Bill Burr’s Brainwashing: The Incessant Podcast Advertising is Starting to Work

If you’re everyone, you listen to podcasts. If you’re Caucasian, you HAVE a podcast. I’ve got a lot of favorites, Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast is one of my favorite things to listen to, Chapo Trap House is lovely, Streefight Radio tells me listening to Orchid is “good praxis”, Doug Stanhope makes me want to drink and also quit drinking, and the Crooked Media guys keep me informed about the inner workings of American government while simultaneously reminding me why I’m not a centrist Democrat politically.

What most podcasts have in common is the same smallish pool of advertisers. While I understand how toxic advertising is to the human mind, its constant barrage warping and controlling your desires, I understand it as a necessary evil in the present day and am generally not opposed to it if it’s done in good taste. MeUndies, Trunk Club, Blue Apron, TommyJohns, Sheri’s Berries,… You know them all. The live reads might be easy to skip, but some people, particularly comedians, understand that if the read can be content, rather than a sterile recital of copy, I as the listener am more likely to listen to it. For instance, Bill Burr’s MeUndies jingles, almost never the same thing twice, are absolutely hysterical:

If that doesn’t have you puttering around the house going “owwwwwhhhhh boo doop boop boop” you’re dead inside. I’ve gotten used to them, and I don’t skip through even if the hosts aren’t “enhancing” the read. I want to support the shows. After years of pirating radio shows with the commercials and reads edited out, I’ve let the podcasts just sell me their shit or ask me for money on Patreon. I’ll buy the book, follow on Twitter, whatever.

This has had kind of a weird effect on my brain, as I’ve gone through a lot of trouble to avoid advertising for most of my adult life. I start wondering about my underwear and how “that department store three-pack” would be “a thing of the past” if I just got a free trial from MeUndies. Are my sheets really that threadbare? Why do I sleep on such a lumpy, shitty mattress when there are custom options that I could return after 100 days if I’m not satisfied? How the fuck am I still dressed like I’m in eighth grade when I could buy affordable custom suits that fit better than anything I’d find off the rack or get clothes catered to my own style profile (eighth grade punk rock that’s inoffensive to mother)? I’ve survived off of microwaved cheese quesadillas and white-bread ham sandwiches for almost 28 years, but why shouldn’t I try mango salsa tapas from a meal prep service? Holy shit: do I need a watch? Am I shaving all wrong?

You get the idea. Curiously, I’m registering a lot of this as an actual problem. Most of my purchases, my admittedly low consumer profile, is ephemeral, and I don’t need to be advertised to. I’m a creature of vice and habit. You could challenge my brand loyalty, I suppose, but who is trying to sell me on a different cigarette anymore? A lot of why advertising doesn’t work on me is because I’ve never made a lot of money, but some of the bargains pique my interest, by design of course. Bill Burr tells me his balls itch and smell less with MeUndies. What man doesn’t want that? They’ll send a free pair? What kind of quality-of-life increase, and fuck, I need something, would I see from having marginally less sweaty balls?

It makes me a little uncomfortable. I’ve been so anti-consumerism, who-gives-a-shit-what-I-buy-it-just-needs-to-do-the-job guy for so long, so quick to throw things in a dumpster during an eviction or a break-up, that it’s bizarre to think about things I might want to buy because they’d be better than the things I already have or use regularly. Something that I’ve largely enjoyed for free, an entire media medium, has passively ear-wormed its way inside of my head to tell me my lifestyle isn’t good enough (it probably isn’t) and that people I trust to a certain degree are telling me it gets better. I’ve yet to make a purchase based off of a Podcast advertisement, but I’m coming close on some of that Sonos gear. You can synchronize it through the whole house!

Maybe I’m just self-conscious about my balls?




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