The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Former President and convicted felon Donald Trump menaces at the camera during his hearing.
Opinion | Hold your elected officials morally responsible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 18, 2024

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Former President and convicted felon Donald Trump menaces at the camera during his hearing.
Opinion | Hold your elected officials morally responsible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 18, 2024

Opinion | There are no ad-free spaces anymore

Opinion+%7C+There+are+no+ad-free+spaces+anymore
Joy Zhang | Staff Illustrator

When was the last time you were online and didn’t get some sort of ad right away? Whether you’re watching your favorite show or doomscrolling on social media, you are bound to come across some sort of ad or marketing tactic. There is no escaping companies and brands profiting and capitalizing off you every second they can. 

Streaming services used to be a better alternative to cable because we didn’t need to deal with endless ads to watch our favorite movies and shows. Now, if you want an ad-free viewing experience, you have to sacrifice your whole bank account and firstborn child. Netflix was the last one standing in the ad-free streaming service war — that is the one big reason why I am still paying for it. But somehow they have ended up becoming one of the worst streaming services. Aside from the fact that none of my favorite shows are even on there anymore, Netflix decided to get stingy with password sharing and ban users living in different households from sharing an account. If they want to act greedy and crack down on account sharing, they should at least add more shows and movies to their site. Now, if you want to watch anything on Netflix for a cheaper price, you have to get their ad-supported plan — something all other streaming services already have. 

Many streaming services have followed in Netflix’s footsteps after seeing how much success and how many new users they’ve gained from cracking down on password sharing. That just means more ads for us because of how often these platforms are raising their ad-free prices. You’ll watch about four to five minutes of ads for every hour of viewership on a streaming platform. Though this may not seem like a lot, think about how much time you spend binge-watching a show you like. Those four to five minutes can add up quickly. Even when you’re trying to relax and enjoy a movie or show, you can’t do so without someone trying to get you to buy something. 

Social media as a whole has also strayed far away from its original intention. Almost every social media app now also turns you into a consumer 24/7. Whether you’re on TikTok, Instagram, X, Snapchat or even BeReal now, you cannot catch a break from all the ads and marketing tactics pushed on you. Remember when Instagram and Snapchat were apps where you could see what your friends were up to — no brands or companies shoving their marketing campaigns and ads down your throats or the algorithm pushing product placements onto your suggested page? Well, that’s not the reality anymore. 

Various research and studies have suggested that we see around 5,000 to 10,000 daily ads. Yes, this is quite a large sum. But when we take into account just how many avenues brands and companies have to push things onto us — paid search ads, in-app banners, in-game ads, streaming ads, social media, email and product placement — that number starts to make more sense. No matter what we are doing, in whatever space, there is always some sort of ad present. 

This phenomenon has unfortunately taken over BeReal as well — the most recent social media app whose whole purpose is to share your ‘real’ moments with only your friends. BeReal’s new update gives celebrities and brands their own section on our feed. I can understand adding celebrities onto the platform — you want to see what your favorite influencer, actor, athlete or whoever is doing at the moment. But brands? I do not need to know what the Adidas or Forever 21 social media manager is doing right now — no shade to the social media manager though, they’re just doing their job. This is very clearly another avenue for these brands and companies to push their name out there so they can profit and capitalize off us. First, it was Instagram with the shopping feature, then it was Snapchat making the verified accounts’ stories bigger than our friends’. Now it’s BeReal giving celebrities and brands their own section on our feeds. Social media is starting to feel very disingenuous.

There are spaces where we don’t even realize we’re being sold something. One of the more obvious examples of this was Elf Cosmetic’s product placement in the new “Mean Girls” musical movie. As much as I love Elf, their product placement felt very forced. I don’t want to feel as if I’m being sold something when I just want to watch Reneé Rapp slay as Regina George. Most movies and TV shows use product placement though to make money, unfortunately. 

Another one of these subtler forms of advertisements are undisclosed ones on social media. I usually see this on TikTok when an influencer is reviewing a new or viral product. One of the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines for posting sponsored content on social media mentions that you have to let your audience know whether you are getting paid to promote a product or service. Usually, a #ad or #sponsored in the caption of the video will do, but it has to be noticeable. Influencers can’t try to be shady with that and try to hide the fact that they’re being compensated for creating a certain piece of content. Though I have noticed in some cases where TikTok influencers will try to hide their #ad disclosure behind their profile picture or mix it in with the captions so it’s hard to tell. 

Companies and brands need to take a step back and realize that there is only so much ad content we can take. Especially in an environment where it’s difficult to find a job, many people don’t even have that much spare income to spend. There are very few spaces we can occupy now that are completely ad-free — places where we don’t have to act as consumers. It feels like we’re reaching a point where consumers are very close to feeling burnt out and frustrated with how often they’re being sold something. You can only consume so many of these ads and marketing schemes before you get burnt out and tired. 

 

Kelly Xiong writes about all things fashion, beauty, personal health and sometimes pop culture. You can write to her at [email protected]

About the Contributor
Kelly Xiong, Senior Staff Columnist