What would happen if brands learned to shut up and play dead?


If you don’t want to buy it then just look away

“I like good ads yeah”. This is as inane a statement as “I like to read but only like…good books”. Of course you do.The general consensus seems to be that advertising is bad except for on the rare occasion when it is good. If an ad is entertaining then people will excuse ‘being sold to’ and actively embrace it with many successful ads reflecting and defining the society that they are advertising to. The rest of the time however, ads are viewed as attention seeking, background chatter, the scapegoat of an overly materialistic society. The battle thus continues between the advertisers and the ‘audience’. Agencies continue to convince clients that advertising is imperative to the success of the service or product, especially in a recession. The general public who have learned to resent advertising openly fantasise about an ad free world in which to raise their children, without ads the world would be like one never ending burning-man festival.

world without advertising

What if god = watching your favorite tv programmes uninterrupted by ads? Does this make god the internet? Is he a blank billboard? Stop being ridiculous.

I’m not going to get into how idyllic and pure the world would be without advertising but could those who believe that advertising shouldn’t exist actually be on to something?

Game theory is a mathematical equation developed by John Nash in the 1940’s. This theory was delivered to the layman in form of the film ‘A beautiful mind’ in 2001.

According to lovely wikipedia, game theory is  “the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent rational decision-makers”. It’s quite complicated but Stephen Fry has managed to simplify it :

At the end of this video, Fry describes how game theory affects advertising by suggesting an alternative world in which advertising is not necessary. This would only work if the competition cooperate with each other. He makes the example that if one brand stops advertising then they will probably suffer but if all the competing brands cut out advertising then they would no longer be ‘cancelling each other out’ and would manage to save a huge amount of money without harming the market.

An example of where this has already happened can be seen with the ban of tobacco advertising in which all brands were forced to stop advertising so no one was struggling for the upper hand, people continued to smoke and remain loyal to certain brands and the tobacco companies saved a lot of money.

game theory advertising

With the gradual phasing out of alcohol advertising in Ireland, I wonder if the same outcome could be inevitable for alcohol brands. The advertising of alcohol is already highly regulated and has come under huge threat in Ireland over the past year with all alcohol sponsorship to be removed by 2016, explained in this article.

Firstly this would never happen if the brands and products involved were not actually forced to cease their advertising. Brands in the marketplace are generally far too competitive to become allies, and would never commit to an advertising silence. There would be a type of ‘right we jump on three….one…two……….well you didn’t jump either’ affect in which brands would never play fair or stop at the same time.

Also, though tobacco and cigarette companies still make huge sales, this is probably down to the fact that it is a highly addictive substance. Just like heroin doesn’t need a presence on social media to gain popularity. The  fact that tobacco advertising was banned is in itself testament to the effectiveness of advertising. As a smoker I do tend to smoke a particular brand but this brand doesn’t have an image or personality to me, nothing that would keep me loyal apart from the price .

Essentially, if brands actually managed to agree not to advertise unanimously then they could undoubtedly save a lot of money but would sacrifice any sort of brand communication and personality in the process. This is not something most top brands would view as worth it, even if it allowed us a chance to see god.


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