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Advertising's Unforgivable Sin: The Theft of Time
Jul 31, 2023

Dan Bulman

Time, the irreplaceable currency of life, is under assault. It’s being pillaged, plundered, and squandered by the very industry that we commit 40 hours a week (if we’re lucky) to: advertising. This relentless thief, in its most traditional form, is an uninvited intruder, barging into our consciousness, demanding our attention, and offering nothing but empty promises in return.

The assault on time

This isn’t just an annoyance - it’s an affront to our autonomy. It’s a blatant disregard for our most profound relationship, our bond with time. Every interruption, every unwelcome ad, is a slap in the face, a violation of our sacred right to choose how we spend our irreplaceable moments.

In our fast-paced world, where every second counts, the intrusion of advertising into our personal space and time is more than just a minor inconvenience. It’s a theft of our most valuable resource. It’s the theft of our attention, our focus, and our peace of mind. It’s the theft of our ability to live in the moment, to enjoy our experiences without interruption, and to choose what we give our attention to.

The consequences

And the consequences? They’re not just annoying - they’re damaging. This constant barrage of interruptions fractures our cognitive flow, derails our goals, and sows seeds of frustration, resentment, and stress. It’s a psychological assault that’s eroding our mental health, one intrusive ad at a time.

The constant interruptions caused by advertising can lead to a state of continuous partial attention, where our focus is constantly divided and our ability to concentrate is diminished. This can lead to increased stress, decreased productivity, and a reduced ability to enjoy our experiences. It can also lead to a sense of time scarcity, where we feel like we never have enough time, even when we do.

The ethics

But it’s not just a psychological issue - it’s an ethical one. The commodification of time, the erosion of personal choice in the face of relentless commercial interest, is a disturbing trend that needs to be challenged.

The intrusion of advertising into our personal time raises serious questions about the balance of power in our society. It highlights the growing dominance of commercial interests over personal autonomy and the increasing commodification of our attention. It forces us to ask: Who has the right to our time? Who has the right to our attention? And what are we getting in return?

The solution

So, where’s the solution? It’s staring us right in the face. It’s within the very industry that’s causing the problem. We need to turn the tables on advertising.

Instead of allowing it to be a disruptive force, we need to demand that it adds value.

Value-adding advertising isn’t a pipe dream - it’s a necessity. It’s time to demand advertising that respects our time, enriches our experiences, and gives us something worth our attention. We need advertising that entertains, educates, inspires, and challenges us. We need advertising that we choose to engage with, not advertising that forces itself upon us like an unwelcome guest.

The benefits

And guess what? This isn’t just good for us - it’s good for advertisers too. Value-adding advertising enhances cognitive engagement, triggers positive emotions, and fosters a genuine connection with a brand. It transforms advertising from a source of stress into a source of enjoyment. It empowers us to make informed decisions.

Value-adding advertising can help brands build stronger relationships with their customers, increase brand loyalty, and improve customer satisfaction. It can also lead to higher conversion rates, as customers are more likely to respond positively to advertising that respects their time and adds value to their lives.

How do we get there?

So, how do we make this happen? Here are five actions you can take.

  • Understand your audience: Get inside their heads. Understand their needs, interests, and values. What problems are they grappling with? What inspires and motivates them? Use this information to communicate on a personal level.
  • Provide useful information: Don’t just sell—educate. Provide tips, advice, insights, and interesting facts. Make your audience smarter.
  • Entertain: Make people laugh. Touch their hearts. Captivate their imagination. Turn your ad into a mini-movie that they’ll want to watch again and again.
  • Inspire: Tell powerful stories. Show the positive social impact of your product. Help your audience achieve their goals.
  • Respect time: Cut the crap. Keep it concise, relevant, and engaging. Avoid unnecessary interruptions. Make every second count.

By respecting our most precious commodity, time, and striving to add value instead of interrupting, we can revolutionise the way we engage with advertising. It’s a win-win for consumers and brands. But more importantly, it’s a win for our sanity, our autonomy, and our right to choose how we spend our irreplaceable time.

The theft of time by advertising is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. By shifting towards a model of value-adding advertising, we can not only improve our own experiences but also create a more ethical and respectful advertising industry. It’s time to take back our time and demand advertising that adds value to our lives.

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