Questions to Which…

…the answer is, “no”.

We see on average 3,500 brand images a day, fleetingly or full on, from TVs, magazines, newspapers and, increasingly, on our computers, tablets and smartphones. But we see them, too, on billboards and buses, in taxis, on the tube, on trains and in stations, and even in hospitals and schools. Is there a difference and should we do anything about it?

Of course we shouldn’t do anything about it. Private organisations have bought space from other private organisations in order to advertise their wares. So what? While I don’t much like intra-programme adverts on the television and avoid them by time shifting, I wouldn’t argue that they shouldn’t be allowed to do it, that is, well, totalitarian.

This, though, is Guardianland and their first reaction to anything of which they disapprove is to ban it.

The difference is choice. We can decide what stations to watch, websites to look at or magazines to buy. But we can’t choose not to be in public spaces, to walk down streets, get on buses or the tube or reasonably expect our children not to do the same.

Yeah, and I choose to ignore the billboards. It isn’t difficult. Anyone can do it even the cretins who write for CiF.

So where is the harm in outdoor adverting and should we be allowed to choose?

There isn’t any and we can. Nothing to see here, move along.

The harm is the same as for other advertising. Images of perfect bodies, flash new cars or cheap fast food are researched, tested, designed and plastered everywhere to make you feel anxious, insecure or become obese. Adverts are not there to inform but to sell one thing: unhappiness.

Oh, FFS! Are these people for real? I mean, really. I look or not at adverts and am unmoved by them. I am not made unhappy because I don’t have a six-pack or the latest fast car. They do not sell me unhappiness, they make their wares available for me to look at if I choose to do so. If not, I ignore them, like any grown adult can. Just say “no”.

To those who say “just say no” I would suggest they look at themselves and their wardrobe and the infinite choices they make to belong to one particular tribe and then look around them at the way in which everyone else is doing the same. The advertising industry exists to ensure it becomes culturally and emotionally impossible to refuse.

Bollocks on stilts. Just say “no”. It’s very, very easy and, no, I don’t belong to any tribe and I am perfectly capable of resisting the ad man’s lure.

We then get unmitigated claptrap about them causing mental illness, fer cryin’ out loud. This is bunkum of the first degree. It’s advertising, that is all. The manufacturers showcasing their latest product. It’s as old as the hills and if you want to shift your stuff, you have to let your potential market know that it is there to be shifted. All that Neal Lawson tells us here is that he is somewhat weak minded if adverts affect him in any other way than flogging stuff.

And the thing about outdoor advertising is that you can’t not look and you can’t escape.

Yes, you can. I manage it every day. I go past lots of billboards and they don’t register because I’m not interested in what they are selling. There’s one at the top of the road from here and unless I went out and looked I couldn’t tell you what the product is it’s selling, despite passing it twice on Wednesday.

Still, this twat has an answer for his simple minded inability to resist the lure of adverting:

If outdoor adverts were banned…

Yup, bansturbation.

Campaigners in Bristol are already on to it. They have instigated an online petition to get the council to ban outdoor adverts and are calling it “Bristol: the city that said no to advertising”.

Well, I sure as hell won’t be signing it. I have no problem with adverts on the streets of Bristol –  even if I can’t remember what they are advertising. I’d much rather we banned nasty authoritarian control freaks such at the authors of CiF –  that would be doing the world a favour and a half.


  1. There are many people, not like you and I, who can’t switch off to adverts, who have to buy whatever crap that is peddled at them.
    The past decade or so has created a very consumerist society combined with a total lack of personal responsibility. People have to have the latest gadget weather they need it or not, yet when they get in debt they blame it on the banks and credit card companies.
    In line with current attitudes, we don’t blame the individual, we blame the advertisers or the companies that supply easy credit. If advertising gets banned in public, people will still see adverts on Facebook and in the media etc, and these will become the next targets.
    If we are ever to see a return to personal responsibility we need to stop banning things, expose people to adverts, credit etc and hold them responsible whenever they screw up. It’s the only way people will develope self control and the strength of charachter to control thier lives. Otherwise we all become children who have our boundries set by the nanny state.

  2. “ignore the billboards… Anyone can do it even the cretins who write for CiF.”

    No they can’t. When these ‘people’ see something that offends their eye (or nose, or taste, or sense of righteousness) they MUST call for it to be banned.

  3. Er, hang on….

    … “They have instigated an online petition to get the council to ban outdoor adverts and are calling it “Bristol: the city that said no to advertising”.”….

    That’s advertising. They are advertising their petition with a slogan, publicising it’s existence, and trying to gain a degree of influence by encouraging the build up of peer pressure in the public sphere. Manipulative, insidious, and potentially oppressive for those individuals who do not support them.

    Ban it!

    • Those who are on the left of the political spectrum have a high emotional intelligence (a scientific study said so), but their actual intelligence does not necessarily match it. So they won’t have realised that their slogan actually is advertising. A bit like a union campaigning for a national pay scale whilst at the same time campaigning for a london weighting.

  4. Nicely done LongR! What’s the original source you’re quoting from? That 3,500 brand images per day figure could be helpful: I recently saw some complaints about “the children” being exposed to cigarette ad images in magazines about four times every week. Put in the context of them being exposed to 25,000 OTHER “brand images” per week the claim loses a good bit of its punch.

    – MJM

      • Thanks LR! 🙂

        I tracked down the figure to an earlier piece by Lawson:

        which looks to be a fairly in-depth and researched report critical of advertising, but, disappointingly, that particular assertion appears in the introduction and isn’t referenced! Fiddling with search terms finally got me to (Zoubkov, et al, 2004) which seems to be the earliest statement of the figure, but even Zoubkov seems to have simply been repeating something assumed to be “generally accepted.” Ahhh wellll… Not a big issue, but it’s interesting how something like that seems to be so overwhelmingly repeated without original referencing.

        – MJM

    • That number of 3500 adverts viewed probably has the same scientific depth of study as that which came up the number of CCTV cameras. The CCTV camera number came after surveying one single street in London and extrapolating for the whole country.

  5. I can honestly say that I have never bought a product on the strength of its advertising in my entire life. I don’t actually believe that advertising works, except to introduce the public to a completely new product. Switching from one brand of Ginger Nuts to another or brand of cigarettes to another just doesn’t cut it for me. I will try a new brand and if I find it to be duff or wanting, I won’t buy it again. Simple as, the advertising has no effect on my continued consumption. I actually used to work in Advertising (have mercy on my soul!) and believe that it can actually be counter productive.

    For instance if I ever see that fuckin advert with Johnny Vegas for bloody PG Tips again (and it is on the box at almost every break) I may very well kick my telly in. “How can a tea taste EAGLE!!!” Never in my life will I but a packet of PG bloody Tips! I actually buy a tea called Punjana. Ever seen an advert for it? Neither have I, but it is bloody delicious (oops! sorry about the advert there!)My taste buds rule ok?

    Then of course, there is the famous case of Cinzano in the 80’s. Famously advertised by a series of adverts starring two of Britain’s biggest stars of the time, Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins. Everybody loved them and remembered them, they won the Advertising equivelent of Oscars and cost millions. But the sales of Cinzano actually fell not rose.

    Maybe these braindead bansturbating Gardianista types would like me to advertise the efficacy of Doc Martin steel tipped boots on their delicate arses?

  6. On of my favourite childhood memories is of an advertising hoarding that used to stand in a field beside the railway between Southampton and Salisbury, it consisted of two men carrying a ladder but the men and ladder were cut outs not a poster so it looked like two giants walking beside the train. I can’t remember what it was selling but it didn’t matter I was too young to buy it and didn’t care, it was just another fascinating thing to be looked out for on the journey, like the White Horse at Westbury – which is a piece of eighteenth century graffiti, so no doubt that’s culturally acceptable. Who is going to decide what is acceptable to display and what not ? Actually we all know who, the sort of people the Guardian approves of, a reason in itself for regarding the idea with the contempt it deserves.

  7. Heh, I just realized that you guys ‘n gals haven’t even SEEN the advertising we’re getting over here in the States lately. The concept that a brand logo on a pack of cigarettes is in the same class as the broadcast death and gore messages being broadcast nightly into America’s living rooms is farcical. Can you imagine if once every hour or so while enjoying sitcoms and such you were treated to 60 second spots of bloody bodies being pulled out of automobile wrecks along with admonitions to take the train rather than drive? And yet, because it’s antismoking, it’s just accepted. See the ads at:

    Check out the blow job and nipple torture images that pop up if you Google: “antismoking ads.” Think about the amount of ad agency money that produced the many ads at: and

    And if you watch this report on the new CDC ads you’ll hear the insane claim that smoking is adding 100 *BILLION* dollars per year to American health care costs AND that watching the new CDC horror ads is just fine for 8 year olds! :

    By the way, for a good examination of that health care cost argument I’d recommend my Taxes, Costs, and the MSA piece at: While reading it though, take note of the fact that I wrote it almost ten years ago: tobacco taxes in the US have gone up perhaps 200% or more since then for many people here!

    – MJM

  8. It’s the youtube ads which get up my nose. Sure you can click out after five seconds and then click out of the second one ten seconds after the clip starts and you’ve settled back. It gets to be a pain.

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