Advertising-A Hidden Fee

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This topic contains 27 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  jakelafort 3 weeks ago.

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  • #44430

    Autumn
    Participant

    Social media dominates contemporary existence. Many of the dominant platforms are free to use (e.g. YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok). How do they generate revenue? They may offer a certain number of paid services or products. They may sell user data. But one of the tried and true methods is ad revenues. How many websites big and small rely on ad revenues to either offset costs or make profit?

    It feels almost natural because advertising is pervasive. Newspapers and radio have long sold ad spots. Television, cinema, sporting events all feature ads. Paid and free streaming services are increasingly turning to ads (e.g. Netflix) often offering a higher tier ad-free version. We see ads all over our streets and they’re shoved into our mail boxes (it’s a big boon to postal services).

    So ads are footing the bill for many other products and services by either reducing their cost or allowing them to exist free at point of use (though naturally, in some cases its pure cash grab). We pay for certain services just by watching ads.

    But ads cost money to create and air. So where does the money come from? Sales of whatever is being advertised, typically. Which means the cost of producing those ads is a factor in the pricing of the goods and services being sold. I read a projection for US ad spends to be $280 billion, which is about 1.4% of US GDP.

    But ads drive revenues, yes? They must, but efficacy can be questioned when we have such high volume for a number of reasons:

    Ads competing against ads: McDonald’s is seldom trying to inform you that they exist. Many of their ads aren’t even informing you of new products or promotions (which are in themselves a form of advertisement). Many of their ads are just trying to keep them top of mind over competitors like Burger King and vice versa. People have to eat food. They are going to spend money on food. And nearly everyone in many countries knows McDonald’s is an option. So much of that ad spend is actually just about competing for market share. Good for McDonald’s if they are successful, but for consumers is it good? Nearly every other company will also have to advertise to keep up, so basically they are all sinking money into competition with one another rather than informing the consumer. It just means they are increasing the cost of providing their service to play mind games over your patronage. It doesn’t benefit the consumer.

    Noise to Signal: With ads being so ubiquitous, visibility becomes even more difficult. I absolutely cannot tell you any of the ads I’ve seen recently because they slip beneath notice. Not only that, but online I block as many as I can because ads have become so aggressive that they actually impede use of certain sites. When you look at that saturation level, though, there has to be a point of diminishing returns. At that point, does it become largely a volume game? Again, this seems like something that overall just drives up the cost of advertising and that cost has to go somewhere.

    Industry in Demand: Because ad revenues are tied to profit and the industry is so competitive, standing out means securing better talent and endorsements. And it means talent and endorsers can demand more in compensation. While that’s not necessarily how it’s worked out, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t price creep there. For awhile, the use of influencers possibly lowered cost/ bang for buck, but being an influencer is an advertising game so the cost of that ad stream as no down been climbing.

    Ad Delivery Improvement: Brands like Meta, Google (etc.) spend money testing what content keeps people watching and scrolling. It’s quite manipulative, but it’s necessary to improve their platforms’ abilities to deliver ads effectively. I might actually defend the use of ads as revenue since it allows users with less money to access the platforms for free, in some cases giving them more voice or even an opportunity to earn money themselves. But it’s so predatory that I can’t rule out the net effect being negative encouraging unhealthy consumption and spending by provoking quirks of human psychology/ neurology. Regardless, this is something that adds to the cost of ad delivery.

    And at the end of the day, what are these ads for? It’s not an efficient way to learn about products and services with the way it’s conducted. In many cases, the ads being served are just to encourage us to spend more and increase the market share of one company. That is a service to business, not consumers. And it’s consumers who are footing the bill for those ads. I am not 100% against advertising, but have we created a monster that just sucks up money without improving consumer experience (although some ads are entertainment in themselves)?

    I’ve singled out advertisement, but I feel like there are many facets of business that follow this pattern: things that eat up money not to benefit the consumer, but to prey on them. Some percentage of legal expenses and executive salaries likely fall into this category, as examples.

    #44431

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Yeah advertising.

    If you are old enough ya remember a time when there were only a few major networks and no remote control and damn sure no PC’s. You were a captive audience. I imagine the number of viewers who got up to change channel cuz it was annoying advertising must have been tiny. Sometimes ads were cute. Jingles created earwurms. Even today i sometimes blurt out a jingle from 40 years ago. Then i think..where dafuq did that come from. That is also a consciousness/stream of consciousness experience and a biological imperative that will be absent when AI springs to life. Some of the jingles i look up and find on our friend google. Others are not available. Overall commercials were a pain in the ass.

    Flip forward a few years when i began a law practice with my also green and fresh from law school cousin. The chance of getting business by hanging a shingle was negligible. No choice but to advertise. The go-to for attorneys was Yellow Pages. We tried late night cable, coupons, newspapers, radio also. We tracked our business and stuck to the best medium. But just before i quit law, Yellow Pages, the erstwhile gold standard, had become worthless. It just sucked. Half page or was it quarter for 8000 a year was badly misspent advertising money. I guess that coincided with the genesis and early steam for social media.

    When i began as an attorney it was such a disgusting priesthood of attorneys that i quickly got a reputation as a maverick and a sullied rep at that as an attorney. I think the great majority of attorneys had begun as rookies working for an established firm. Only after years of experience did they go out on own or with a partner. I recall one of the real mavericks who has since become the most profitable P I attorney in Connecticut calling me and giving me advice as to what was verbotten in advertising. The profession that had the most agressive we don’t give a shit what you think of us-CHIROPRACTORS. Some of em even solicited me for a quid pro quo of referrals. So if i get a P I file i refer my client to the Chrio. The chiro in turn treats the hell out of the client/patient creating so called special damages and writes a report in which the client/patient has a significant permanent partial disability rating. Yeah, i never agreed to that. And truth be told insurance adjusters were hip to that move.

    Money changes everything. Virginal capitalism is as rare as the state of nature we fantasize. There is no question that technology and social media have altered the landscape of advertising forever. I find it a royal pain when i am searching some topic and the first 12 entries are advertising. I doubt older folks tend to understand algorithms and are probably the biggest suckers for clickbait. It is a bold new world that is rapidly changing and it is accelarating. Our demise lies someplace in the near future. “Here lies the remnant of a planet in which artificial intelligence emerged. They’ve gone. They were all wrong.”

    #44432

    In my work life I have one foot in the IT sector. The price for anything “free” on the Internet is your data gets mined. Whatever you “give them” is retained forever. I once opened a (free) email account with a name from the Gaelic language with an email provider in India. There would be nobody in India with that name. My password was 63 characters long. After I signed up, I did not use it or give it to anyone. I logged in 2 months later and had over 900 emails from various gambling sites, several offering me amazing deals with various health and medical solutions to problems I never knew I had and even offers to have my eternal soul saved at very little cost. I left the account active but never logged in again. I almost hacked their site to take it down but could not get all the way in.

    Whenever I am shopping in the U.S. I am always asked for my email “to send me a receipt” or “join our club”, I refuse. I know they will insist so if they do I give them my ibendoverforjesus@emailaddress.com just to watch them type it up. When they advertise their wares using that address, I auto reply with several deals about my good lord Satan but I give them an unsubscribe option.

    #44433

    Doug Hanlon
    Participant

    Ad can be extremely annoying.  And only a fool expects them to be always truthful — although they’re usually smart enough not to state outright lies, but simply to suggest things: buy this car and you too  – you overweight pallid dull-as-dishwasher schlumpf — will have a pretty girl riding next to you.

    But … there is no alternative, or rather, not one you would want.  Somebody has to pay for all of Twitter’s infrastructure, pay the wages of the employees who scour the Tweets looking for rightwing thoughtcrime to punish, for all the internet’s hardware that Twitter uses.  Someone has to pay for it, and it’s going to be YOU, or I should say, in my native dialect, YOU-ALL.

    Now, You-all can pay for it in several different ways: 

    (1) By buying some of the things advertised on the website you want to use. This has the advantage that no single person — ie not YOU — has to buy anything, so long as enough people do.

    (2)  By paying money to the website in question directly, either voluntarily (the way I support Wikipedia, which I could still use even if I paid nothing), or involuntarily, the way I subscribe to a few websites I want to follow and which restrict my access if I am not a subscriber.

    (3) By paying taxes to the government, which would then pass them on to  the websites it approved of.  This is a very bad idea. It’s enough that the government leans on websites to do things it wants, like suppress information on Hunter Biden’s laptop. But if the government is the paymaster …

    We could imagine, in theory, some directly- or indirectly-financed-by-the-government websites that were free of both fees and advertising… internet equivalents of NPR and the BBC. They could be alternatives to the advertising-supported media.

    The problem here is that you can’t keep politics out, so even if these sites try their best to be ‘neutral’ or ‘balanced’, some people will feel aggrieved that their tax dollars are financing programs that they hate. I suppose if we could imagine social media that were just neutral platforms — sort of the equivalent of the highways we use — that might work. But there would immediately be strong pressure to exercise censorship in them — the way there already is on Twitter and Facebook.

    I, for example, think the BBC puts out some really excellent programs, and I am willing to believe that a private equivalent wouldn’t do that.  But the BBC also puts on religious programs, which I pay for (via something called ‘the license fee’ — not quite taxes, but not voluntary if you own a TV set in the UK).

    Worse, from my point of view, is the subtle and often not-so-subtle incessant political indoctrination the BBC does   — promoting the political world-view of its employees.  There is a movement here among conservatives to ‘defund the BBC’ and turn it into a private enterprise.  I personally would rather try to reform it so that it was not a political monolith … but this is probably much easier to say than to do.

    Anyway, if you don’t like advertising on the free services you use, like Twitter … what is your alternative?

    This is just another example of the reality of capitalism: the worst system in the world, except for the alternatives.

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 5 days ago by  Doug Hanlon.
    #44435

    Autumn
    Participant

    Ad can be extremely annoying. And only a fool expects them to be always truthful — although they’re usually smart enough not to state outright lies, but simply to suggest things: buy this car and you too – you overweight pallid dull-as-dishwasher schlumpf — will have a pretty girl riding next to you. But … there is no alternative, or rather, not one you would want. Somebody has to pay for all of Twitter’s infrastructure, pay the wages of the employees who scour the Tweets looking for rightwing thoughtcrime to punish, for all the internet’s hardware that Twitter uses. Someone has to pay for it, and it’s going to be YOU, or I should say, in my native dialect, YOU-ALL.

    It does have to be paid for, correct. The issue isn’t that advertising is the means, but that advertising strangely both decreases and increases the cost of the service. It decreases it at the point of consumption, but likely increases it elsewhere. And it potentially interferes with the service being offered on the user end.

    Meta is a good example. Two of their main products—Facebook and Instagram—have teams looking at how to push view times and engagement. In some cases they arguably lower the quality of their product offering from a user perspective so as to better serve their ad clients. They have teams they pay to figure out how best to do that as well as teams to bring it to life. At some point, you have to question whether these are social media platforms that serve ads to remain viable with some profit, or are they ad platforms that serve social media to remain relevant?

    #44436

    Autumn
    Participant

    In my work life I have one foot in the IT sector. The price for anything “free” on the Internet is your data gets mined. Whatever you “give them” is retained forever.

    You have to figure one of the major reasons for purchasing that data is ultimately for commercial purposes (esp. marketing and advertising).

    Whenever I am shopping in the U.S. I am always asked for my email “to send me a receipt” or “join our club”, I refuse. I know they will insist so if they do I give them my ibendoverforjesus@emailaddress.com just to watch them type it up. When they advertise their wares using that address, I auto reply with several deals about my good lord Satan but I give them an unsubscribe option.

    If you’re gonna bend over for anyone, it might as well be Jesus. In most of the depictions I’ve seen, he’s well hung and sporting impressive wood.

    I am less sensitive about giving my email address, but I am tired of being asked for my birthday. I think I have about fifty different birthdays online, which is funny because I have zero in real life (I mean, I was born on a particular day, but it’s not an anniversary I observe).

    Sometimes I don’t mind the idea that my data is used to generate more targeted advertising. I don’t mind seeing some ads from companies and products I might actually care about. But the targeting is so sloppy anyway. A quarter of the time when it does work, it targets me for a thing I just purchased.

    #44437

    Autumn
    Participant

    Yeah advertising. If you are old enough ya remember a time when there were only a few major networks and no remote control and damn sure no PC’s. You were a captive audience. I imagine the number of viewers who got up to change channel cuz it was annoying advertising must have been tiny. Sometimes ads were cute. Jingles created earwurms. Even today i sometimes blurt out a jingle from 40 years ago.

    Even into the late 90s tv ads were an excuse to get up and grab something from the kitchen, hit the bathroom, or talk about what you were watching with whoever else might be in the room. When I’d watch tv alone, I’d flip between channels. Even when shows started standardizing their breaks more so you’d just end up on more commercials, some channels didn’t do that.

    I’ve heard that there have been some very aggressive ad technologies tested and patented by tv manufacturers and service providers, but at present, some would probably turn viewers off too much.

    Then there are the product placements in shows which can range from prominent brand displays to dialogue that serves as actual advertisement. Wayne’s World made fun of this long ago, but I’ve seen some since that make the Wayne’s World version more prophecy than parody.

    The go-to for attorneys was Yellow Pages. We tried late night cable, coupons, newspapers, radio also. We tracked our business and stuck to the best medium. But just before i quit law, Yellow Pages, the erstwhile gold standard, had become worthless. It just sucked. Half page or was it quarter for 8000 a year was badly misspent advertising money. I guess that coincided with the genesis and early steam for social media.

    While I don’t necessarily want to see a digital Yellow Pages, I do wish there were better trusted resources for researching product and service providers. While the internet gives unparalleled access to reviews, many of them are sponsored and basically just paid advertisements disguised as reviews.

    Then there are the ads on news sites posing as fake articles. That’s always super messed up.

    Money changes everything. Virginal capitalism is as rare as the state of nature we fantasize. There is no question that technology and social media have altered the landscape of advertising forever. I find it a royal pain when i am searching some topic and the first 12 entries are advertising. I doubt older folks tend to understand algorithms and are probably the biggest suckers for clickbait.

    Even many people my age don’t really get how it works (and it’s hard to blame them since much of it isn’t disclosed). They assume interacting with content is how it gets pushed to you, but that’s often not the case. The algorithms are often less sophisticated than people give them credit for. For instance, I get ads for men’s boxer briefs which is odd because I don’t shop for them, I don’t search for related terms. I’m not a good target demo and have a probable conversion rate as close to zero as possible. When I look to see why I was served the ad, it’s basically because I have a pulse.

    Even when pushed content is more targeted, the targeting methods aren’t always good, or they aren’t always for obvious reasons.

    I will say one of the reasons I am reluctant to embrace transhumanism is I worry any augments I could afford would come with mandatory adware of some sort. That and forced obsolescence.

    #44438

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Autumn i wish there were a reliable site or app for reviews. I look. Always take it with a grain of salt and an alka seltzer. Recently had kind of an eye opener to feed the caveat emptor homunculus.

    So i ordered carpeting and flooring from a company i found using google. It was handled professionally albeit kind of a hustle the way they do business. But the carpet and flooring i got no complaints. However as soon as the job is done am receiving solicitations from that company to review their work with a little incentive of a 25 dollar gift cert. to Amazon if i will say sumpin nice about em.

    #44439

    Autumn
    Participant

    Which raises two questions, naturally:
    What is the value of such reviews?
    Where does the $25* come from?

    *It’s possible the gift card represents a less than $25 expense. Presumably it’s justified by higher volume, but at some point the cost is passed down to either the consumer, the company, or staff.

    I recall a few times were employees have levelled with me that customer reviews under five (out of five) are treated negatively by their company. One of them was a cable technician fixing something with my internet connection. Nice guy, did a good job, but he looked a little humiliated bringing up the ratings thing. One of the others worked for a DoorDash company. No clue if he was telling the truth (could have been a line to get a good rating), but knowing corporate culture and especially how these delivery outfits treat their staff like trash, it seemed plausible.

    One could say they were gaming the system, but what else are they supposed to do? People like me reserve ratings of 1 and 5 for outliers, so if I am giving a rating of 4, I am saying the service was great, but the company isn’t taking it that way.

    With book reviews, companies like Amazon are always fucking with their algorithms. Ratings are a means of helping out authors—especially indie authors—but typically anything that knocks their score below a 4 is a problem. On top of that, scammers publish books then have waves of bots review them. In an effort to mask bot activity, they will rate other books too. So an indie can get hit with a wave of unsolicited bot reviews, and even if they report the activity themselves, they will most likely be booted from the platform.

    Or there are cases where people who haven’t even read certain books ratings bomb them because they hate the author or what the author stands for or due to bigotry. Getting fraudulent ratings removed can be laborious.

    We see this with other businesses too, especially restaurants. Someone is mad at the restaurant (for reasons good or bad, yet not related to food and service) so they start a campaign to tank their rating on services like Yelp. Even in cases where I’ve been sympathetic with the cause, that’s not what the ratings are for. And even if the business owners make amends, it’s not like people will go back and alter their ratings. Likely many of them never patronized that business in the first place.

    It’s all a game. For review aggregators and places like Amazon, it only matters if their algorithms make the right call within a certain averaged out success rate. But for individual authors, companies, employees they can get fucked by the math. It also renders ratings kind of useless because there is ample incentive for people to rate things dishonestly.

    #44440

    Unseen
    Participant

    Autumn i wish there were a reliable site or app for reviews. I look. Always take it with a grain of salt and an alka seltzer. Recently had kind of an eye opener to feed the caveat emptor homunculus. So i ordered carpeting and flooring from a company i found using google. It was handled professionally albeit kind of a hustle the way they do business. But the carpet and flooring i got no complaints. However as soon as the job is done am receiving solicitations from that company to review their work with a little incentive of a 25 dollar gift cert. to Amazon if i will say sumpin nice about em.

    I’d tell ’em “Send the gift certificate and I’ll do an accurate and honest review. If that doesn’t work for you, forget it.”

    #44441

    jakelafort
    Participant

    There are a great many reasons reviews are unreliable or in need of interpretation.

    So it is Consumer Reports or the like but you won’t find physicians or restaurant ratings. Physicians is a really big area. You or a loved one has a life-threatening condition. You need some specialist/surgeon and have no clue the competence of the physician. There is a big niche if someone can fill it. Hospitals are reviewed by US News i think.. But a great doc can be at a shit hospital and shit doc can be at a great hospital or at least a mediocre one.

    #44442

    Unseen
    Participant

    There are a great many reasons reviews are unreliable or in need of interpretation. So it is Consumer Reports or the like but you won’t find physicians or restaurant ratings. Physicians is a really big area. You or a loved one has a life-threatening condition. You need some specialist/surgeon and have no clue the competence of the physician. There is a big niche if someone can fill it. Hospitals are reviewed by US News i think.. But a great doc can be at a shit hospital and shit doc can be at a great hospital or at least a mediocre one.

    Jake, there already are sites for reviewing doctors, osteopaths, chiropractics, and naturopaths. HealthGrades and RateMDs are dot coms that carry doctor reviews. These mostly cover things like attentiveness, clarity of explication, and “bedside manner,” I suppose. If you mean reviews by external dispassionate experts like you might get for wash/dryers, autos, air conditioners, etc., that is what the respective medical boards are for, aren’t they. Much like the state’s Bar for attorneys.

    #44443

    Unseen
    Participant

    When one complains about advertising as being a hidden cost or whatever, as has been asked several times, “What’s the alternative?”

    Would you prefer the “tyranny of choice” we have now, forcing one to spend weeks and months plowing through all of the possible choices before closing ones eyes and making a choice based on throwing darts at Post-It notes on the wall, or the other possibility of probably significantly fewer but cheaper selections, none of them exactly quite on the money?

    The related problem is being forced by experts to make choices we aren’t qualified to make. The doctor says “You have a serious problem and here are the ways we can treat it (blah, blah, blah). What do you want to do?” “Doctor, if it was you, what would you do?” “That’s not for me to say. You’re in charge.” And so you make and effectively make a choice you lack the expertise to analyze.

    A bit more on tyranny of choice:

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 4 days ago by  Unseen.
    #44445

    Autumn
    Participant

    When one complains about advertising as being a hidden cost or whatever, as has been asked several times, “What’s the alternative?”

    The alternative is to take a step backward on advertising. It doesn’t require the removal of advertising, but rather agreement to keep it within certain limits.

    The major prohibitive factor is a sufficient number of businesses have made it their mission to squeeze every last dime out of the world that they can. Obviously a gross oversimplification, but it’s in the right ballpark.

    #44446

    Unseen
    Participant

    The alternative is to take a step backward on advertising. It doesn’t require the removal of advertising, but rather agreement to keep it within certain limits.

    Who’s going to agree to that, with everyone wanting to maximize their advantage in the marketplace?

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