Holy piranha, Batman!


You’re exposed to some kind of persuasive message every 70 seconds, on average, for your whole life. Seventy seconds! And each of those messages has at least one thing in common with the others: ALL of them are about someone else’s priorities!

That’s insane. How did you come up with seventy seconds?

“It has been estimated that by the time the average American reaches the age of 65, he or she will have been exposed to approximately 136,692,500 ads of various forms, and will have watched over 2 million television commercials.” — Belch and Belch, Advertising and Promotion: An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective, p. 103.

OK, let’s do some math. Belch and Belch claim Americans are exposed to 136 million ads in 65 years. If you figure that people sleep 8 hours a day, they are awake for 2,657,200 hours. Multiply that number by 3600 seconds in an hour and divide by 136,692,500. The result is an ad every 69.98 seconds.

The January 2008 issue of Adbusters presents an even worse scenario. A quote in that magazine says people are now receiving as many as 5000 messages a day. Multiply 16 waking hours by 3600 seconds an hour to get 57600 seconds. Divide 57600 by 5000 ads and you are interrupted by some kind of persuasive message every 11.52 seconds!!

“The number of messages hitting our brain [in 2007] soared to an astonishing 5000 per day…2007 also saw millions of people making the breakthrough connection between advertising and their own mental health.” — Adbusters No. 75, p. 2.

That sounds pretty distracting

Wow. How in the world is a person supposed to keep up with their own dreams and priorities, not to mention their responsibilities, with all that going on?

As I’ve discussed in About TBYB! and Is advertising evil, I don’t necessarily have a gripe with advertising, per se. Businesses have every right to try and make a living – we all do. The problem is that the mental environment is completely saturated with those messages, and it’s profoundly distracting to have our attention constantly interrupted with all of those bids for attention to someone else’s agenda. The result is that it can be very difficult to sustain attention for our own short and long-term goals.

“The problem I have with advertising is not the fact that it exists, but that it’s distracting. The ratio of messages that benefit advertisers to the ratio that benefit us is wildly unfavorable to us. In fact, the ratio is not just unfavorable; it’s a shut-out.” — Is advertising Evil?

“My gripe is with how much mind space it all consumes, and how distracting that is from other, quieter, deeply important agendas we may have for our own lives. TBYB! is interested in taking back some of that bandwidth for ourselves; in reclaiming our attention from the seductions of those mental predators so that we may use it to achieve our own goals.” — About TBYB!

What can we do about it?

Personal marketing, of course. The whole point of Take Back Your Brain! is to get some of our own messages into the game, in order to prompt us to return our attention to our own priorities. One more quote from me, in How I got an RV with my most successful ad campaign, about how I used personal marketing to reach a goal that was important to me:

“I had conceived of buying an RV as a possible solution to achieve some really important objectives about health, recreation and connection. What I think the ad campaign did was keep that gestalt of priorities/solution in my consciousness. Or rather, it kept returning my attention to that gestalt. In spite of many competing distractions over many months, the ads kept nudging me with reminders about the goal of owning an RV, which in turn prompted me to take the many small actions that finally led to its realization.” — How I got an RV with my most successful ad campaign

By the way, I’m out on another road trip in that RV for a couple of weeks. Definitely worth it to achieve your dreams!

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  1. yhw
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Just pointing out that there are 3600 seconds in an hour. I think that leaves your number at 69.98 seconds per advertisement. Still WAY too frequent for paying attention to someone else’s priority!

  2. Lynn
    Posted May 5, 2008 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Ah, oops! I’ve corrected the math above to reflect 3600 seconds in an hour (I had originally used 360). Thanks, yhw!

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