The Advertising Age

Humankind is entering on a new era: the Age of Advertising. Everything we used to pay for is now “free,” but the experience is spoiled by masses of advertising that pays for it. This seems a good thing, because money is poured into arts facilities and sports teams.

However, there’s an old adage about “too much of a good thing.” Ads are appearing everywhere, in re-li and media. Soon, every surface that attracts your attention will be for sale. It won’t be long until the Sci-Fi movies are proven accurate. Ads will sense your presence as you walk, surf or scan past, and tailor their presentation to your perceived type.

This topic appeared last week on a CTV news broadcast, because a smaller Canadian city named their ice arena after a handicapped fan who has become a fixture at the facility, cheering everyone on. This act of civic pride was remarkable because it opposes the trend: civic facilities being named after sponsors. At the moment, Canada lags behind the rest of the developed world, but we’re catching up. Civic arenas and arts centres are being named after sponsors. The practice of naming buildings and programs after the men who donated them has long been used in universities, but given the state of health care right now, hospitals will soon follow. We already have a health centre in Surrey named after the patron who financed it.


A nighttime glimpse of any of the world’s great cities shows the trend. Huge flashing neon signs are now being replaced by huger digital billboards. And the worst part of it is that most of the information is being ignored. In response, the ads become bigger, louder, and more attention-grabbing in a never-ending spiral towards chaos.


  1. Sound pollution in our cities is becoming terrible. During pandemic shutdowns, the difference was amazing. People in major cities realized that they had to stop conversations every time a plane went over. They couldn’t sit in a sidewalk café because of traffic noise. Their only choice was to shut themselves in the world of their headphones, an activity that carries its own physical, social, and mental dangers.
  2. Light pollution is likewise a problem, and not only for migrating birds. An epidemic of sleep deprivation can be partially attributed to a lack of darkness. And heaven help you if flashing lights bother you.
  3. And despite the growth of electronic media, the Age of the Flier is still with us. Paper proliferates.

Blanket Advertising (Often Spam)

The low price of contacting individuals has given rise to an escalation of mass marketing to wide swaths of the population. The fact that you have a mailing address automatically qualifies you for a huge number of political and commercial flyers. If you own a house, you must want to sell it and are always looking for another one.

The worst part of this influx of media is that the vast majority of it has no interest to me. I habitually pick up the mail at the front of the house and drop 95% of it straight into the recycling bin before I go in the kitchen door. A third of the phone calls I get are from someone speaking Chinese. The fact that I’m an older man means most of my email spam is directed at my hairline and my prostate, and the ones in French and German are doubly off the mark. A waste of money and time, especially mine.

Targeted Advertising

I know a lot of people are paranoid about the invasion of privacy it entails, but from the consumer’s end, the results would be a blessing. While I am leery of people collecting personal information about me, I don’t see that my situation has changed that much from small-town life in the old days. Back then, everybody in town knew (or thought they knew) everything about me.

Nowadays companies wanting my business know what influences people like me, which isn’t the same thing. If people in Canada who buy snowshoes are likely to buy mini spikes as well, then I expect that if I research snowshoes online I might be targeted for crampons, too. I’d rather see those ads than something selling a $100,000 pickup truck or a feminine hygiene product.

The trick, here, is to keep the world away from your real personal information, and let them make what they will with anonymous of commercial data they are allowed to collect. And if you don’t like it, use the “Private Window” scan option on your browser.

Despite any fears we have, mass media, blazing computing speed and huge data storage means that our lives will become more and more transparent to the world. There will come a time when privacy will be the ultimate prize: only the very rich will achieve it. I predict a new service for the undertaking industry: an internet cleanout, where all traces of the deceased’s business and personal life are scrubbed out except what they designate as archival.

The Bottom Line: Hope

However, television has passed through the advertising stage and is now out the other side, with streaming services that require payment for entertainment, just like the good old days. Radio likewise. Perhaps all the rest will fade when advertisers realize how much money they are throwing into thin air. Literally, in some cases.


While I was writing this post, I received another email:

“Hi Gordon A. Long,

Based on your interests we have found some events you might be interested in…”

Fasten your seatbelts, folks, and settle in for the long haul.

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