Friday, January 18, 2008

Would you like some content with your ads?

Today we are going to discuss advertisements. The internet is a new medium which advertisers can use to reach a whole new audience. Privacy has become a concern of people on the internet. Many companies look to collect information on potential customers such that they can target them will better ads. However, how far are companies allowed to go in collecting information? Many people are worried about their personal information being distributed to advertisers or other companies. Recently, Facebook was admonished for a new feature called Beacon. This feature didn’t really affect me personally, but I have heard a lot about it. Beacon lets a person’s Facebook friends know about some of their online purchases. While many people are in an outrage about these things, it is the primary source of income for many of these internet companies. Most of the money that Google makes is from advertising system, AdSense. Many of the websites I frequent are actually supported by advertisements. While speaking with JD, he told me that he generally feels that he is not affected by advertisements on websites. I am unsure of the fact that advertisements have a negligible impact on one’s life when millions are spent and made on advertisements. While one might not click on these advertisements often, they definitely have an impact on the viewer.

The issue of targeting the consumer is very interesting, and it is amazing how some companies are able to do it with such accuracy. At other times, it seems rather random, yet remains effective in sending its message to the buyer of the image. In fact, a random ad is what brought this topic up for JD and I. We were watching the January 16th episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien which had a skit where Conan O’Brien rode a zip line through the audience (which seems to be a direct effect of the writers’ strike). Conan was looking for ridiculous ways to ride through the audience and as he donned his rocket shoes and helmet, he jokingly slapped a huge Oscar Mayer sticker on his chest. The skit was hilarious, but I imagine that a number of people only understood the act as a simple joke. However, there is amazing advertising (from Oscar Mayer's perspective) happening at the same time.

There is an interesting point in Rivers’ book, The Mass Media and Modern Society, where he claims that magazines, newspapers, etc. are not an end themselves, but rather a means to an end for the viewer to see advertisements (165). This is an interesting point, and especially today since the internet allows people to know when new products are being released. The counterpoint to this point is also offered that “it is doubtful that any writer… ever weighs the possible effect of his work on the advertiser’s ability to sell another Chevrolet or another case of Pepsi” (165). I would agree with this to an extent, but especially in the technology industry, the release of new products frequently draw attention. The most recent example is Apple and its national convention, MacWorld. The announcement of a new notebook and other products were big news on many top tech blogs (TechCrunch, Engadget, etc.). In this example, we see that there is little separation between news and advertisement. While it is news that Apple has a new product, it has also sparked a number of pre-orders for the yet to be released MacBook Air. Even in this blog, the past post on e-book readers felt like an advertisement for the Kindle rather than getting the point across. At the time of writing that, I did feel as though I talked a bit too much about the Kindle’s capabilities, but felt it was necessary to introduce the product which many are still unfamiliar with. But I would agree with the point that many magazines are mediums for advertisements using Glamour or Cosmopolitan as an example. I recently looked at one and could not distinguish the content from the advertisements at some points. For sections showing off the latest styles, there are descriptions of the clothes the model is wearing. I do not want to single out fashion magazines so I’ll bring up one more example. There is an ad in Car and Driver that takes up 6 full pages and appears in the every issue (at least for the past 3-4 issues). Although I never read any of the 6 pages, I know that the ad is for some type of floor mats for cars. I feel that I know this because I was forced to at least glance at the advertisement. Perhaps the next time I see a messy floor in my car I might consider buying floor mats, and that ad is one place I might look. So in creating this reaction, the ad achieves its goal showing that whether or not we fully take in the content of an ad, there is still a strong impact on the viewer. Also, with information more readily available to the public, there is a sense that some news actually turns out to be more like an advertisement, making the public aware of the latest, greatest gadget.


Kristin said...

Good points, Blam! As for my own opinion, I don't mind ads when they allow people to use a product for free or at a discounted price, but it is interesting to think about the impact of those ads...

Dr. Brand said...

What is the connection between ads and pop culture? Are the ubiquitous ads just a way to try to control the flimsy desires of our nation? Should we stop reading magazines or is there still valuable content to be read in such media?
By the way, there aren't any ads on your site, unless you count the "current readings" - do you happen to know how stays afloat? Are the links to other sites from every single blog enough, and does actually get any of that revenue?