Why Advertisers Should Ask For Our Permission

Chris Smith
5 min readMay 27

‘Advertising is an invasion of personal privacy’. So said the famous boss of an advertising agency.

He went on to say:

The first thing we ought to demand from advertising or indeed from any message directed toward us is that it get our permission before speaking

That it not collar us at inappropriate times or places. That it be thoughtful of us. That it not interrupt. This is no more than we expect from friends or family so why take it from outsiders?

The man expressing these thoughts was Howard Luck Gossage — advertising man, marketer, and propaganda genius.

I was listening to a radio program about his life when I heard these words and it made me think.

I’m in two minds about advertising. I find some of it incredibly intrusive and annoying. But, as a marketer, I know that if done well it can be very effective.

Advertising as a necessary evil

Sometimes there is a good reason for allowing advertisers to direct their message to you. I’m thinking for example of media with useful content such as news publishers.

Without the revenue from advertisers, news publishers would almost certainly have to put their content behind a paywall in order to generate revenue. So, we accept advertisements appearing on the page so long as we don’t have to pay to read the news articles.

Sometimes, they go a little too far, like this example of a travel news page from The Independent:

Screengrab of a page of news from The Independent’s website viewed on a cell phone

Here, the advertising is too intrusive and takes up too much of the page's real estate. Yes, the advertiser has succeeded in capturing my attention but for the wrong reasons — I want to read the page of news not have to scroll past an enormous advertisement.

Presumably, a large ad such as this means that The Independent can generate more revenue from the advertiser.

The lowest of the low

Chris Smith

Freelance marketer and writer of various things for clients.