This entry, or something like it, will go on my Wiki when my Wiki is ready.I've had this idea for awhile, but am not sure if I've expressed it on my BLOG yet, and feel ready to express it. It's part of my exploration of a transition to a less consumerist society.
Advertisements should be banned. They are a result of the freedom-as-capitalism idea, fitting especially with the idea of companies-as-people, but they are a perversion of capitalism, and a solution can be found that both mends the wounds they do to that system and may be compatible and efficient for other systems.
Advertisements damage capitalism in a number of ways, many of them a result of issues relating to human behavior that capitalist economics call externalities. Specifically, people don't have the energy to do full research on products to find the best deal, nor do they have the impartiality to do good comparisons of products. To wit, they rely on the few advertisements they see to choose the product they will buy. Unfortunately, a simple fix to that problem would create another problem that would make life much worse for everyone in society -- perfect competition, or close approximations thereof, is damaging to workers. Inefficiencies in the way people buy products create inefficiencies (or, more figuratively, fat) off of which people live, and as product prices are pushed too close to production costs, people are left with little to live on. A person may, for example, read an advertisement from a company offering an electronic device, and not know about other such devices, so would go with whatever company had the most pervasive advertising. Alternatively, said person may buy a product from a company purely because of branding. In practice, large companies squeeze out less efficient smaller businesses when an economy of scale can be found, and typically go further to erect barriers to entry to protect their position. Without something approaching monolithic power among the workers (e.g. Unions), attempts to maintain a decent living wage for these workers is difficult at best, and even with marketing, overseas labour and oddities of costs of living and exchange rates is killing labour markets in wealthy countries and creating a similar competitive race towards despotism in one place, poverty in another. Solutions to the problem must therefore involve preventing harmful competition on one hand, and creating better competition that serves the people. A focus on making products less wasteful and pushing people to have fewer things they don't really need or desire is desired, along with achieving a good work/quality of life balance that is neither so lax that underproduction leads to a poor quality of life nor so demanding that one must work an absurd amount of work that inhibits happiness.
A partial solution is to ban advertisements, replacing the role that advertisements play with national and regional databases of products, including feature descriptions written by government workers in an impartial style. All business records would be open, and prices would conform entirely to published prices in this guide (including mass-discounts). This would allow for better competition between businesses and prevent hidden, special, or exclusive deals that businesses make between themselves. A cost-of-living expense would be factored into either a tax or a minimum cost for products, in order to prevent overcompetition leading to poverty on behalf of workers. Other countries that do not have such protections would be subject to heavy tariffs or not be traded with, to prevent international competition towards anarchocapitalist poverty/despotism. The matter of setting/managing the tax/minimum cost is a difficult issue, especially as products differ, but would need to be resolved in some fashion.
Other solutions to the problems, such as forcing companies to have a limited scope in what they do, banning takeovers/changing corporate structures, and enforcing open protocols/preventing exclusive tie-ins may, to some extent, be effective in fixing other subproblems, but the basic goal of preventing businesses from preying on busy customers must be achieved to make effective and positive change to capitalist systems. In the end, we should not be going out to buy Nike shoes, we should be looking in an index to find some fairly generic shoes that meet our needs.
I actually probably will work on this a bit further -- it needs some fleshing out.