A Forum for Opinions on News, Politics, and Life
August 25th, 2011
By Tom Carter
As some may have noted, a couple of months ago I relocated from Europe to Texas. I lived overseas for many years, most recently the past decade or so in Serbia. Even though I spent a couple of months each year in the U.S. for various reasons, I really wasn’t immersed in American life. Now I am.
One aspect of American life that I didn’t pay much attention to before is advertising. It’s different from many years ago, and the difference is mostly bad. There seems to be more of it, and while production values and creativity have improved to some extent, it’s so pervasive that it dulls the mind and weakens the spirit.
The internet, of course, has expanded the reach and access of advertisers. That isn’t new to me because I’ve seen it for years as it developed. I spent a lot of time on the internet in Europe just as I do here in the U.S., basically on the same websites.
I’ve watched the slow explosion of internet advertising from the time it was just a few little boxes and lines on a web page to today’s highly sophisticated and often very intrusive ads that clamor for the reader’s attention. And any way you cut it, America has led the way in developing internet advertising techniques, and they’re copied on websites developed elsewhere in the world.
The two worst kinds of internet ads are the the ones that jump onto the page right on top of the text you’re trying to read and the full-page ads that open instead of the site you’re seeking, promising that you’ll be taken to the site in just a few moments (unless you click the little “x” hidden carefully somewhere on the page). As a matter of principle, I do not read any of the text on these kinds of ads. I click them off if I can find the “x,” and if I can’t, I literally look away until they disappear. I know it doesn’t amount to anything, but that’s my little protest.
However, I don’t really mind non-intrusive ads on websites that aren’t principally commercial, especially blogs written by normal people. I even click them now and then, even though I’m not interested, just to support the folks in pajamas laboring over their blogs at the kitchen table.
Television advertising in America is more unusual in my experience. I didn’t pay much attention to it when I was based in Europe and just visiting the colonies. Yes, there’s advertising on TV in Europe, and much of it follows the American model — it’s intrusive, irritating, and dumb. But it’s one thing to follow a model, and it’s another thing to re-create the original. At least some of the ads on European TV are entertaining, in a way not intended.
TV advertising in America is slicker and more interesting than it used to be, as I remember. I often use the commercial slots to do other things, as I suspect most people do. But I do watch some of them. I particularly like the GEICO Gecko.
I also like some ads running now, such as the goose dancing with the pigeons to advertise health insurance and the little girl with priceless expressions trying to understand one of those hateful voice recognition answering services that so many business use these days. But, I’m happy to report, I have not the vaguest recollection of what specific products are being promoted by the last two ads or even the companies selling them. In my contrarian view, that’s as it should be.
Finally, there’s junk mail. Grrrrrr. I’ve seen a bit of it in Europe, but nothing at all like the blizzard of junk that clogs my mail box here in the land of the free. And I can’t just grab it and throw it away, oh no. I have to go through it carefully to make sure that no piece of real mail got caught up in all those pages and pages of junk. But again, as a matter principle, I read absolutely nothing that comes as junk mail.
Thankfully, I don’t get a whole lot of real mail anymore. I do everything possible by e-mail and on the internet — bills, payments, etc. I know the U.S. Postal Service is struggling financially, and the cheap junk mail they inflict on us is probably keeping them afloat. As far as I’m concerned, the USPS should disappear, to be seen only in museum displays alongside the dinosaur skeletons. We don’t need them; the few things that still have to be delivered physically can be handled by UPS, FedEx, etc. They’re more efficient and reliable anyway, and they don’t deliver junk mail.
OK, that’s my rant for the day. Now I’ll see if I can find a re-run of Mad Men — great show, except for the commercials!
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