Will Invasive Advertisements in Science Fiction Become Fact?

Category: On Writing Posted: July 8th, 2017

Watching cult TV show Futurama back in the early 2000s, it lampooned the excessive use of advertisements online. Fast forward to 2017 and the issue is worse than ever – I’ve sat around in meetings listening to how companies will bombard consumers with PPC, YouTube, or other social media ads, but there’s a definite sense of overkill happening.

Ad blockers are becoming increasingly popular – I even have one to ensure my YouTube experience isn’t interrupted. I’d gladly pay an annual YouTube subscription fee to escape the adverts.

Interruption!

This is interruption marketing, of course, and although not as irritating as cold calling, online users aren’t at all happy with the relentless adverts. Particularly irritating are the YouTube adverts which don’t allow you to skip them – 30 seconds of annoyance. Do companies think this does there brand image any good? Or am I the only person who makes a mental note they forced their marketing on me?

Interestingly, another Futurama episode suggested adverts will invade peoples’ dreams, with the protagonist Philip J. Fry suggesting this is morally reprehensible. He goes on to list adverts are absolutely everywhere else in modern life, just not in dreams.

In Minority Report, an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel, society is depicted as offering personalised advertisements from eye scanners, which are able to identify people as they move about.

Retargeting

This is similar to PPC ads which use cookies to identify users, or email marketing which, from a database, can send an email with a person’s name at the top. It’s “personalised” but in a dubious sense – the only way to really personalise marketing would be send out an email one by one, but no one has time for this.

Instead, receiving a hollow “Hi Alex!” email from, for instance, Nintendo doesn’t make me for a second think someone’s written this thing out for me – in fact, I’d prefer a generic introduction rather than some marketing façade which has been dreamt up in a board room somewhere.

The Future of Online Ads

Social media has allowed brands to be more personal with customers, it must be noted, but I still believe the current approach of generic PPC ads, annoying YouTube interruptions, pop-up advertisements (especially ones which make it unclear how to close them), social media ads, and much more are badly misjudged and do far more harm than good.

The solution would be a collective agreement in business to stop overdoing it, which, of course, will never happen. The result is, as ad blockers grow in popularity, more and more customers will be deciding to ignore what they have to say.

From my experience, a solution here is to be imaginative – embrace your brand’s individuality, get a sense of humour, and put on a charm offensive. Think like the Dollar Shave Club advert which has been seen 24 million times – it features ridiculousness, profanity, and playfully mocks its existence. It’s been a sensation, is hilarious, and whoever wrote the script deserves a medal.

The question is whether or not other CEOs can break out of their conservative roots and connect with the way people really are. 3,000 watt light bulbs shining onto models pretending to be a family unit doesn’t cut it these days.

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