I may be a bit unusual, in that I don’t think my purchasing habits have ever been much influenced by advertising. In fact, I have always been suspicious of products that have unusual advertising exposure, because I figure that the makers of the product are desperately trying to get people to pay more for the product than it is worth. Neither have I thought that if I use the coffee maker that Roger Federer promotes I will be a better tennis player, or that if I buy a heavy duty pickup that I will be tougher. Even more interesting, I now find myself avoiding products because I am tired of being constantly exposed to their ads. Am I alone?
There seems to be an explosion in advertising going on. This is partly due to developments in media (the internet, TV,) which make it possible to “reach” huge numbers of people cheaply, partly because of increased competition to find and influence potential customers, and partly because of growth and increased sophistication of marketing and advertising as business activities.
But what goes up usually comes down. Is advertising really worth the money it costs? Do companies realize that people “tune out” ads if there are too many of them? How many consumers, like me, are tired of being constantly hustled? And what is it doing to the aesthetics dimensions of living? As you may be aware, I quite often refer to the New York Times Sunday edition in my posts. This is partly because my wife and I for years have spent much of Sunday Morning in bed reading it while we drink coffee and munch on various unhealthy pastries. We have been particularly fond of the Sunday magazine section. We noticed some months ago, that the Sunday edition began including large slick-page “travel” or “style sections”, which consisted mostly of advertisements for expensive tours, or strangely unflattering and expensive clothes, typically modeled by young anorexic women and men. We instantly recycle these tomes, but I still cannot help but mourn the number of trees executed each week so that I will be able to receive these huge volumes that I never even open.
This dependency on full, or even double page ads, seems to be a survival strategy for newspapers and magazines. Some (New Yorker, The Economist) have held the line, but many (Architectural Digest, Wired) have succumbed to the temptation of big bucks. But to my horror, today we received the much heralded redesign of the Sunday New York Times magazine (February 22, 2015), and guess what, from the three full page Cadillac ads in the front to the one on the back cover, it contains 220 pages, including some interesting articles, but also an incredible number of full color and often full page ads for everything from Carnegie Hall to jewelry, to kidney beans, to Miami hotels. As a comparison, I just picked up a copy of the magazine from a few weeks ago, and it contained 48 pages. Do you suppose that much of the difference consists of ads? Well, yeah!
Hopefully, this Sunday’s edition was an attempt at a spectacular launch, and since I have been a regular reader of the magazine, I admit the new version is a bit of a shock. Will I get used to it? Some, unless I simply quit reading it because I don’t want to spend the time trying to find the content buried in all the ads. But it also suffers from graphic designers running wild. How about two full pages for the title of an article (The Great Divide), turned sideways, yet.
This is an obvious attempt to modernize the magazine, and there are some good points in what they are doing, but I am saddened if modernizing means that content should be overwhelmed with ads. Hopefully they can decrease the number and increase the quality of the ads and the products they represent . And I love exciting graphics, but not at the expense of readability.