There’s nothing in the world quite so cynical as advertising. Most of us just accept it as a fact of life, which it is. For some of us there’s always a little growl of annoyance at the back of our minds whenever we’re forced to put up with someone trying to sell us something.
On one hand, a reasonable decision has to be that anyone selling anything needs to make consumers aware of what’s available. You can’t always rely on buyers to actively seek you out. Advertising is fair enough, on that basis.
On the other hand there have always been limits to how pervasive this commercial intrusion into our lives can get. Roadside billboards, radio ads, TV ads and printed ads are a passive attempt to engage with people with money to spend. They’re fine. You don’t have to pay attention if you don’t want to, even though lots of people do nonetheless.
No one can argue that you don’t sometimes gain useful information from advertising. It’s good to know, for example, that there’s a car parts shop half an hour’s drive from your house that you didn’t know about, and never would have known about if not for advertising.
On the other hand, the age of connected devices has brought with it a very different type of advertising. We’re talking about pop-ups, banner ads that are impossible to close down, and pre/mid-roll on videos. These are the commercial realities of the digital age. Advertising helps keep publications like this running, so it would be mighty hypocritical of us to call it all bad. But it’s about to get worse.
This week we learned of a system built by an American company called Telenav. It will allow advertisers to pipe their commercials directly to your car’s media screen when the car is stationary. Adverts you never asked for and never agreed to accept. This, we have a problem with.
Adverts will be delivered either under threat of financial penalties if you don’t ‘choose’ to watch them, or with a bribe-shaped discount on the cost of your connected car services if you do watch them. It depends on which way you want to look at it. A Telenav spokesperson said:
“This approach helps car makers offset costs related to connected services, such as wireless data, content, software and cloud services.
“In return for accepting ads in vehicles, drivers benefit from access to connected services without subscription fees, as well as new driving experiences that come from the highly-targeted and relevant offers delivered based on information coming from the vehicle.”
With technology already able to check which way your face is turned and which way your eyes are looking, the car could know whether you’re watching these commercials or not. It may even pause them if you look away, or refuse to let you access the net until you’ve watched the whole advert(s).
Forgive me if I’m being over-dramatic, but that sounds like being held to ransom in your own car. Your car is your personal space. It’s a private cocoon that you keep exactly the way you want it. You make it look the way you want, you make it sound the way you want and you make it feel the way you want. Your choice of model alone is a reflection of who you are, even if the car itself is unmodified. It’s yours, and only you should get to decide what goes on inside it.
Now advertisers want to violate those personal boundaries and stick their hungry mouths in where we don’t want them. They don’t care whether you want to be left alone, or that it’s your private space. They want to turn every private car into a way to force you to watch their sales pitch.
To this we say no, thank you. Advertising on public transport is fair game, but not in people’s private cars. We do not want advertising in our cars. Not now, and not ever.