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The True Cost of Digitial Advertising

Ads have more costs to them than you might realize. From financial to psychological implications, what you see is just the tip of the iceberg of the true cost of digital advertising. Let’s take a deep dive.

Ads Cost You Money

Business Insider reported that advertisements use between 18% to 79% of your monthly mobile data. So if you have a $30 mobile data plan, every month you are losing anywhere between $5.40 to $23.70 in ads alone.

Not only do ads impact your data usage, but they also impact your phone's lifespan. Images and videos need to be downloaded, rendered, and displayed to you, which diminishes both the life of your cell phone and your wallet. Think about it this way: if you bought a new phone for around $1,000 and used it for 2 years, that means you are paying about $42/month. If your cell phone usage is used at the same rate as data usage, your phone burns through $7.50 to $33 every month in order to process those digital advertisements.

From a data plan and phone lifecycle combined, you are throwing away somewhere along the lines of $13 to $57 per month...simply from watching advertisements. Multiply that over your entire life, you are inadvertently spending between $14,040 to $61,560 on just ads.

Image of jar with coins spilling out

Ads Cost You Time

According to Statista, we are on desktop and mobile devices for about 3.2 hours every day. Some even estimate that our usage at twice that number - around 7 hours a day (Source: Datareportal).

How much of that time on our devices is expended by watching web ads? While Soda and Quora estimate 26% of the time is wasted watching ads including tv ads, Miratech used sophisticated eye-tracking technologies to put that figure closer to 6.58%.

Even with a conservative estimate of 6.58%, that means you are wasting between 12.5 minutes to 27.5 minutes watching ads...every day! If you binge 10 hours of content every day, it will take between 7.3 days to 16.4 days to watch all the ads back-to-back. In other words, you could see all five seasons of Breaking Bad with that wasted time.

Over your lifetime, 2 to 4 years is dedicated to watching ads.

Stop watch

Ads Have a Massive Carbon Footprint

In addition to gobbling up money and time, ads create a massive carbon footprint on the earth. According to Nature, 200 TWh of electricity is used by computers globally. Even with the low-end estimate of 18%  of data being used to process advertisements (as referenced from Business Insider above), that means ads use 18 TWh of electricity! what? Well, at an average world electricity price of $0.137 per kWH, that means digital ads cost the world $2.5 Billion dollars every year (Source: Global Petrol Prices)!

To generate 18TWh electricity using natural gas we will have carbon footprint of 16.4 billion pounds of CO2. In other words, we will need to plant 750 million trees to offset the carbon footprint from ads.

Looking from another aspect, average homes need 10,715 kWh per year. With the amount of energy that ads eat up, we could use those kilowatts for better purposes, like powering 1.7 million homes...or the entire country of Iceland.

City electrical power grid at night

Ads Are Creepy

We've all had this feeling that ads are following us. Think about the last time that you searched for a product...and then how many times that product was marketed to you on every subsequent webpage you visited for weeks on end.

While initially, this may not seem harmful, imagine you are dealing with a traumatic event or struggling with something personal.  Vox interviewed a woman named Lindsey Robertson, whose mother had passed away. She searched for a gravestone for her mom only to be relentlessly targeted about tombstones for her to purchase...even though she already bought one. Each day she saw an ad about headstones, she had to keep reliving her grief.

And almost every woman aged 25-35 is flooded with ads related to fertility, periods, or babies...even if they need or want those products. The Vox article highlights that advertisements can cause harm - like sending messages about baby items when you are infertile or revealing your sexuality to your loved ones even...if you aren’t ready to reveal it yet.

Digital ads use cookies to track you. Even if these cookies are blocked, ads can still target you using Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques that can identify you from your device type, browser of choice, screen resolution, IP address, and past browsing history.

subway platform with multiple billboard advertisements

Final Note

You are paying for way or another...whether you want to or not. Sphere wants to help you get back your time, your money, and your data. (And maybe even help save a few trees in the meantime)!