Growing up at the dawn of the twenty-first century, an age of exponential technological growth for our country, I am a part of a world that is constantly bombarded by one form of advertisement after the other, ranging across several different types of media. There are television commercials that appeal to me with the likes of iconic characters such as the Geico Gecko or the Energizer Bunny. There are those annoying Internet ads that activate like some sort of sadistic time bomb if you hold your mouse over them for too long. And then you have ones like those Meth Project ads, which are clearly doing their job well, because quite honestly, I’m scared.
Regardless of the type of advertisements being shown or the specific audience at which they are directed, to me they have always been nothing more than a short Facebook break between whatever television show or online article I happen to be viewing. It is only recently that I have come to realize how big of a favor that little gecko is doing me, and I don’t mean just by helping me to save 15 percent or more on car insurance.
Advertisement, especially in the past couple decades, has been one of the key players in creating the vast array of free media that is available to us today. When was the last time you paid money to watch a YouTube video? Because of the presence of advertisement on the Internet, on television and even out in the real world, we are no longer paying in cash for a lot of things. We are paying with our eyes.
Take the music industry. Online radios like Pandora can afford to broadcast songs for free because, in reality, they’re not free. Pandora gets its money from the advertisers who want to take advantage of the millions of people who visit the site each day. We’ve all experienced the ads that pop up with annoying regularity between every few songs.
Sure, they are a pest, but if given the choice, I would pick advertisements over paying actual money any day. I’m not trying to seem stingy, but in this economy it’s nice to know that a trade system that does not necessarily involve the exchange of money can actually work.
Furthermore, this advertisement system may just be what’s keeping a lot of television shows alive right now. I don’t claim to be an expert on the matter in any way, but the basic concept is the same as with the music industry. Advertisement agencies give money to support our favorite television shows in exchange for access to us, the viewers. And in this situation, every party comes out on top in some way or another. The shows receive the funding required to continue broadcasting, we viewers have to pay far less money because the real currency here is our attention, and the advertisers actually get through to the small percent of people who need the product they’re selling. Sure, veteran shows like The Office or CSI have probably amassed enough profits to continue on without so much help from the advertisement world, but newer series that are still in their first or second season rely on ads to hold them up until they can develop a stronger fan base. Imagine if the concept of advertising did not exist, and Game of Thrones was cancelled halfway through its first season due to lack of funding. The world would never know just how awesome Peter Dinklage can be, and that would be a shame like no other. (This is actually a horrible example, firstly because HBO does not have any advertisements and therefore does not apply to this situation, and secondly because Game of Thrones would just never get cancelled, under any circumstances, ever. But you see my point.)
An interesting side note to this idea of the modern world of advertisement is the way in which advertisements themselves have begun to develop stories, character and entire genres of their own, to the point of almost becoming an entirely new form of entertainment. That new Kia Soul commercial with the hamsters at the opera already has almost 300,000 views on YouTube, and at least seven or eight of those were by yours truly.
So if we look online, on TV or elsewhere for our entertainment content, and then advertisements interrupt that content, but now those advertisements are becoming a type of content themselves, is everything we see now just… content? Regardless of whether or not there is actually an answer to that ridiculous question, advertisement is enormously responsible for the vast selection of media we have at our fingertips today, and I for one am thankful for it.