Is advertising evil?

Would our society be better off if advertising were wiped off the face of the Earth, and people only promoted products as ends in themselves, rather than as a means to make money? If so, does BzzAgent, a “word of mouth” marketing firm, help solve this problem by only rewarding people for giving people their honest opinions about a product and then reporting on people’s responses? Or does it allow advertising to spread into personal life, essentially creating “conversational spam” by encouraging people to mention your products when they talk to their friends?

This is actually an important question, because BzzAgent offered to do a pro bono marketing campaign for Creative Commons, and Creative Commons accepted (although it is now having second thoughts). There is now significant backlash, including my own comment. However, the founder of BzzAgent, Dave Balter, also made an interesting comment which I didn’t read before I made my comment, and which makes some good clarifications.

Ultimately, I’m unsure of what to say. I might be upset about a volunteer organization like having to compete with BzzAgent for money from Creative Commons, but BzzAgent is doing this for free, it’s not competing with my organization for resources. So it’s really just a question of whether BzzAgent will hurt the movement or help it, and I’m not sure that I can tell.

If Creative Commons were to reject BzzAgent, would it have to reject all advertising? How is BzzAgent more manipulative than any other kind of advertising?

Yes Dev, this is a test of whether you’re reading my blog or not 😉 (locke61dv works at BzzAgent.)

What is this?

I’d like your help with figuring out what the objects in these pictures are, because I am puzzled by them.

inflated ball thing in train station
What is this inflated ball thing? Taken in 30th Street Station in Philly, while waiting for the R3 back to Swarthmore.
weird circles on the ground
What are these circles on the ground? This was taken out of the window of my plane from San Francisco to Newark as we flew over the midwest.
annoying bathroom moths
What is this insect? Taken in Mertz 2nd South’s men’s room.

If you can explain to me what any these things are, you win a hug! Or a Gmail account, or any token prize you might find useful.