Against All Ads

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Here’s for you, marketing agents, with thy doggone tongues: may maggots devour into your quota, your daily woes. You consult the clinical behaviours, wipe clean the tiles with dirt-stained corpo fabrics meant to patch the holes in our shirts. Somehow, you get to decide whether you are having any of that, which I can acknowledge as excreta worth flushing down the drain.

– Millenial, circa 2018

People, most of us anyway, don’t go out of their way and say, “Please, give us more ads!” No, everyone (except marketers) hates ads, especially when they are obtrusive, distracting, and nonsensical—and all of them are. We don’t care if tomorrow they would cease to exist. They belong nowhere. São Paulo, Brazil believes in it so much, that they decided to remove all billboards in their city through their Lei Cidade Limpa (Clean City Law).12

The essence of advertisiing is the combination of the worst parts of arts and science to “influence” a person’s decision. That’s a weird way to spell manipulate, but okay. If sales and profit motivate Capitalists, then advertising (or marketing, depending on terms and conditions that apply) becomes their tool to achieve that.

Adverse effects ad hominem

No one is immune to propaganda. Tell the same story over and over again, and it will become believable at one point without you realizing it. Ads will affect you if/when you’re constantly exposed to it.

In this interconnected society, we know that ads are everywhere we look and listen.

To be effective, it must affect sinew and flesh. It must appeal to the carnal, because external forces controlling the body seems to be the trend still. And it will go on like that, so long as the desired effects favors only the few that do the controlling.

Good: “Sex sells.”

Better: Go deeper. To do that, companies pay a lot of money for science-backed research and analytics to know how best they can sell a lifestyle.3 One company even bought an entire issue of scientific journal to do just that.4

All ads pollute.

We waste resources—human hours (including attention), materials, physical and digital real estate, tons of energy, etc.—to build an industry of convincing consumers to buy, to let people know that so-and-so products and services exist, and that you can avail them for [what amounts to only] 5% discount on your first purchase.5

All ads are fantastic

… in that all of them are out of sync of reality. A growing number of them even are surreal, an attempt to stand out from the noise while simulatenously being it. Fantasy, when it successfully reaches the mind, lets us escape from our current state, even if for a brief moment. Ads are conveniently designed to be short and succinct. It’s the drop of poison that can still corrupt the well.

SEO makes internet increasingly useless

The advertising industry has been burying useful content under garbage and bad services. Take search engines for example. Search engine optimization (SEO) has gamed algorithms, so that finding good ideas is hard. Marketers use SEO to increase site visits which in turn increases ad revenue. Nastier actors use it to sway public opinion!

With online advertising, they even subtract from the overall user-experience of the internet. Embedded scripts and trackers in a lot of modern websites drastically slow the loading time. A lot of them collects your data, with or without your permission. Companies store these data alongside the unique IP addresses that are used to profile visitors.6 And let’s not forget the intrusive pop-ups that are part of the site’s design, because those are never not annoying.

In our modern society, people who work in advertising, marketing, finance, and other bullshit jobs exist for the sole purpose of manufacturing consent7 and inventing reality,8 and producing and selling stuff we don’t need to make the rich richer. If YOU belong in any of these fields, please consider this: your work enables the elite, directly or indirectly, to keep the structures that feed off of the excess labor of the working class, just the way they are now. But, YOU, unlike the bosses higher up in the corporate ladder, you’re human: air goes in and out of you. You feel a slight discomfort in knowing the fruits of your labor.

Living under capitalism, you and I are eventually coerced to cooperate, to participate in maintaining the status quo, lest we die of hunger or illness or despair, or a concoction of the three. It doesn’t mean, though, that we’ll blindly accept this fate without putting up a fight.

What to do (or not do)

As mentioned, (m)ad agents pour ridiculous amounts of resources into crafting the perfect ad material. So don’t you dare think you’re immune to marketing. Those that appeal to you, when they reach you, will work on you. Parang budol. Targeting ads (ha!) and eliminating them, thus, is a necessary move against the capitalist agenda.

What follows are our recommendations that you can work with when removing as much of it in your life. If you want something added, feel free to contact us.

  1. Secure your web browser.9 Installing ad blockers10 is a low-effort, high-reward that anyone can do. We highly recommend ublock Origin.
  2. Don’t use Google Chrome. If possible, avoid Google products whenever you can.1112
  3. If possible, buy only second-hand products.13 Not buying new things circumvents marketing. It also has the added benefit of being more eco-friendly.
  4. Vandalism is not for everyone, >;) so instead, answer this as best as you can: how can print ads, fliers, posters, billboards, and other ad materials, be repurposed so that they become more useful than a waste of space?
  5. The only acceptable advertisement is anti-ableism, anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia, anti-speciesism,14 anti-militarism, and anti-capitalism. Promote these ideas whenever and wherever, in physical and digital spaces.15

Advanced Tips

This subsection discusses what other things you could do to remove ads, but they’re not for everyone. It tiptoes on the line between usability and quality of experience. Or: The tightrope oscillates between adventurism and paranoia. Decide for yourself whether you’re willing to take extra steps and make compromises, before proceeding.

  1. The default operating system of your computer is a spyware. Consider switching to Linux.16
  2. In Linux, use a terminal-based browser like w3m or lynx.17
  3. Disable JavaScript completely, since most of ads and trackers rely on this. The specifics vary from browser to browser, so you may have to look up on how to do it on yours. Note that doing this will break a lot of sites.

Sites that are neither accessible from a terminal browser nor require JavaScript to deliver the relevant content correctly don’t have much to contribute. There are a few exceptions, like bank-, school-, or work-related sites.

  1. Set up a Pi-Hole at your home and block all ads in all of the devices connected to the network. 18
  2. Back in the real world, install artwork that doesn’t try to sell a product or service. Conversely, uninstall/vandalize art that only tries to sell, kind of like how that one ad agency did to their own billboard for a Netflix show19, only in this case, unironically. After all, “All art is quite useless.” (Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 2).

APPENDIX: Art according Oscar Wilde

If ads are a perverted version of art, then they are useless. Oscar Wilde had had some strong opinions about art being quite useless. This appendix contains two of them.

Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray20

The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim. The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.

The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.

Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

The nineteenth century dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.

The nineteenth century dislike of romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass. The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium. No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved. No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style. No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything. Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art. Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art. From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling, the actor’s craft is the type. All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital. When critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself. We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

All art is quite useless.

Wilde’s Letter to Bernulf Clegg21

My dear Sir

Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realise the complete artistic impression.

A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse. All this is I fear very obscure. But the subject is a long one. TNU

  1. “Clean City” São Paulo says no to visual pollution, bans public advertising for a cleaner, more serene environment | WcP Blog. (n.d.). ↩︎

  2. Lasco, G. (2019, December 12). A city without billboards | Inquirer Opinion. ↩︎

  3. CrimethInc. (1996). Selling Ourselves Out. The Anarchist Library. ↩︎

  4. Dayen, D. (2021, July 7). Juul: Taking Academic Corruption to a New Level. The American Prospect. ↩︎

  5. But you have to look for the fine print. It says there that you must first shell out an obscene minimum amount of money. Or that some other fees are included. Or that the discount only applies in certain regions. Or that there are hoops that you have to jump through, which aren’t really worth the hassle. ↩︎

  6. Evans, D. S. (2009). The online advertising industry: Economics, evolution, and privacy. Journal of economic perspectives, 23(3), 37-60 ↩︎

  7. Watch the almost-three-hour documentary version of Noam Chomsky’s book: ↩︎

  8. Download the e-book (pdf) from Look up Michael Parenti’s Inventing Reality↩︎

  9. Privacy: Securing Your Browser. (n.d.). The New Oil. Retrieved 09 April 2023, from ↩︎

  10. Some browsers, like Brave have built-in ad blocker, requiring little to no tweaking from non-techy users. ↩︎

  11. Is Google evil? (2017, December 13). Unix Sheikh. ↩︎

  12. Free Software Foundation. (n.d.). Google’s Software Is Malware. GNU Project - Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 27 July 2021, from ↩︎

  13. See Refuse! in this publication. ↩︎

  14. Here’s an interesting thought: why is it that “food animals,” when used as an icon/logo/mascot to advertise their own meat, are always smiling? ↩︎

  15. Ponkan. (2020, June 1). Advertising Anarchy. Freedom through Freedom. ↩︎

  16. See how to “Use Linux as Daily Driver” in this blog. ↩︎

  17. Das, A. (2020, October 20). You can Surf Internet in Linux Terminal With These Command Line Browsers. It’s FOSS. ↩︎

  18. Pi-hole is a free and open source software application that offers network-wide protection, blocks in-app ads, improves network performance, etc. More info: ↩︎

  19. Rodriguez, M. (2021, June 15). Turns Out GIGIL’s Marketing Pitches for Trese Kept Getting Rejected. SPOT PH. ↩︎

  20. Download a free copy from Project Gutenberg: ↩︎

  21. Art is useless because. . .. (2010, January 4). Letters of Note. ↩︎