Monday, December 10, 2007

I Hate Ads!

A rant with an optimistic end.

I've ranted about ads before, especially that sniveling, puss-filled little piece of blue shit that advertises free smileys and yells "HELLOOOOO?" at max volume whenever you happen to put your mouse somewhere nearby. Like, say, if you want to get from your tab bar to the page you want to look at.

Of course, technology of any kind is always perverted into scummy stains on the face of culture and humanity by the fourth worst kind of person on the planet: advertisers.

I'm a big fan of this nightmarish piece of crap. I especially like that the putrid blot parading as a human being isn't even sorry he's abusing it. "Well, I'm sorry you feel that advertising our shitty show INSIDE YOUR HEAD is bad. You'll get used to it." It's bad enough that the show itself is completely devoid of any value.

I especially like that the article, written to be carefully neutral, is a narrow strip between ads, with ads above and below as well.

I believe that there are a steadily growing number of people who react as I do. Let's call them "early adopters". We are so offended by intrusive ads that we actively blacklist any company that uses them. If I didn't have a spam filter to automatically kill ads from eBay and Amazon, I wouldn't use them. They spam your ass. Invasive advertising of a sort I can stand simply because I bounce the motherfuckers.

At the moment, we of the impermeable personal space are not a significant force: most of these invasive ads target hyperactive ten-year-olds and adults whose technical savvy can be charitably described as limited. The fact that the ads piss us off doesn't matter, because we weren't planning on downloading their smiley-encrusted malware or watching their vapid piece of crap anyway.

But I can't help but think about how geeks were when I was a kid. Nothing was marketed to geeks except personal computers. Everything else was marketed to the general public, because by and large the general public was where all the money was. Not only were geeks few in number, but individual geeks didn't have more than double the purchasing power of the general public.

Well, nowadays a lot more people are free to grow up geeky. I would say that the geek percentage of the population outnumbers (and overlaps) any given minority. Nowadays geekhood drives product design all across the board. Executives and sports fans buy Blackberries and iPhones. Everyone's a geek these days. Everyone's a technophile, to some extent.

You have to be, because if you can't use the geek tech, you can't compete.

I can't help but think that we're going to have the same switch in public opinion about ads. I think that in a generation, a significant chunk of the population is going to be advertised to using only rigorous opt-in and word of mouth. I think that, in many ways, the world will become a smaller, more personal place thanks to the power of technology.

I think this will happen because the ads are and will become more of a measurable negative influence. In order to live well, you will have to cut ads from your life.

You will have to, because if you can't block the ads, you won't be able to compete.

I'm not a doomsayer who believes that tomorrow will be blanketed in ads. I don't believe that the next generation of ad will be effectively memetic mind control. I think humanity will reject ads and, perhaps, centralized news.

I think our children will grow up on the cusp. Our children will see the final assault by the old, great "memes" of advertising, propaganda, and religion. And our children will win, because it is impossible for an idea to win if it is hated deeply enough.

Their children will grow up in a land where all the billboards are blank.

I think the world will feel much smaller. I don't think we'll have a unified global society. I don't think anyone really wants that. I think we'll have one better: global friendship.

Of course, by "we" I mean "them", unless you biologists stop lazing about and get crackin' on that youth serum. Chop chop.

Anyway, that's your dose of future for the day. :D


PS: Apparently, when I'm angry enough, I fall back to about four preclauses. Of course, I can't help but think in that way I especially like.


Adrian Lopez said...

I thought you were kidding when you wrote about advertising "inside your head", but after reading the article I can see you're pretty much spot on. What a disgusting sack of shit, the guy who says:

"If you really want to annoy a lot of people, a loudspeaker is the best way to do it," he said. "If you set up a loudspeaker on the top of a building, everybody's going to hear that noise. But if you're only directing that sound to a specific viewer, you're never going to hear a neighbor complaint from street vendors or pedestrians. The whole idea is to spare other people."

How very considerate of the advertisers to spare the people around you while they happily assault you and anybody else they happen not to "spare".

They're trying to avoid "neighbor complaints"? Yes. I'm sure fewer neighbors would complain about snipers picking people off at random than would complain about terrorists blowing people up.

I wonder if this kind of advertising might be construed as a form of assault?

Craig Perko said...

I personally feel it is harassment, not assault. I feel that every ad someone sends should be legally treated as if the advertiser was right there, saying whatever his ad is saying.

You would never let someone stand on the street and accost individual passerby, whispering loudly in their ear while hovering at their shoulder. Similarly, we generally don't put up with people raving at crowds from a street corner, either. "Disturbing the public peace" or some such reasoning.

The same rule is, for mysterious reasons, not applied to automata.

Craig Perko said...


Damn, I knew there was a word I meant to use. Replace one of my adjectives with "rancid".

David said...

Yeah the guy uses the flashlight versus the lightbulb metaphor... but I'm pretty sure I'd punch him in the face if he shone the flashlight RIGHT IN MY FRICKIN EYE FROM POINT BLANK. (Alyx Vance is more hospitable than I)

Mory said...

I think you're overly optimistic about the future. Advertisers are crafty. Even if this method doesn't work, they'll find some other intrusive method that does. I'm betting on very cheap (to buy) clothes with wireless internet connections to display a different ad every day on your chest.

Craig Perko said...

Perhaps, but what would make me buy them - or associate with people who would?

I think that's a pessimistic look...

Adrian Lopez said...

"I personally feel it is harassment, not assault."

Yes. I think you're right.

Matthew Rundle said...

"Perhaps, but what would make me buy them - or associate with people who would?"

Assume that the shirts (or whatever) also do (some awesome future stuff) that, for most people, outweighs the obnoxious features. And that there's no other way to get that (awesome futurestuff).

I guess that doesn't mean you, or people you associate with, would have to buy them. But I don't know if there's evidence that the proportion of the population that would buy that stuff is declining.

A tangent, but Steam does things that I am straight up not comfortable with - but I still have it installed, because I don't want to not play Valve games. I would consider myself the sort of early-adopter you describe, but it seems I'll put up with crap like Steam dishes out when I really want something and there's not a better way to get it.

Craig Perko said...

The only reason I use Steam is for my job. I actually blacklisted Steam a long time ago and do not use it for any other purpose. It is not only irritating, but it regularly crashes my computers.

My belief as to unique products is that there will be no products which are both powerful and unique. I don't believe there are any today, I don't believe there will be any tomorrow. There are unique products which give you a tiny edge - but not really a significant one.

I believe that the reason we drool over iJunk and Windows NextScrew is because of ads. I believe that this "elitist consumerism" will radically change in the fairly near future: I think that the market will fragment explosively as we gain improved ability to create sophisticated stuff locally and even personally.

In ten years, you'll be able to build a cellphone out of off-the-shelf or even home-printed hardware. This decentralization will, I think, sabotage the kind of elitist consumerism you are worried about.

Jason O said...

Sorry, but I think you're being way too optimistic about eliminating advertising.

Right now, companies are addicted to it. Advertising can actually be effective when done right, and I actually encourage businesses to do it at some level.

At the same time, advertising that runs the gauntlet from merely annoying to downright harrassing is confusing to me. You want me to associate your product with negative emotions? I'm genuinely confused by this.

Good or bad, advertising dollars keeps some of our favorite shows and websites going. Unless we can find a better model I don't see that going away anytime soon either.

I also think that even as people become more tech savvy, advertising will keep pace. We're talking about an entire profession dedicated to making sure your aware of a product.

Craig Perko said...

We'll know in time, I suppose, but we've seen a dozen central industries in America die off when it didn't seem possible. Not gone, but definitely not important any more.

Trains, steel, mills, agriculture, newspapers, music labels... these are things that nobody expected to die off. But they did/are. I mean, how could agriculture die off? Everyone eats!

Just because something is central doesn't mean it's invulnerable. If anything, it's more vulnerable.

David said...

ACtually I'm pretty sure that we'll have to get to the point where they're actually assaulting us before it goes away. We'll look back with fondness on the olden days when all they did was verbally abuse us. Just like now we look back to when advertising was just "hey we have a product"

Craig Perko said...

Well, if you take the long view, they've been really polite for quite a while, now. After all, it used to be that street vendors would yell and wave things at you - it's still the case in many other countries.

This is why I think Americans won't put up with more aggressive ads: we have a history of banning anything we find to be even a vague nuisance, including lite-brights and 1-up blocks.

Brian said...

That's pretty disgusting.

One of my best friends is a recovering paranoid schizophrenic --I can't help but think about the effect such ads might have on her.
Having to ask "Is my medication not working, or is someone trying to sell me something again?" on a regular basis seems damn scary.