They are in your kitchen cupboards and on your clothes. They scream at you on the streets and stare at you in washroom stalls. They are hidden in movie scenes and as names of buildings. They seem louder than the shows on television. They pop up on your computer screen and sometimes even stalk you as you scroll down a webpage. They are ads.
No, it's not your imagination. The amount of marketing we're exposed to daily has exploded over the past decade. Depending on how much you get out, go online, watch TV, or listen to the radio, you may be exposed to anywhere from 300 to over 3,000 ads per day. And don't think that doesn't mess with your mind. Media literacy is something we need to teach children, and our adult consumption patterns driven by advertising fundamentally affect our lives and our culture.
Join the Legacy Project in an Un-Ad Revolution. It's a little tongue-in-cheek and a little rebellious. It's your chance to take a stand by posting your own un-ad and be inspired by the un-ads of others. You can support us while creating an un-ad counter-culture and proclaiming who you are and what really matters to you. We welcome individuals, families, and school students to post an un-ad.
Celebrate the timeless over the trendy. What if the world were filled with ideas and values rather than ads?
Join the People of São Paulo, Brazil
Canadian economist and humorist Stephen Leacock once said, "Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it."
Advertising has been around since ancient times. Egyptians used papyrus to make sales messages and wall posters. Commercial messages and political campaign displays have been found in the ruins of Pompeii and ancient Arabia. Lost and found advertising on papyrus was common in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.
Ads for products, services, and ideas often are used to manipulate us in ways that aren't always in our best interest or the best interest of our communities and our world. Says English education professor Herb Karl, when it comes to advertising, "the image is not the thing." The thing – whether it's the latest fashion or technological gadget – is what advertisers want you to believe it is. In their image making, advertisers often walk a fine line between the ethical and the unethical. It's like the difference between a propaganda film and a documentary.
Some researchers have described the over-abundance of advertising in our consumer culture as pollution. In 2006, the Mayor of São Paulo, Brazil, passed the Clean City Law to curb what he felt was too much visual pollution from advertising in the streets. São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, and the seventh-most-populous city in the world, with a city population of about 11 million and almost 20 million in its metropolitan region. Under the new law, it became a city without advertising – no posters, no flyers, no ads on buses, no ads on trains, no billboards.
Several years later, in a recent survey, 70% of residents say the Clean City Law has been "beneficial." São Paulo is a very vertical city. Vinicius Galvao, a journalist, said in an interview with NPR, "That makes it very frenetic. You couldn't even see the architecture of the old buildings, because they were just covered with billboards and logos and propaganda. And there were no criteria to keep it in check."
Businesses in São Paulo were initially concerned; but, rather than a constant visual assault, they've found other ways to get their messages out, like social media. Not a perfect solution for all, but perhaps a step in an interesting direction. Where do we want to draw the line?
Do It Your Way
Create an un-ad about what matters to you. Celebrate ideas and values rather than just things.
You can create an un-ad about who you are, you can post a photo of your children or grandchildren, you can share a value or idea that's important to you, you can draw attention to a cause that's important to you, you can feature an inspiring quote, you can even promote something you've created like a book or website as long as it comes from the heart and reflects who you are.
For your un-ad, you can post one or more of:
Text. Make it short, simple, and spectacular. You can even create a slogan, if you wish! Think about all the ways regular ads get your attention and sell products, then get creative and use the same techniques in your un-ad.
An image. A picture is worth a thousand words, and every good marketer knows a good image helps "sell."
A link. If you like, we can link to a website, Facebook page, or other webpage to give people more information.
Please ensure that the text and image you use are owned by you or that you have the rights to use them. Copyright of the material remains with you when you post an un-ad.
We have some sample un-ads to inspire you, including one posted by Legacy Project Chair Susan V. Bosak.
To post your un-ad, we're asking you to contribute $5 to the Legacy Project. It's a small way to get involved and support us, and a big way to make a statement. Our goal is to keep the Legacy Project independent, to keep our website resources free, and not to post commercial ads on our website. We want you to enjoy your visit to our website and we want to keep the communication as genuine as possible. We want to give you our best. That's what we value.
So, un-ads are $5 each. The Legacy Project has special rates for classrooms. Posting an un-ad is a thought-provoking, relevant, real-life lesson. Help students discover who they are as they think about what's really important to them and create ways to express it. Build text and visual literacy skills, as well as media literacy. For more information on classroom rates, e-mail us.
Your un-ad is a part of you – the part that matters – and a part of the legacy you're creating. It's a way to start to create a culture that values social capital as much as material goods. We want to balance all those ads out there that just want to sell you more "stuff."
We all know that people, ideas, values are more important than stuff. So here's your chance to do something about it.