Even in this ridiculous election cycle I have not seen one political ad start-to-finish. I actually have to hunt the things down on YouTube if I want to see what people are talking about. But I don’t. Because I’m trying to limit my exposure to political ads, you see.
They are so pervasive you might not believe me. But with a little bit of effort you can almost eliminate your exposure to political ads. All you really have to do is make different entertainment choices.
[caption id=”attachment_4085” align=”aligncenter” width=”300”] Swamp TV by James Good[/caption]
I signed up for a Hulu Plus trial, then killed it. The political ads were too much for me to stomach. Seriously – pay money and watch ads? No thank you.
Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant both have a great backlog of television shows and many weird, quirky movies (if you’re into that sort of thing). They are also ad-free. These two services have replaced my cable viewing.
The shows I am extra-double-special interested in (Mythbusters) I buy subscriptions for on iTunes.
*Side Effect: No cable bill.
Drawbacks: You give up the immediacy of broadcast and cable television. Sporting events become more difficult to watch, too, which is not as much of a drawback for me as it is for some.
[caption id=”attachment_4093” align=”aligncenter” width=”300”] Summer Sound by Brandon Christopher Warren[/caption]
Songza in particular is fun; it’s a legitimate free music service that is not (as of this writing) broadcasting ads, but it has a large and deep collection of music which you access through curated playlists. It’s somewhere between Spotify and Pandora in terms of feel.
Pandora’s premium service kills all the ads – if you don’t buy that, Mitt and Barack will try to talk in your ear every few songs.
Drawbacks: Er, none. I mean, have you listened to commercial radio recently?
[caption id=”attachment_4096” align=”aligncenter” width=”300”] Sega SG-1000, by Luftholen[/caption]
Video games are largely unaffected by political advertising, even though some product placement has snuck its way in over the years. Video games are also where some of the best storytelling is happening these days. If your concept of video games is the wokka-wokka of Pac-Man, you’re terribly behind the times. It’s the New Literature.
I’ve been nursing Skyrim since last December. So yes: one of the best things you can do for yourself if you’re looking for low-commercial couch-based entertainment is get interested in video games.
Drawbacks: Most video game controllers require the use of both hands, which makes it difficult to drink beer and play a game at the same time. Learn where the pause button is.
[caption id=”attachment_4098” align=”aligncenter” width=”300”] Newspaper by Luc De Leeuw[/caption]
Read, don’t watch, your news.
Print media can’t shove videos in your face. Web media generally can’t either if you use a tool like Adblock Plus. Watching cable news will expose you to political ads even if you’re skipping past commercials on your DVR because they like to report on ads. There’s an old campaign trick: make a provocative ad, run it once in a minor market for cheap, then let the cable news stations run it over and over for free. The 24-hour stations just can’t resist.
Drawbacks: You will lose the adrenaline-rush provided by television news’s tone of perma-outrage. I recommend following some political folks on Twitter, that will help bring it back. Also, for the same sense of impotent futility, try arguing with people there.
[caption id=”attachment_4099” align=”aligncenter” width=”300”] Old Soviet propaganda, documented here[/caption]
Finally, don’t watch political ads.
Once you’ve figured out how you’re going to entertain yourself without ad-based media, don’t seek out political ads. Don’t go to YouTube to watch them, don’t click on them in web pages, don’t follow links to them by outraged friends or issue-advocacy emails. Just. Say. No.
Drawbacks: When people say “did you see the ad where,” you will have to say “no.” And then your friends will think you are hopelessly out of touch. But that’s a small price to pay for sanity.
This works for most kinds of advertising as well. Which is a bonus.
Do I still see political ads? Occasionally. At bars with televisions and other people’s houses. In magazine spreads and as still images on some web sites. But this strategy brings the advertising down to a background-noise level. With practice you can even learn to ignore them entirely.
Am I still politically engaged? Hell yes. I keep up with political news very closely. But I like to follow the news stories, not the outrage stories – and advertising belongs to the outrage realm. They are intended for and targeted to low-information, disengaged voters. That’s probably not you. So why watch them? No reason. No reason at all.
I hope this improves your life as much as it’s done mine.