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This article is a little different than most of those we describe in these abstracts. An opinion piece, it argues that we need to treat privacy, or silence, or an uncluttered environment, as a resource, similar to clean air or water. But because marketing has become so pervasive, the author suggests, we are polluting virtually all our common spaces, leaving no room to attend to other ideas, such as inventions, creativity, or sociability.

Consider your environment. If you rode a bus to your class this morning, did it feature advertisements? On your college campus, how many marketing communications do you see? Are they in the quad? The dining hall? The sports practice facility?

The author of this opinion article describes his experience with air travel as a constant bombardment of information, clamoring for people’s attention. From the marketing communications that line the bottom of the trays in which passengers place their shoes to go through security to the nearly ubiquitous presence of televisions in departure gate waiting areas, the seekers of people’s attention are virtually innumerable.

Businesswoman using digital tabletThe answer for many people is to clap on a set of headphones and immerse themselves in their tablet or phone. But in so doing, they become utterly disconnected from anyone around them, such that they lose any chance of a friendly, sociable encounter with others waiting at the same gate.

Alternatively, silence and a lack of distractions might be regarded as a luxury item. The author describes visiting the business class lounge, where no televisions are playing, no posters on walls advertise any services, and the difference between the main terminal and the high-end lounge is “nearly tactile.” People who want silence and a lack of distractions must pay for it, in which case it appears that the right to privacy increasingly may be reserved only for the wealthy.

The article clearly is controversial; there is no clear demarcation to indicate when advertising is part of the free market and when it crosses the line to become an invasion of a fuzzy sense of the “right not to be addressed.” But it makes for some interesting concepts for marketers to consider, as they compete and struggle with others to grab consumers’ attention at all time.

Discussion Question:

In public spaces, do people have a right not to be addressed, that is, a right to be left alone with their thoughts?



Source: Matthew Crawford, “The Cost of Paying Attention,” The New York Times, March 7, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com