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Advertising is used by manufacturers of products, providers of services, politicians, and even governments to project truths, half-truths and outright lies about their products, services, abilities, and countries to the target audience.
 It's morning in America, buy me
Traditionally, advertising was used to sell you crap you neither needed nor wanted by filling your vacant head with the idea that you both wanted and needed it, and if the Joneses had it and you didn't, they were better people than you. Nowadays however, advertising is also used to elect politicians to offices such as the President of the United States, and has replaced the outdated and broken system of elections in democratic countries. The United States - the traditional leader in 'votevertizing' technology - has discovered that the best way to determine who should run the free world is to calculate who has the most money, then spend that on advertising. This money, typically in the hundreds of millions of dollars, is partially diverted to feed and clothe the starving poor who are forced to toil 20-hour days in the creative departments at advertising agencies.
 Technological challenges
 Time shifting
Time shifting is the practice of recording television shows to be later viewed at a time chosen by the viewer. This originally began in the 1960s with the availability of home-based video cassette recorders. Initially the impact on advertisers was mitigated by the need to manually pause the recording if a viewer wished to avoid including advertisement breaks in their recording - implying that anyone present to pause the recording would likely be seeing the advertisements anyway. There may still be an impact though if the viewer should choose to fast-forward through the adverts when viewing the recording. Following the introduction of digital television, a recording device known as TiVo has resulted in viewers easily skipping the commercials. This threat to our modern civilization is currently undermining the electability of the candidates from the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election and beyond, and is part of a covert operation by the CEO of the TiVo corporation to become Ruler of the Free World. Without advertising, no-one will know the lies the candidates want them to believe, with the result that no-one's vote can be controlled. If they cannot be stopped, it is expected that the US Army will attempt to overthrow the TiVo insurgents with an air and ground invasion.
 The rise of Internet broadcasting
Television has traditionally been broadcast in such a way that advertisements could be appropriate to the market in which the signals are to be viewed. Advertising works best when targeted towards a demographic more likely to have an interest in the product or message being disseminated, meaning that adverts were chosen appropriately for their appeal to the viewing audience. Local affiliates of national broadcasters will often insert adverts more appropriate to their target market. This of course is dependent on what the advertiser in question has paid for.
The problem of broadcasting indiscriminately to the world as a whole is that advertisers will see little use in their adverts being shown in markets in which they do no business. This is compounded by the issue that adverts that work in one market may be completely inappropriate when shown in another. An example of this would be the sponsoring of national sports teams. The United Kingdom subsidiary or affiliate of a Danish brewing company may wish to show adverts supporting the local teams in all regions in which they operate, and it's hardly a good selling point in Denmark to be the beer that supports the England football team. As by way of another example, Coca Cola may feature music and songs in their western adverts, but would be strongly advised to take a different approach when broadcasting in countries in which the majority of the population consider the ending of the movie Footloose to be a rather unhappy one.
The physical location of viewers can generally be determined based on IP addresses, allowing them to feed adverts appropriate to that region. This approach can be hampered by use of proxy servers and other privacy-related measures that mask the true location of the viewer.
 Blocking of web-based adverts
Adverts delivered via the Internet can generally be blocked by some web browsers, often through the installation of extensions, or by the disabling of the technology required for viewing the adverts. Flash-based adverts in particular are prone to the latter due to some operating systems, such as Apple's iOS, lacking support for flash, and also because flash adverts are among the most intrusive and irritating adverts ever conceived by the fevered brains of marketing demons.
 Backlash against tracking
Advertisers can track the effectiveness of their campaigns through the use of HTTP cookies. This allows them to more easily target the visitor with adverts they expect to be of interest to them. Advertisements will be default be targeted at the demographics expected to be visiting the website in question. For example, if RationalWiki used adverts served by Google's Adsense scheme, they would likely be related to the article currently being viewed. For example, articles critical of religion would likely feature adverts both for and against religion. Tracking allows advertisers to serve adverts specific to the viewer in question - not just the site or article they happen to be visiting at that time.
One approach is based simply on tracking the sites that the user in question visits. This only works on sites that have adverts being hosted by the same advertising company:
- John visits RationalWiki, and is served adverts for fascinating science related books and gadgets
- John, after a night of heavy drinking, discovers the fascinating world of online goat dating agencies
- John the next day invites Sally around to read RationalWiki's fascinating article RationalWiki Atheism FAQ for the Newly Deconverted. His friend is surprised to note that the adverts being display to John are curiously different to the ones that ones that Sally sees when she visits RationalWiki on her own computer
- John admits to being aroused by goats and is welcomed back in to polite society
Another approach is to record adverts that the users has clicked on:
- John clicks on on a few adverts for goat dating agencies.
- John's wife wonders why, when she logs on to the computer as John, it is now showing her adverts for ungodly love when she visits the website of her local newspaper.
- John possibly wonders why his wife is logging on as him instead of as her.
Both of these approaches can be employed in tandem. Realistically many sites will impose restrictions on the nature of adverts that can be served to their users, so the goat example is not that likely when visiting mainstream websites. In practice though many things that appear relatively inoffensive could cause issues in the right circumstances. Adverts for dating websites or herpes treatments are fairly innocuous, but may raise questions in the context of a married couple.
This tracking can be mitigated by preventing cookies from being store willy-nilly. Most browsers allow control over the acceptance of cookies, ranging from refusing all cookies, to a more fine-grained approach that either requires manual acceptance of cookies, or only allows cookies to be set by sites being visited. As most advertising cookies are set by the sites serving the adverts, the latter is fairly effective. An approach used in Unix-based systems is to add known advertising sites to a file found at the path /etc/hosts. The technique redirects requests to the sites in question to another IP address - often the loopback address of 127.0.0.1. The latter approach is a form of blacklisting, which is only as effective as the blacklist is comprehensive.
 See also
- ↑ A guide to local television advertising
- ↑ InformationWeek: Consumer Use Of Ad-Blocking Technology Doubles
- ↑ RationalWiki is not funded by adverts. It relies primarily on donations from its users.
- ↑ Unlikely
- ↑ DuckDuckGo.com's overview of how advertisers can track their potential customers
- ↑ Wikipedia has an article describing how the hosts file is used. See Hosts (file).