Ad Saturation Approaches 100 Percent

We read today in the New York Times that the Publicis Group, described as the world's fourth largest advertising company, is going to meld with the Simon Property Group, the nation's largest owner of shopping malls, to present us with ... more ads. Thank God that every flat surface will soon have advertisements on it.


(OnSpot Eyesore(TM) Technology Monitor)

The Times dutifully provides us with other examples:

  • Clear Channel Outdoor digital billboards in London
  • Low tech sliding screen ads already in local malls
  • Giant screens in Times Square, stadia, etc.

I've already seen this future, and I thought it was funny when I read about it; I'm less amused now. And if you think that advertisers will be satisfied with just using existing surfaces for ads, think again. For example, in his remarkable but uneven 1975 work The Computer Connection, science fiction writer Alfred Bester writes about holographic ads that are projected right into the home; the following ad interrupts a dinner conversation:

A naked model appeared on all fours and spoke [with] a giant Irish wolfhound. "The only organic food for your beloved pet is Tumor, the new, improved energizer that gives fast, fast relief from the sexual separation between the species..."

"I thought this house was insulated," Borgia complained.

The voice of the Syndicate came from below. "It is my fault. I could not close the door."
(Read more about projection commercials)

In Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth's excellent 1952 novel The Space Merchants, savvy advertisers know you want to look out the windows of planes.

It wasn't a pleasant trip ... we flew low .. you turn your head and look out the window and just as you convince your stomach that everything's all right and your self that it's interesting country below, wham: a ... Taunton ad for some crummy product opaques the window and one of their nagging, stupid jingles drills into your ear. (Read more about airplane window ads)

The desire to put advertisements everywhere people might look is a disturbing example of horror vacui in what is sometimes called Outsider Art. Horror vacui is literally the fear of empty spaces; it often characterizes the work of mental patients, who obsessively fill every square millimeter of paper and canvas. Advertisers see themselves as outside of society, trying to manipulate it, filling every space with commercial messages and branding symbols; I'd like to see the people who can't bear space without ads institutionalized. Horror vacui? Get over it.

Why you would want to read more about ads, I don't know, but if you do, take a look at French Billboards Call Your Cellphone, A-170 Video Lightsign Airship Brings Bladerunner Ad Blimp To Sky Near You and Sky Billboards In Fact And Fiction (it turns out that even Jules Verne thought about excessive advertising).

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