Like it or not – ads are a part of our daily lives. Mostly they’re annoying and bland – probably matching both their products and their audience – and very rarely they are charming or clever. Which isn’t an excuse for their existence but at least makes them bearable or even enjoyable. Yet – the ubiquity of ads has changed my life. In particular I have learned to just not see pictures in an attempt to avoid ads. Most days when reading the newspaper I will not know who or what was on the photos – even the remarkable ones – that go with the reports.
I also find it hard to judge just how big the whole advertising industry is. I always suspect that they are huge. And a current campaign by Toyota nicely underlines that: They are introducing a new car. And to do that they simply decided not to book some billboards but to book pretty much every single billboard we have in the country. I guess that’s quite a feat in terms of organisation. But walking through town and seeing posters of the same campaign pretty much everywhere you look is kind of scary. A bit like Big Brother who is always present, no matter what you do.
What’s ultimately disappointing about this campaign, though, is that it’s rather stale. Sure, they made a massive effort and they seem to have made variations of their ads for pretty much every size and aspect ratio of billboard there is. They even have special posters for places where there are a number of billboards in a row. All well done. But lacklustre, boring, dull. Sure, it’s Toyota. Probably one of the more boring products around. [Admittedly, I am quite indifferent vis-à-vis cars, so I mostly tell them apart by colour…] But I really wonder who is going to be inspired by those ads to actually get a boring silver car.
Another commercial that irritated my was by Microsoft. It wasn’t the fact of a Microsoft commercial per se that put me off but the fact that I saw it in cinema. Where is cinema going? Isn’t it supposed to be the ‘classy’ place with the ‘big screen’ that gives you a high quality show? Where you’ll see the most expensive and elaborate commercials for stuff like ice cream, coke and cigarettes – i.e. everything that’s bad for you? It used to be. But now they crammed a Microsoft ad in between. And I kid you not – it took place on a Windows Vista screen with that 3D-Exposé rip-off effect they now have. Just doing some switching between windows (which in my opinion made pretty clear that this ‘technology’ isn’t doing a good job in actually giving you more control or convenience at the machine. And then they switched ‘to’ some of those windows showing commercials for other products in them – with the XBox being the most classy one already. Yikes!
Finally, while being at the topic of advertisements and marketing, just consider the following: My flatmate recently came back from the hairdresser and they had given him a ‘sample pack’ when he left. Unpacking it he discovered that in this way he gained some fancy new mascara stick. Oh, jolly! Not too useful when you’re not a girl. Then we started to wonder how much those devices actually are. Expensive, it turned out. At least a tenner. And he got one for ‘free’. Which probably means that the whole thing costs something like 50 cents to develop and produce and all the rest of the money goes into advertisements and silly marketing like this.
Which in turn means that people actually buying those things will be royally ripped off. And taking all this to its logical extremes and being good capitalists in the pursuit of profits, it should mean that you probably shouldn’t buy things twice but rather try to just go from one marketing offer to the next. Especially in marketing rich areas quality seems to be irrelevant anyway, so you’ll likely end up getting approximately the same crap whatever you do. So you can just hop between the different products.
Ultimately this seems absurd: The marketers say it’s hard to gain new customers and thus put a great deal of effort and money into that. But once you actually are a customer they start screwing you – by using all the good money you give them to get even more customers rather than using that money to give you a better deal. That’s just crap. It means that the longer you stick with some company, i.e. the more that company should love you, the worse a deal they give you.
Of course there can be all sorts of benefits for repeat-customers. Such as loyalty programmes and all sorts of schemes in which you collect ‘points’ that can be redeemed at some stage. But how many of those programmes are actually worth the hassle? How many of them work for repeat customers who aren’t people spending huge amounts of money with the same company? How many of them don’t seem to be designed to invade your privacy or humiliate you in other way? How many of them are there for your benefit?
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