When I'm waiting for the climax of my favorite shows on Adult Swim or the judging in Iron Chef America, the last thing I want to do is sit there and get peddled loan services and Tupperware.
An apologist for capitalism would say that advertising is an attempt to get information of good products out to the consumer. So tell me: Does any of the following sound like that?
*Sexy women implying that getting a beer belly gets one chicks
*Endorsements by sports stars and Snoop Dogg
*The "water is wet" approach: AOL trying to claim that they're great because they have a spam filter, when everyone has a spam filter; vegetable oils claiming that they have no cholesterol, when it's flatly impossible for vegetable oil to have cholesterol unless it's artifically added in
*The "psuedo-democracy" approach: You can vote for your favorite gum type! (Never mind you won't get to try the three gums).
*The "We got sued and we want to look good" commercial: Philip-Morris pretending to care about people smoking their product
*The outright lie: The implication in Splenda commercials that Splenda is a safe sweetener, when in fact it's only slightly less dangerous than other artifical sweeteners (http://www.mercola.com/2003/nov/8/splenda_dangers.htm, http://www.wnho.net/splenda_reaction.htm, http://www.foodanddiet.com/NewFiles/splenda.html, http://www.holisticmed.com/splenda/ ) according to most independent scientists
Notice that all of the above say nothing about the product, and many actively deny rational choice by offering false or misleading information.
And what about selecting between two products? Do commercials tell you the relative values of products? No, they only tell you one side of the story.
Actually, they usually tell you a lie even on their side of the issue. Studies have shown that knock-off cereals, usually identical in blind taste tests and from the same manufacturers, taste worse compared to the brand dominant cereal when the brand name is revealed. There is an unexpected psychic impact to saturation of advertising.
Then again, advertising can be problematic as well. I know that when I watch certain esoteric commercials I don't remember anything about the product or even its name, just the commercial. (Might it be subconscious imprinting? Maybe.)
This points up a major problem of capitalism: there's no qualitative information that tells regulators or producers why they bought product X over product Y or over no product at all. If someone bought cereal because their children were being pressured by endless repetition of commercials, a producer wouldn't know...or care.
It's not just that commercials are annoying distractions from our favorite pop jingles or cop dramas. It's not just that the constraints that such commercials put on TV harshly truncate the quality of American news coverage. It's not even that the advertising is a blatant attempt to force consumption of goods that people don't really need or want and allow inferior goods to rise above superior ones thanks to market inundation.
It's that every dollar spent on commercials, every social scientist working to analyze the results of focus groups and surveys, every writer and creative mind put to work creating catchy slogans and themes, in short all of the effort and creativity, is an utter and complete waste, a waste that is wholly required by the system.