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A Note on Advertisements

  I understand the purpose of advertisements, I really do. Therefore, we had a relationship that historically bordered on animosity’s side of indifference. Occasionally, yes, I would end up with a surprisingly antagonistic opinion of the product being sold, but that’s usually when I was directly being insulted by shitheads in white rooms.

  But being a denizen of the internet and consumer of the culture that is popular, I’ve noticed some troubling things that advertisers are doing. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is something that I think we need to discuss. Particularly with the people who thought these things were a good idea. Namely because the step after this is gathering up our torches and pitchforks for a siege against advertisers unholy citadels, and that always leads to getting flaming oil in my eyes.

Videos that Start at Full Volume Automatically

  Probably the most noticeable of the new ways of telling you about Whizzo Butter is having an advertisement on a page, usually in some small window, start belting out its message immediately. You could almost see the thought process on this one:

  “People are ignoring our advertisements!” wails one person while snorting cocaine off a table.

  “But how will they know they are fat and stupid without our product?” another cries as the peyote kicks in and the lizard god Tssnathis demands the murder of prostitutes.

  The first lifts their head from the mountain of white powder. “How about tiny videos in side windows that automatically play at full volume, contrary to our atrophied sense of decency?”

  Irises dilated to the point of being yawning black chasms, the other advertiser lifts a pen to the ceiling. “Tssnathis is pleased!” The shout is punctuated with the pen coming down, piercing through their splayed hand with only the dull “thwack” to accompany it.

  It gets a bit weird from there.

  Look, I know that most people who plan these things have only the most tangential relationship with their fellow human beings, but this can never have appeared to be a good idea. If most internet users are like me, I will open up a series of windows at a time to rack up a quarter hour or more of reading and viewing. And the second I hear, apropos of nothing, someone telling me the wonderful benefits of using Listerine is the second I file that product away in my “never buy” category.

  See, here’s the thing—I will probably want to still read or watch the material in question. So now begins the journey of finding which tab is playing the advertisement, finding where on the page it’s coming from, and turning off the sound. Google Chrome makes this easier by indicating which page is presently being the most annoying, but there’s still usually a fair degree of scrolling I have to go through to terminate the offending ad.

  And there’s also a good chance that I won’t actually be able to turn the sound off. That’s fun. Oh, and tied into this…

Pages that have Multiple Videos Back-to-Back

  So, say that you’ve managed the Herculean task of shutting one video the fuck up so you can go back to reminding yourself of the meaninglessness of life over on Facebook for another tortuous half minute. Ten seconds later, you’re called back to the same webpage to silence another advertisement—though instead of Whizzo Butter, it’s for Flaccid Jack’s Sex Barn.

As pictured.
As pictured.

  See, the problem with this isn’t necessary the item being sold (Flaccid Jack’s is actually a pretty okay coffee shop), it’s the fact that since it’s a different advertiser/video, the command to “shut the fuck up” no longer applies. Ergo, we now have to deal with this new aural interloper. It’s irritating as hell when this happens when you’re on another page entirely, but say you’re watching something full screen—yes, the adverts will still play at full volume.

  “But there are already advertisements in longer videos, right?” you ask. “How is this any different than television?”

  Primarily, it’s different because these side videos give no fucks about shutting up during the video. So they will start whenever they feel like it, making you either pause or exit the video entirely so you can track down and beat the people responsible.

  Metaphorically. Please don’t do this.

  Coupled with the advertisements actually in the videos themselves, and you will find that people’s interest in your product is less “oh, that sounds nice” and more “I wonder if I can legally kill them now.” Although I’m no expert, I’ve been told that’s fairly ineffective at moving product in the way you want it to be moved.

The Rollover Experience

  One of the more aggravating “features” of modern internet advertising is the rollover ad. You know the ones—where a video or picture of a pretty person eating High Fructose Corn Balls compels your attention enough to drift your mouse pointer over it and Bam!, a much bigger chunk of screen real estate is dedicated to those tasty wads of cancer.

  I guess I understand the compulsion behind it. In this fast-paced, instant gratification world, fewer clicks are better. Therefore, if you make it so your advertisement unfolds on a page, rather than goes to a separate site on a click, that’s a better advert, right?

  Well, kind of.

  See, there are a few problems with this. First, a lot of people (well, me specifically) don’t keep a constant vigil on where our mouse pointer is at all time, leading to accidentally triggering the ad more often than not. Second, the advertisements are usually placed in a position so that there’s a good chance that you’ll rollover them on your way to do almost anything on the top of the page. And third, there’s no uniform size for the rollover screen, so we’re either dealing with a small popup or a massive, screen chewing behemoth—and in some cases, it will actually eat the entire page we’re viewing, trapping us in some kind of horrible outer plane of horror with no visible means of egress.

  All of these taken together will often lead to a hapless person (okay, me) frequently exiting out of the expanded ad, only to accidentally trigger it again. This is especially annoying when the “exit this hellish experience” button is actually over the ad that caused it in the first place, offering only an endless cycle of expanded advertising, despair, and loathing. Just like an Adam Sandler movie, only with slightly more regard to the audience.

  Slightly.

Choosing Between Ads

  For a brief period of time, someone thought it was a good idea to have the audience choose their own poison. That is to say, you would be offered two potential commercials, and you got to pick which one you hated the least. It was very reminiscent of the scene in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey where Satan bids the protagonists to choose their eternity of torment.

Uuuugh...
Oh, man! It's like all my exceedingly lackluster Christmasses have come at once!

  I do have to wonder—what exactly were these idiots hoping to get out of this? Did they think that, given the choice, we would feel more likely to be interested in the commercial? Like, that we grew emotionally attached to it and would watch it with tears in our eyes? And when you give your audience a binary, it’s not exactly like you’re collecting reams worth of potential data to sell to the NSA. Oh, a choice between a sports team I don’t give a rat’s ass about or a “bold” fan of an extremely fake sport? My cup runneth over!

  Let me level with you, advertisers—you are not endearing yourselves to us. Making us find your videos to silence the volume, interrupting our reading and viewing in the most obtrusive ways possible, and having to practically fistfight our way out of your commercials does not make anyone happy. And when you’re associating these negative experiences with a product that someone is paying you obscene amounts of money to shove down our throats, you are literally failing at your fucking job. I’m sure you’re all worried about this big scary internet and trying to get people to pay attention long enough to sell something, but brand awareness isn’t going anywhere. Stick to what you know, because that’s infinitely less likely to make consumers want to burn you at the stake.

  Long story short, stop trying to reinvent the wheel because you are fucking terrible at it.

Purchase Project Northwoods at Amazon.com.   Purchase Washed Hands at Amazon.com   Purchase Improbables at Amazon.com.

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