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"The Trouble with Advertising"
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I decided I needed to analyze my negative feelings about the advertising that bombards us all the time and everywhere, and surprised myself with the volume of what surfaced.

1. Billboards. Ogden Nash told it well over fifty years ago.

"I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree,
And if the billboards don't soon fall,
I'll never see a tree at all."
This problem seems slightly less bad now than when I first came to New Mexico in the 50s. At that time vast and gorgeous vistas of wide open space were nearly covered over with huge ugly signs. The worst of that is gone now, but we have a new thing -- electronic billboards with moving parts and sharply flashing changes of images, which are seriously distracting in city traffic.

2. The Fax Machine. The printer ribbon on the machine I once had cost ten cents for every page printed. Junk faxes were annoying, and then expensive. Unsolicited messages thirty pages long came in. I didn't believe the repeated message that said I could go to Cancun for $39.00. One day a lightning bolt [really!] took the machine out of its misery, and I never replaced it.

3. Junk Mail. A huge proportion of what is delivered is stuff I don't want to read or even handle. I was startled and pleased when the recycle program in our neighborhood announced that we could recycle "junk mail." They even called it that. It's as if we can recycle almost anything, except "liquids, organic perishables, explosives..." The danger now is that something important, like a credit card statement, can get thrown out when one is busy recycling all that other crap.

4. Spam. An even larger proportion of what is delivered by e-mail, even after the functioning of the impressive filter, is made up of messages I don't want. Easy money without working [always suspect], the size of somebody's genitalia, fortunes in Nigeria [send $300 and they'll deposit $1,800,000 into your bank account -- just give us your bank account number...] Again, an over-zealous use of the delete button can cause something important to disappear, if one gets carried away.

5. TV [and radio]. When I can't mute the ads, I get up and leave the room. The messages are poisonous; they spread the disease of greed. They lie outright and openly. Even the local TV news is not dependable. I used to be in the news, back in the old days. If the 1% of stories that I was party to are in error totally and every time, how can I trust the other 99% of what they say?

Lying is the problem, I'm thinking. Information is fine. Who has what, where? Disinformation is not fine. I can remember when "false advertising" was a crime.

But after all this, I'm left with this puzzle: How do I let people know about all these marvelous books we have for sale, without being the kind of pest I'm upset about?

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Copyright © 2009 Harry Willson

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