Category Archives: advertising

Creepy Crawlers (Advertising)

I grew up in a family of 10 people, living in a house so small that it only had one bathroom (we were a boisterous and happy family). I loved to read. I learned to shut out almost every kind of chaos and this served me well in college with 500 women in one dorm all playing rock and roll music. It also made it possible to avoid hearing the summons to do dishes which I quickly learned was an unacceptable use of chaos-blocking.

But, these days the internet is becoming a pest when it comes to advertising. First we had just static box or banner ads. Then we had pop ups which were so objectionable that they had a relatively short life. Then we had the ads that distracted us with repetitive motion – things like stomachs shrinking and bloating or Oprah crying. Repetitive motion ads made shutting out extraneous “noise” more difficult even for a reader trained on the large family battlefield. Sometime I caught myself looking because only looking freed me to not look again.

Soon sites started to copy Facebook by posting ads keyed to product searches I had made on the internet or things I had ordered on the internet. Again, I looked, but only on bad days when my brain was unfocused already. After that I had to try to read articles with video running next to them. I turned off my sound but these videos flickered around the edges of my consciousness and I found them even more distracting than the other assaults on my senses that marketers had tried so far.

Now internet marketers have come up with the next new thing and this one may prove totally beyond my well-rehearsed abilities of concentration. The newest thing is advertising videos that follow your eyes along the page as you read and obliterate the text you were focused on. Even if you ignore the content of the ad the strand of your attention has been broken. You must now scroll to find where the text picks up. And when you get there that same annoying ad scoots into view and says “I’m back”. By then I am deciding that I will have to give up on one of my go-to sources (Daily Beast).

We all realize online news sites have employees and it costs money to publish even without paper, but this ‘moving video’ ad is invasive and, clearly, proves that the computer (or a computer operator) can follow our eyes movements as we read. I never like it when I think someone is watching my every move even if it is just an algorithm trained to follow my eye movements. Have I been judged a slow reader? Is someone keeping track of the kinds of material I like to read? Well we already guessed that this was at least possible, however uninteresting our reading habits might be. These ‘creepy crawlers’ prove that marketers have gone at least one advertising ploy too far. It is a bit better behind the pay wall, although even really reputable sources use that header that expands to run a quick video just to catch you before you really start to read. I’m sure we all hope that advertisers will ditch the creepy crawlers, please.

By Nancy Brisson

Election Dread

negative ads2

We, the electorate, have no taste for negative ads. We want to hear about policy. We want to hear about the ideology that will inform each candidate’s behavior in office once elected. We dread this election and, in fact, every election these days.

Demonizing candidates does seem to work. We tend to elect whichever party excels the most at demonizing their opponents in any given race. It sort of turns election races into bouts of MMA – although with words (not as appealing as actual physical wrestling, I’m guessing).

negative ads

Billions will be spent to splash dirt on to candidates. Some of the most bizarrely effective ads these days are ones that blame a candidate for merely belonging to the opposite party and voting in agreement with that party’s policies. Sometimes recent ads accuse candidates of not hewing purely enough to the party line. (You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, eh?)  When did accusing a candidate of voting for what s/he felt was right become as effective in erasing that candidate as proving that s/he is guilty of corruption or lying.

We could try to mount a campaign in which people simply tell us what they believe and what they will do when various important policies come up for a vote. We could stop writing ads that merely repeat someone’s voting record, which we could easily find online or in the Congressional Record. We could make a policy that ads that are inaccurate will be immediately taken off the air.

How many ads can be purchased with 1 billion dollars? If we are talking about purchasing ads in local media markets we are talking about turn-off-the-TV-soon territory. Even national networks will be flooded with negative ads. Time to take that Paris trip you always talked about. Perhaps a South Sea Island would be even more cut off from the media blitz.

However, it would be difficult not to watch this car wreck. We would be so tempted to rubberneck just to see who said what nutty thing, who has put him/herself beyond the pale and whether Hillary, who we would love to have as our first female President, finds the right notes to hit and proves to be the strong, honest, sensible, and wise candidate that we want her to be. (If she always keeps that new granddaughter in mind as she guides our nation we should all be just fine.)

Will the appeal of the wipe-outs outweigh the tedium? Once an ad is produced it must, because of costs, be used over and over again. Perhaps there is even a known brainwashing threshold that is met by hearing an ad a certain number of times. Cynical people (or people who wish to expose the techniques of cynical people) care about this stuff.

These negative ads are a perfect way to lose voter interest and to make sure the actual electorate is small. People are interviewed all the time during any given election season who say they won’t vote because they hate the meanness of the ads and they don’t think one party is any different or any better than any other party. This could just be laziness, but it could be sensory overload. After a while the brain just tunes out and decides to be done with the whole business. Best voter suppression apparatus ever, but do we really want to take our electorate from blasé to nauseated. The ads will not change but I would love to see a political party with the guts to try a new way.

By Nancy Brisson

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Silly Advertising Nonsense or Semiotics?

Now that M&M’s have faces and attitude, are we cannibals if we eat them? Recently M&M’s found out that we intend to eat them. Was it easier to eat them when they were unaware of our intentions?

Now that geckoes and pigs are spokes-animals for an insurance company is it illegal to run over the former and eat the latter? Will it be illegal to eat bacon? I only ask because what is life without the hope of an occasional slice of crispy bacon.

Now that toe fungus is a tribe of tiny people are we murderers if we medicate?

Why is a woman “coming on” to a pig in the Geico commercial?

Why is a woman “coming on” to a gecko in a Geico commercial?

Is cross-species flirting the newest advertising gimmick and will it sell products or start a trend towards bestiality?

How can we treat a cold when we know we will be evicting a whole family of mucus, even if they are squatters and lovable low lifes?

Should we feel as happy as we do when the horrible snotty “cold” monster gets hit by that truck?

Why must everything have a face? Instead of having humans sell products are advertisers trying to get products to sell themselves?

Does our insensitivity to the plight of the M&M and other advertising “characters” spill over into insentivity to each other in our daily lives?

Can we blame some of the violence in the world on rampant and doomed anthropomorphism in advertising?

I am now watching a talking cow talking “street” to a family of middle class Americans on an ad for California milk. Apparently California cows are hipper than New York cows even though in order to get milk from California it must travel thousands of miles and New York’s dairy country can be reached in an hour. If we drink the milk from these California cows will it turn us into cultural icons? At least if we drink the milk from either the California cow or the New York cow, the cow, I assume, will not suffer.

If an electrical outlet is really a little face are we shocking it every time we plug in?
(I just learned the word semiotics. I hope I am using it correctly)


It’s Alive!

Advertisers must have found that the most effective way to sell anything is to make it take human form. How can we continue to eat M&M’s now that they have figured out that they are not invited guests but are on the menu? How can we force them to be snack food when they defy us and tell us to “get in the bowl”? Does this appeal to some ancient cannibalistic instinct?

There are so many clever ways to anthropomorphize products or even household objects. I was astounded one day (all right, I was entertained one day) to notice that a three prong wall outlet could not only resemble a face, but a face with attitude. Of course, in this case, I don’t remember what the commercial was for. I don’t think it was a product commercial; I think it was an energy commercial. Maybe it was a product; perhaps it was a Glade commercial. I need to see it again.

I suppose this is all in the fine old tradition of hot dogs marching on the drive-in movie screens of my childhood and is therefore nothing new. I will await with interest any new characters advertisers may invent for normally inanimate objects. What’s the data on this? Do we really buy more products when non-living things talk or give face?