Advertising-free Zone

Monday December 13, 2010


Well, it seems that the server move has passed off relatively well, and although there may have been a couple of hitches along the way, I’m now happily lodged on a new wind-powered server (I fondly imagine a server with a little windmill sticking out of the top; but reality it’s probably not like this – which on reflection is probably a good thing). And I’ve also come to the end of a busy couple of weeks of filling in various intriguing grant bids – one of which I may write about here on thinkBuddha if it turns out to be successful – so I’ve got a bit of time to get back to the business of actually writing stuff. Which is a good thing.

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to fill in a questionnaire about my blogging practice, in connection with some PhD research. And it was good to have a chance to step back and reflect on what it is that I do here on thinkBuddha, and why I do it – particularly as I’ve been blogging here now for over five years, and over that period quite a lot has changed. But, anyway, one of the questions that was put to me was this: why don’t I carry advertising on this blog (other than the occasional plug for my own books, or for other things I think are interesting)?

There are, perhaps, several reasons. The first is that I’m almost certain that it would not be worth the trouble. Given the kind of traffic I get at thinkBuddha – respectable enough, no doubt, but this is hardly the hub of a giant media empire – the returns would be vanishingly small. The second reason is that I have no idea what I would advertise. Perhaps I could plug Buddhist kit like meditation cushions and singing bowls. Or iPad Buddhist apps of the meditation-timer, Dhammapada-verse-a-day variety. Or expensive five-star Caribbean cruises in the company of the famous Lama Dorje Logjam (high powered Tantric initiations thrown in free of charge). None of the above, however, feels as if it really reflects what I do on this blog or what my readership actually is. But the there is a third reason that is more principled in nature. And that is that I think that the omnipresence of advertising is something that should be resisted. One of the things I hope to do with this blog is to cultivate a certain kind of reflection; and I find that I can’t really reflect very well if I’m thinking about what tasty breakfast cereals Corn-ios are.

The last couple of decades have seen an increasing starry-eyed obsession with the world of business. These days, the business world is considered – bizarrely – to be something that is inherently good; and this has gone along in parallel with an increasing privatisation of the public sphere. This has meant an increasing infiltration of advertising into every corner of our lives. Schools and universities have deals with IT companies that involve the splashing of logos here and there. So-called ‘free’ applications for mobile devices stream continual click-through advertisements. Film-makers raise capital by shamelessly putting bottles of Dud beer, or whoever the sponsor happens to be, in every single shot. And people then pay for the privilege of seeing this stuff. This is, I think, a very bad thing. Psychologist Tim Kasser, in his book The High Price of Materialism, a survey of the harms of our collective obsession with getting and spending, suggests that we should declare advertising-free zones and suggests that advertising should be considered a form of pollution, on the grounds that the evidence seems to suggest (and Kasser surveys a lot of this evidence) that advertising is bad for our health.

So that is why thinkBuddha is an advertising-free zone (with the exception of the big, handsome book cover, and the banner that says “Buy my book” – hey, nobody’s perfect…). Advertising may have a place, but the omnipresence of advertising and its penetration into every corner of our lives clogs up the imagination and stifles the possibility of genuine reflection.

Anyway, I fancy a bowl of Corn-ios. They are apparently both tasty and nutritious. And much in favour amongst the beautiful people. At least, that’s what the advertisements told me…

# · David Chapman

Welcome back! Glad that the server move worked out OK in the end.

I agree about advertising, and can’t imagine running third-party advertisements on my sites. It seems undignified.

I also agree that it’s bizarre that the business world is often regarded as inherently good. But there are also a great many people who regard it as inherently bad. And there I would disagree. It is hard to imagine that wind-powered web servers (among other delightful and useful things) could have come into being with out it.

Best wishes,


# · Kevin Wheeler

Couldn’t agree more about advertising, advert free zones for all should be the rallying cry ;-)

# · Robert Ellis

I’m surprised that the idea of adverts on Thinkbuddha even occurred to you in the first place! It’s not as though web-space costs very much (I pay about £10 a year for mine) or that you’re doing this for money – I assume?

Another practical reason for not having adverts is that they slow down loading of pages and add hugely (and unnecessarily) to the amount of data going through the wires.

# · Will

It never has really occurred to me, Robert. But what prompted this post was that, as I noted above, for this questionnaire I was asked why thinkBuddha didn’t carry adverts. And many sites do. So I thought it worth writing about.

# · Karen Wallace

Hello. Interesting post. I will be back to read more. Warmly, Karen

# · pascale presumey

Yes. Good blog. Interesting post.
In October 1989 I visited East Berlin. Often described in the West as grey and miserable. I found it unusually peaceful.
Was it the wide avenues, the lack of cars on the roads, the seemingly slow pace of life ? No, what struck me was the lack of aggressively coloured posters and shouty slogans, like the ones we are constantly surrounded by wherever we go.
As you say, without advertising, the mind breathes.

Best wishes, Pascale.

# · Rin'dzin Pamo

Humph…I haven’t read Kasser’s book (I will look it up) but I’m a little wary of the idea of advertising as pollution. It makes it sound inherently bad.

Often, I just love advertising! It’s so colourful and creative, it’s full of querky, odd references and bad jokes, its variety and efficiency is awesome. It’s possible to enjoy its texture and sexiness without feeling compelled to have what’s on offer, although occasionally I appreciate and follow up directly targeted ones, or see random ads for something I’d enjoy.

Despite that, I wouldn’t be interested in seeing it here, because I come here only to read what you’ve got to say. So I’d agree that “advertising may have a place” but not that it’s omnipresent, or really powerful enough to “clog up the imagination and stifle the possibility of genuine reflection.” I’m horribly capable of that with or without it. :-)


# · Will

I’d agree that there is often a formidable creativity in advertising; but it’s extent is something that I think is not particularly conducive to human welfare. There is a middle way to be trod, I think, between the fairly rampant infiltration of advertising into everyday life that goes on at the moment, and some kind utopian (or dystopian, I think – anyway, certainly unworkable) blanket ban. On the apparent evidence marshalled by Kasser, then there are legitimate concerns here.

I think I might agree that the idea that advertising is pollution makes it sound inherently bad; and that this is possibly unconstructive. However, I also think that we underestimate the effect that advertising has on us. The story that we often like to tell ourselves – and that the advertisers like to remind us to tell ourselves – is that we are free agents who can choose. But I suspect that we are all rather more suggestible agents than we think we are.

# · Tim Frederik


This is a great site! There is a website called www.realistsocietyof… with discussions here:…

that many of your visitors may find interesting.

Thank you!


# · Michelle

I actually enjoy good advertising and I know that ‘good’ is a relative term. But since one needs to be quite creative to work in advertising, it is an important vehicle for creativity and creative development and thinking on this planet or in this dimension. Each of us has the choice to notice and absorb information such as an advert and its message or not, to be selective and astute in what we will allow to influence our judgement or not. Nothing is either good or bad, what is important, is to be able to see both the light and the dark and to take it further from there or not. The danger is in seeing only one point of view.

# · Trina Storage

I think there are some really good ads that entertain you but most of them just makes you crazy and turn your children into wanting machines! Don’t you agree?

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