"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 17 December 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Programming Ad Hawk


[Ad Promo]

You may have read recently that

net ad revenues have gone up

this year, or that megacorporate

sites like Pathfinder are

expecting even better prospects

in the near future. Ads are

becoming more common and more

intrusive. It's typical of

webvertising's present state,

though, that at this point there

are more people bemoaning the

intrusion of even more

advertising into a once-anarchic

noncommercial medium than there

are clicking through. They

should, of course, be thankful

for what they get, because,

let's be honest, no one's going

to pay for content no matter how

good it is. Could Seinfeld

survive on subscription fees?


[Oh Yes]

Webvertising is based on a

fundamental - perhaps optimistic -

assumption about fools, their

money, and what kind of

misinformation crowbar will get

between the two. Ads are

supposed to sell desire, not

deodorant, and no matter how big

a company's interactive budget

is, no one really wants to read

more about anything, much less




When have you ever seen an ad on

television and thought, Gosh, I

wish it went on longer? Or to

use an example closer in style

to today's web, what print ad

has made you want to read more?

Perhaps those "You Will" ads

might have stirred more interest

if they had been for actual

products, rather than the

future, which you get for free -

at least for now.


There's a reason ads don't work

this way in real life, and that

reason is the Big Lie of

advertising: that ads have an

effect on what people buy. Until

now, print, television, and

radio have all lived in a

prelapsarian state. Sure we've

had the Nielsens, ad surveys,

and listener or readership

profiles, but no ad department

has ever been able to concretely

prove the link between the

demographic it reaches and the

actual purchases those people

make. They can prove purchasing

power, perhaps, but not actual

sales. But now through a

devilish combination of the

Internet, the magic cookie, and

online transactions, we can

actually track someone who may

click on an ad, go to a web

site, and actually buy

something. And here the danger

lies: We'll finally know if

advertising has an effect - and

once we see it doesn't, who's

going to waste money on it?


[CK Woman

Once their traditional role is

debunked, what role can ads play

in this brave new medium?

Perhaps the same role they've

been playing more and more in

the old media world:

entertainment, or, as we like to

call it around here, content.

What are the Jimi Hendrix Excite

spot and the AltaVista blimp but

pleasures unto themselves? Well,

at least for some people.



In a fit of clarity, MTV decided

to sell a videotape of its

promotional bumpers, while

sister station Nick at Nite's

TVland fills its broadcast maw

with RetromercialsTM. A novel

approach to programming a new

station, one that WB would have

been wise to adopt - given your

choice of egregious stereotypes

in outlandish costumes, which

would you rather watch: Homeboys

from Outer Space or Charles

Nelson Reilly selling Bic

Bananas? Right - throw in the

Charmin ads and FedEx's Fast

Talker, and you've got something

to run against Ellen, though it

might be more appropriate for

the History Channel. Aside from

having more rigorous standards

of quality than most network

executives, each television ad

is a complete and completely

preserved cultural event. Why

should school children of the

future settle for scratchy bits

and pieces of nth-generation Ed

Sullivan and soundbites from

FDR's Fireside Chats, when an

archive of ads awaits? In 30

years, it's not the news

segments of Channel One that'll

be of interest.


Think of it: a future that is all

ad, no product. Judging by a few

notable examples, we're already

halfway there.

courtesy of Heavy Meta