.

    • A lot of news and research is misleading too. You wouldn’t reject those entire categories based on a few bad items, so why do that for ads?

      • MalcolmMcC

        Actually I do reject most news. Like I want to generally know what’s going on in the world, but I find that most news is just bad news that doesn’t help me.

        In the case of research, I think the difference is that there’s much more good (or at least well-intended) research than bad, compared to food. The book I mentioned notes how many of the food researchers *paid by the food companies* are nonetheless drawing conclusions that don’t support the food. Now, they’re sometimes paid to produce more favourable results, but note that here the ad industry is corrupting the science.

        Your article said: “But if we accept that people want what they want…”

        Is this true? I would maintain that people want what they want in large part because advertisers tell them they should want it.

        I’ve explained why I hate food ads. Aside from food, I don’t actually buy that much on a regular basis, and what I do is rarely aided by ads. Is an ad going to tell me what books I want to read? Which dance events I want to go to? My clothing tastes are uncommon, but even then: I already spend more money on clothes than I think is optimal. So sure, I’d like to have clothing companies competing for my money, because maybe they’d offer better deals or something. But they’d also probably stretch my budget.

        So from my perspective, almost all ads are detrimental, unnecessary or irrelevant. And of course repetitive.

        However, I recognize them as a necessary evil in most cases. In fact, I get a check every month from the ads I have in my Android app.

        It’s worth noting that there’s a difference between ads that say “hey check this out” (like the banners in my app) and ones that actively pitch a certain product or service. The latter are often misleading. The former are usually okay.

        Finally, I love ads that are actually enjoyable to watch. I went out and bought some Old Spice deodorant after the Man Your Man Could Smell Like (“Hello ladies”) commercials aired. Largely because they were hilarious, but also because I was out of deodorant anyway.

      • IMASBA

        Robin, are you getting paid for this? You seem to be awfully stubborn, not willing to admit that the percentage of thruthful, informative sources among newsmedia lies significantly higher than the percentage among ads and that newsmedia have a fundamentally different mission (to bring you news instead of to make you buy something you wouldn’t have bought otherwise). I know you like to challenge conventional thinking but the ad industry isn’t rocket science, there’s nothing deeper about it.

  • Daniel Carrier

    News gives you a net benefit while you watch it. Ads can be informative, but they also tend to be irritating, and they give you the impression that they’re forced on you. Your own enjoyment doesn’t seem to measure into the equation, because the marketing departments don’t care about that.

    This isn’t true. Your happiness is in the equation. The marketing departments have to pay someone for permission to show you the ads. For example, they might have to pay a website to show it. The website needs you to enjoy the website on the net or they won’t make money. They can have more annoying ads that generate more revenue, but that’s only helpful if they use the extra money to make the website better overall.

    It feels like it’s true though, so it seems like ads are bad.

  • FF0BCD2D

    Buy our car, you’ll totally get the subtle pairs of unrelated boobies we put around it. So informative. How about some cigarettes. Oh wait, tobacco industries had to be legally bound to put a notice on the box saying it could kill you, before grudgingly agreeing to do so – several decades after this was a known fact.


    “By creating more informed consumers, ads induce producers to offer better prices and quality, which benefits other consumers.”

    Ads are mostly meant to hide the actual features of the product because most products are nothing special and not wirth buying over the previous version or the cheaper competitor. Good products sell themselves, bad products need a constinous stream of fact free ads to sell. Ad makers do not have ethics and they certainly are not trying to inform the consumer, case in point are the American (banned in Europe) ads for medicines that healthy people do not need (though the ads are trying hard to convince healthy people otherwise) and should only prescribed by medical professionals. Advertisement doesn’t add anything to the market, at best it’s noise that averages out to zero, completely useless, at worst it pushes the consumer towards the brand with the deepest coffers (which has an above average probabilityof being the content oligarch that hurts the market).

    “But given a choice between ad-based and ad-free channels, most usually choose ad-based channels, suggesting that they consider the price and convenience savings of such channels to more than compensate for any lost time or distorted behaviors.”

    I prefer an hour of electric shock torture to getting my arm cut off, that doesn’t mean I like electric shock torture. Why even assume people watch ads? Many people use online ad-blockers or go take a piss or do the dishes when commercials are on TV. Advertising is a business governed by gurus who believe in their self-created dogmas, they’re not in the business of critically investigating whether their ads are actually more effective than having no ads or whether or not people actually look at ads.

    • Damien S.

      Yeah. There *are* useful, informative ads: “Author X has new book Y out”, “we’ve invented a product that can dry-clean cheap in a standard dryer”, “Restaurant Z opening near you!” There’s also lots of ads that have no informative content and simply try to hack the cognitive biases of the brain. And I’d guess most of broadcast ads are the latter, while the useful ads tend to come in their own minor channels, like fliers, or ads in the back of other books. (Though the dry-clean one was an actual broadcast ad; it stuck with me as “I have no need for dry-cleaning but this is potentially useful. Don’t remember the brand, though. (And I’ve heard they don’t work that well. It was still better than any Old Navy ad.))

    • If good products sold themselves and bad products were pushed by ads, we wouldn’t see the positive correlation we do between ads and product quality.

      • IMASBA

        “We” do not see this positive correlation, at least I don’t. Last time I checked a drink with elektrolytes in it wasn’t better and a neither was a car with a bikini girl ad. What you may be talking about is people being more pleased with produtcs they buy because of ads, but that’s no indication of quality, it could very well be a defense mechanism of the brain and/or a self-fulfilling prophecy (if you fall for the ad you are not good at judging the product itself and that means the ad becomes the standard by which you judge the product). Ads were banned in medieval Europe, that didn’t stop people from buying the products they actually wanted and needed.


    Do you suffer from low testosterone (or any other affliction that’s either not real or should be diagnosed by a medical professional only)? Then buy our “glaxovicinerol” (or any other medicine that healthy people shouldn’t take and only a medical professional should describe to certain patients), it only has a plethora of fairly dangerous mind, mood and body altering side effects that we list in tiny letters, lasting 2 miliseconds, that you can’t read on the screen!

    Sound familiar? It does if you’ve been to the US (it’s banned in Europe, the European drug agency is harder to bribe than the FDA), this is what advertising degenerates to if left unchecked.

  • Locaha

    >>> most usually choose ad-based channels

    I choose ad-based channels. With ad-block enabled. Would choose payment-based channels if those existed.

    Seriously, ad-based economy should burn in hell. It turns the consumer into product. Well, FUCK that.

    • I choose ad-based channels. With ad-block enabled. Would choose payment-based channels if those existed.

      They do. For example, HBO and Showtime.

  • arch1

    Robin, you seem to be going out of your way to not acknowledge the obvious, which is that ads tend to be information-poor relative to the best alternative sources that are out there, and that the information they *do* provide is on average notably untrustworthy (with notable exceptions – e.g. I seem to recall Questar telescope ads being informative to me as a kid).

    While I don’t think that ads *always* merit labeling as an “evil, destructive, manipulative force,” some ads do (e.g. tobacco company ads before they were reined in).

    Finally, I assume that people favor ad-based channels primarily because they like the (ad-funded) content, as opposed to the ads themselves.

    • A lot of news and research is info poor relative to the best available sources as well. Why don’t people similarly hate those categories using the same argument?

      • Damien S.

        Uh, they’re not comparable? People do hate bad news sources (Fox, the Daily Mail, “mainstream media”) and fraudulent research (Wakefield). But they don’t see the categories as corrupt in essence, because they’re not. Ads are a lot less informative, *and* they’re intrusive into stuff we want to watch.

      • I know of no evidence that says ads are on average less accurate or informative than news or research. And I doubt ordinary folks know of such evidence. If they consider ads to be more “corrupt in essence”, that is probably because they presume it to be so. So the question is why they so presume.

      • IMASBA

        “I know of no evidence that says ads are on average less accurate or informative than news or research.”

        Seriously, no evidence you say? Have you been to planet Earth lately?

      • Damien S.

        I know of plenty of such evidence: I’ve seen ads, news, and research, and can compare my observations myself. It’s not objectively coded research published in a journal but there’s more to life than than that.

      • rrb

        I have too, and concluded that ads and news are about equally bad, on average, and research much better.

      • Has anyone attempted to do an objective coding? That sounds like an easy research project for some grad student out there.

      • arch1

        I think Damien got it right. Advertisers are on net strongly incented, *and* enabled, to informationally manipulate, deceive, *and* intrude on a massive scale. People correctly perceive the results, and don’t like it. This is mitigated by some ads’ entertainment value and by some consumers’ being less info-intensive than others.

        Categories whose info producers are strongly incented to manipulate and deceive but are *not* generally capable of intrusion to the same scale/degree as advertisers (PR flacks, celebrity lawyers, tabloid newspapers, political party chairs) do get their share of disrespect, but to earn the public’s full measure of ire one must also be intrusive on a grand scale. Which is to say, one must be an advertiser*:-)

        *For present purposes I’m sloppily grouping state propoganda machines with commercial advertisers. Actually the former deserve a category (and brand of contempt) all their own, but that is a separate topic.

  • rrb

    Remember Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle? The whole beautiful story is about pursuing a desire implanted by an advertisement!

    Yeah I view it as unwelcome persuasion, altering my desires to profit others. But Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle shows that the pursuit of these altered desires can be as beautiful and ennobling as any other pursuit in life.

    EDIT: so it’s effective meta-advertising. Maybe companies that spend a lot on advertising should all pitch in to buy ads that make it seem more acceptable to change your preferences on the basis of ads.

  • Damien S.

    “But if we accept that people want what they want, and just seek to get them more of that”

    If we accept something we know to be false, then sure, you can support your conclusion. People’s desires aren’t wholly malleable but they’re not wholly endogenous, either. Manufacturing desire is a big part of marketing, especially if it can play on social expectations and signalling. Convince the consumer that everyone else is doing X so they should too, then they are so it becomes a truth you’ve manufactured. Like De Beers and diamond engagement rings.

  • Stephen Diamond

    Yet most such folks accept the usual argument that praises news and research for creating under-provided info which is often socially valuable. And a very similar argument applies to ads.

    People pay to see news and research, whereas advertisers must pay to be seen. Doesn’t that establish a basic difference?

    Sure, ads provide useful information, but this is only decisive if you ignore opportunity costs.

    • rrb

      You’re absolutely right, Robin has failed to establish that ads are as good as news. I don’t think there was any danger of anyone thinking that he did, though.

      Although… maybe reminding people of what should be the obvious limits of an argument is a good supplement to put in a comments thread?

    • Damien S.

      “People pay to see news and research, whereas advertisers must pay to be seen. Doesn’t that establish a basic difference?”

      Plus, I remember when DVRs first came out, advertisers and broadcasters were really worried and incensed about features like “30 second skip” or “identify ads based on wave carrier features, skip”. Apparently the experts concerned felt that viewers would avoid ads given sufficiently convenient ways of doing so.

      Exceptions are notable: many people watch the Super Bowl for the ads as much as for the game; apparently those are considered an art form or something.

    • Gunnar Zarncke

      > Robin has failed to establish that ads are as good as news.

      I don’t think he is required to. He points out one commonality and there is one. There are difference he could have addressed and maybe these are decisive.

      For example why do people pay for news but not for ads? Because the incentive structure for news is to be interesting for readers while the incentive structure for ads is to create paying customers. And though there apparently is some overlap (see Superbowl ads) there seems to be sufficient structure to specialize.

  • Stephen Diamond

    As Katja and I discussed in our podcast on ads, most people we know talk as if they hate, revile, and despise ads. They say ads are an evil destructive manipulative force that exists only because big bad firms run the world, and use ads to control us all.

    Robin “hates” ads: he bans them from comments. Saying that people hate ads doesn’t tell us much about their opinions. So little, in fact, that the supposed inconsistencies Robin reports seem contrived.

    How much do people “hate” ads? Enough to create the mass market for recording devices that screens them out, but not enough to favor abolishing them by fiat.

    But these are actually different dimensions, not different degrees. Most people “hate” ads the way I “hate” stoplights.

    I think people should hate ads, but I don’t think they do in the relevant way. They should hate them as expressing one of the gross inefficiencies of capitalism. ( )

    But if we accept that people want what they want, and just seek to get them more of that, we should praise ads.

    Why? You haven’t shown that they are better than the alternatives: you haven’t even considered alternatives.

    • Gunnar Zarncke

      I think another comparison would compare ads with taxes:

      Taxes are also generally unliked. We understand that they are needed but we try to work at the border of what is legal. Same with the ads we try to skip: We understand that they provide some value to some people but those we do not like we’d like to skip. People hate ads like they hate taxes.

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  • Bob Loblaw

    Advertising has the potential to be a prisoner’s dilemma: Pepsi and Coke both invest billions in an advertising arms race, fighting for our attention.

    A lot of human effort is spent trying to convince people to buy products. It’s not clear that the beneficial side effect of all this effort (spreading information) is large enough to offset the costs. (Robin’s evidence about this is intriguing, however.)

    But even in cases where ads provide useful information, advertising is often nowhere near the best way to spread information. For example, ten minutes on a video game review website renders any game advertisements I’ve seen as useless. The review websites finds the best games for me. All ads can do is bias judgment.

    The main use I can see of advertising is it provides a way for people to make tiny payments for things: it would be too much of a hassle to pay fractions of pennies to every website I visit, so I instead pay by looking at their ads.

    • There are inefficient equilibria in news and research as well, and as structured those are also quite often nowhere near the best way to create or spread info. Yet people hate ads but not the other two.

      • IMASBA

        People from countries with pervasive low quality media (US, UK) tend to hate those bad media, but not the remaining good media and therefore not the media as a whole. Still, even Fox News can be trusted to not lie about tomorrow’s weather forecast, ad makers would tell you 1+1=3 if they thought it would help sell their product, they even recommend healthy people to take medicines with dangerous side effects. Newsmedia and ads are on completely different levels, different orders of magnitude when it comes to reliability. So just because even the BBC can’t be trusted to always be 100% accurate doesn’t mean people should hate it like they do ads, which aren’t always 100% wrong.

        In addition people have more respect for genuine attempts at persuasion (me trying to change your mind because I really believe a cause to be good for humanity) than persuasion with commercial goals (me trying to get you to make me rich by buying something you neither need or want and could even hurt you). Is this a bias? Of course it is. Is it a bad bias? No, being interested in someone else ideas of improving the human condition is a sensible survival strategy while trusting every commercial type you meet is a assured way to get yourself (and the people you know) screwed over.

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  • Stephen Diamond

    Does advertising create desires? I think the question is unresolved after considerable research a while ago. But recent work on ego depletion (aka “decision fatigue”) shows that it isn’t necessary that advertising create wholly new desires; it need only make some desires salient that we might prefer to remain suppressed (such as for products we can’t afford). Advertising creates and exploits impulse control problems. (See my ego-depletion series: )

  • Nnaemeka Chukwuebuka

    kebko that is exactly what it is http//

  • rrb

    I think that many don’t believe ads affect their desires. I’ve asked a few of my friends, and they seem to think that ads exist to persuade people stupider than themselves. This partly explains, I think, their willingness to watch ads.

    I think that smart people outside the internet rationalist sphere and associated spaces believe themselves to be exceptions to many patterns of human behavior–they look at others being superstitious, or adopting identities from brands, and rather than conclude that they must be doing similar things, they conclude that stupid people are different.

    I think if my friends shared your views about the influence of ads, they would pay more to avoid them; so don’t conclude that how little such people pay indicates their acceptance of the influence of ads.

  • rrb

    I think people believe news to be more informative than ads. Like you, I disagree. But I think people’s different attitudes towards ads and news is in part explainable by their overestimation of the information value of news. That, I’m not sure how to explain.

  • rrb

    Maybe people trust news more than ads because news is harder to falsify. We know the depictions of food in ads are unrealistic because we’ve seen the food, for example. So we learn that we are being mislead for profit. But with the news, we have no experience that contradicts it. How many people become angry when they read the news on a familiar subject? If news covered familiar subjects more often maybe more would realize it is also misleading them for profit.

  • rrb

    People probably hate ads because they interrupt shows that they like.