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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

January 06, 2006

Why IntelliTXT is Unintelligent

I didn't think it was necessary to say any more than we already said about the horror of in-copy advertising, but a glance through the Technorati entries on the subject gave the lie to that.

Because it seems that for every one person who reels back in horror at the thought of this type of product placement, it seemed there were two or three others who thought it was a "good idea" and "worth looking into."

Gadzooks! As Simon said in the comments on my original post, the world gets more horrific every day. It's bad enough that most so-called internet news sites are hit-generating enterprises that regurgitate press releases, but for any site that purports to offer news and commentary, in-copy ads are poison.

You read a lot about "new media" replacing so-called "old media", but how can that possibly happen, when the new media is infected with intrusive, aggressive, and dishonest advertising? Dishonest? How can that article about the state of the microchip industry be anything other than dishonest when the word "Intel" in the story is double-underlined, and carries a link to an ad for Intel processors or Intel-based PCs? How can the person writing the article be expected to have any integrity or independence, when his/her job is paid for by in-copy ads?

We all know that anything we write on-line is likely to attract search engine attention; most of the time, that's fine, and it's nice to welcome new readers and discover new blogs. But you always squirm a little bit, when the searcher finds your site by entering keywords like "women f u c k i n g hoses". And it makes me squirm a little bit more to think of people sculpting their copy to include keywords for paid advertisements - this word is sponsored by Acme! Sponsored words, sponsored word-counts, advertising seeping out of the walls: it's just too much, and people should be resisting it, not thinking it's "worth looking into."

As people learn to time-shift television, and ignore banner advertisements, advertisers get more and more desperate to grab our eyeballs and ears and make use of them. There's even talk of whispered ads coming at you as you walk through shopping centres. It doesn't occur to them that they might be wrong about the way advertising works in the first place. For an example of something that works, consider the Whitbread Literary prize, which is so associated with that brewery that even a new sponsor might have to keep including the word "Whitbread" so that people know what they're talking about. In other words, for the outlay of a few thousand pounds a year, sponsoring a literary prize that has little or nothing to do with their main business (getting people lashed up in pubs so they can vomit on pavements in towns up and down the land), Whitbread have got themselves millions upon millions of pounds worth of largely positive press coverage.

In other words, not by sponsoring the word "beer" on web pages, as you might expect Duff beer to do.

People make decisions and then rationalise them after the fact. They mostly don't know why they make choices, but they make them. Hard sell does work, in its context (e.g. when Tesco are telling you that they've got Levi's for 49p or whatever). The joy of a Tesco-style ad is that it probably works just as well on fast-forward. Now, that's intelligent advertising - subtle and creative, even if it is the hard sell. But when people are avoiding ads, they're avoiding ads. And shoving an ad in their faces when they've been deliberately avoiding them is antagonistic and aggressive.

I know a bit about this because it's related to what I do for a living. We've spent ages agonising over what to put on magazine advertisements, only to realise later that nothing we put on the page sold as a result of the ad, whereas quite a lot of other stuff might. Or we've been offered ads in publications we know won't work for us (because we know what we know). So desperate are these magazines to have our name on their pages, they give us the space for free (true!). But we measure the incoming phone calls to the specific number we put on the page, and we know what we know: nothing. Sometimes, you advertise just to let people know you still exist. It's just your reassuring name and a phone number. Sometimes you might have a killer deal (which is when you carefully target your hard sell at your chosen market). Google's contextual ads can work when people are already searching for something they plan to buy. I personally don't think they work when they're just randomly generated by keywords on a page.

And consider this. Sometimes you want to avoid a certain type of customer. If I was, for example, in the IT business, I wouldn't want to sell iPods, because the people who buy iPods fit a certain demographic that I know would be unprofitable for me in the long term. I read something on the dangerous ideas page I mentioned the other day that struck a chord with me. People will drive across town to save £10 on a £50 item, but not for a £15,000 car. Something like that. Anyway, an iPod customer will spend all day trying to save about what you'd earn in an hour on the minimum wage. I don't want to deal with that type of sale. And, because I imagine that the kind of person who would click on an in-copy advert is a total nincompoop, I wouldn't want him/her as a customer.


  • Right on!

    It's absolutely terrifying that people are adapting psychologically to accept the ramrod down the gullet, and especially so that they are beginning to like it.

    It's like all the gadgetry that we get forcefed. I mean it's shitty, plastic, and rubbish. The sort of stuff that they used to sell in those "everything for a pound" shops that popped up temporarily in vacant shop spaces in shopping centres.

    But people love it all. They think it's great and cool and modern.

    And those of us, who are old and discerning enough to understand that it is just clever business men duping people in order to fleece the young, are turning out now to be wrong.

    Because what people want actually becomes cool and useful.

    When you live in a pretend reality, everything else that is pretend is as real as you are.

    By Blogger SimonHolyHoses, at 2:45 am  

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