for 22 March 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hit & Run 03.15.01
A week ago my friend Stephen was totally bummed out because he caught gonnorhea from some AOL chatroom trick. So I said, "You need cheering up, let's go see 'Hannibal,'" because that's the kind of friend I am. The theater wasn't very full so I didn't feel too bad talking to Steven through the trailers, witty asides flying faster than Irene Cara's detachable hair extensions. Comes the trailer for "What's the Worst that Could Happen?," which, incidentally was filmed in our fair-to-middling city of BigDig, Massachusetts. After a couple of creamy shots of Martin Lawrence's face, I turned to Mark and said, "Did they have some Hollywood glamour photographer setting up Martin Lawrence's shots or did they use that special wrinkle removing camera they use for Morgan Fairchild and David Letterman?" Everybody else in the trailer looked, you know, human, but Martin Lawrence looked like a living John Singer Sargeant painting. I just accidentally revealed that Stephen's real name is Mark, didn't I? Oh well, I'm not his std clinician, he can't sue me.
We're sorry that "Stephen" had to suffer, but it's worth it to hear support for our theory that there is a terrible Martin-related sham being perpetrated. It's going to be hard convincing people that there's a digitally remastered Martin haunting our screens, but if enough of us make enough noise, well, it'll be almost as good as the "no rain" chant at Woodstock '69.
Although some works and some doesn't, like anything else, the point of direct mail is that you can measure it perfectly. The traditional rap on advertising is that "50% of your advertising is wasted; I just don't know which 50%." For direct mail, you can measure effectiveness down to the tenth of a percentage point. (That, incidentally, is why direct mail is not as evil as spam. You know the price of every piece you send out---it can vary between about 50 cents to several dollars---so you work hard ensuring that there is at least an OK chance that the people getting it are interested. You work very hard, using smart people, to clean your lists.]
The promise of Internet advertising was that it would be just like direct mail, only better. You'd customize your advertising so that only those who really really cared about your product would be advertised, and thus the cost/sale of advertising would plummet. Unfortunately, nobody ever figured out how to do this, and the price per incorrect ad stayed negligible, which is how we got where we are today.
So, if you get a frybread t-shirt, send one along in my size. I like fry bread. It's especially good early in the morning in Santa Fe, walking to Indian Mark-Up (oops, Indian Market), with money in your jeans and a song in your heart. Although not quite as good as sleeping late and having breakfast at Pasqual's. Let's face it---native American cuisine is yet another oxymoron.
The reason direct mail continues to grow is because, no matter how low the response rate is across the industry, the process works. And as you note, when done intelligently, it works really well. For the same reason, banner ads will be back eventually. Whether they'll be back in time to head off the grisly end of Suck is another story.
There were actually some intelligent points made about clickthrough on Plastic's Salon-payment discussion the most important being that banner ads haven't blossomed because they've eschewed branding in favor of currying clickthrough. We could expand on that to say that if you think of banners the same way you think of an eighth-page ad in a magazine, you're actually getting a value-add from that half-percentage-point of readers who actually click through.
The click-through rate on banner ads is 0.5 per cent? Thank God. Now I don't feel quite as guilty about using WebWasher to block them.
But when everything that you read on the web doesn't exist anymore you'll feel worse than guilty. You'll feel bored.
I was just reading your comments on Martin Lawrence ["it's painfully clear that the Martin visage has been gone over by Pixar, ILM, Digital Domain, or possibly all three."].
Along the same line...I was wondering if you guys might like to comment on the horrifying TV commercials that have Martha Stewart setting tables and such while surrounded by various family members. The fact that her holiday commercials showed her so smooth and line-free that her 14 yr old niece looked older than her (skin-wise, mind you), made me lose my appetite a few times. It's like something out of a night mare. And I just KNOW you guys could do justice to the subject.
Airbrushing away any signs of reality: It's a good thing.
But we always sort of figured Martha Stewart was a digital creation to begin with...
I've also been inundated by the charitable direct mail deluge; it was after I donated some money to Habitat for Humanity (probably feeling guilt after lusting in my heart after a woman) that they started sending me monthly, then nearly bi-weekly exhortations and pleas for money. Between them and the rest of the charitable world, I shall never have to order return address labels again.
Though I have to admit, I was puzzled by one thing...
...why not have the last sentence link to wherever one WOULD buy a banner ad on Suck? The clickthrough rate for your in-essay links has got to be higher than that for a banner ad...
Actually clickthrough on Suck's ads was always said to be a bit higher than the industry average, but you're probably right.
Funny you should allude to President Carter. Suck just got hit up by The Carter Center's agricultural program, which aims to stamp out hunger in Africa. At the end of the pitch, the one-term Prez points out that he happens to be a farmer "as were all the Carters going back at least 350 years." Unfortunately, June Carter Cash doesn't seem to be in on this offer.
If you want a real nightmare charity, look no further than United Farm Workers, to which Suck has contributed several times, and which employs the most relentless cold-callers in America. Once they spot you as a soft touch you'll never get rid of them. We'll get behind this state holiday for Cesar Chavez when UFW gives us a break, and not a minute sooner.
Geez, Polly. Your article has reinforced my belief that as humans we can never be satisfied with what we have or who we are, so no matter what we do and how hard we try we are all pretty much fucked anyway. And damned if that realization didn't cheer me right up. Way I see it discontentment stems from the idea that you could always be doing something better with your life than what you are doing now. If that something doesn't really make you any happier then the best thing you can do is improve whatever lame ass thing you are doing now with the least amount of effort. When life gives you lemons add them to a shot of vodka and order a pizza. At least you'll sleep better.
Yours in positive nihilistic slackdom,
I just read (I know, weird, huh?) a collection of short stories by Matthew Klam titled "Sam The Cat." His characters are filled with seething hatred and undying love for each other, and no matter what or who they're doing they wish they were doing someone or something else. Needless to say, that's my kind of writing. The stories are simple and at first sort of loathsome, but after a while you get into it and begin to recognize people you hated in college.
Then again, maybe that's just me, since I went to Duke, which, unfortunately, is not comprised solely of attractive, well-mannered, highly skilled, hardworking basketball players. At Duke there's also a large population of slightly rotund, flushed-faced men in bowties and khakis and boxers from Burberry's, double-fisting champagne at some lawn party where the women are wearing pearls and espadrilles without the little apologetic/ironic smiles on their faces which one might think should accompany such foul attire. Some of these sundressed women have pleasant enough things to say, but they don't really talk much in the company of the men, mostly because the men fancy themselves fabulously clever individuals with a great deal of wisdom to impart on any number of subjects, and any questions they do fire in your direction merely serve as an on-ramp to another of their fatuous, bloated tirades.
But Duke has become far geekier and less offensive since I graduated. Who's your daddy, Battier?
The other thing that I like about Klam's stories is the way everyone in a relationship feels alternately exhilarated and in love, and utterly trapped and tortured in ways that call to mind early childhood traumas. Then again, maybe that's just me, since my childhood was one part Pipi Longstockings (picnics! little doggies!), two parts Kramer vs. Kramer, but without all the therapists and hand-holding.
Transparent yet sleeping better,
I need some advice, and you're the only person whose opinion I really trust. Mostly because you dispense advice in an easy to read, cartoon format.
Last week, I received a letter in the mail telling me that I was eligible for a free introductory issue of Out magazine. I can understand why people I meet might be a little confused on this issue I'm thin, single and spend too much on hair-cuts but how did Out get this idea about me? Should I be concerned? I mean, they are pretty much the experts on this subject. It's right there in the title. I don't want to be gay, Polly gay men have to spend way to much time at the gym.
Well, Mark, I'm hearing that you don't want to be gay. I'm hearing your fear. There are few words to help you through this trying time, but two of those words are "tough shit." You're gay, Mark. There's not much you can do about it. When Out magazine arrives at your doorstep unprompted, you are Gay with a capital G. The demographic studies never lie, Mark. They know you better than you know yourself.
So stop swimming upstream. Go with the flow. You already spend too much on haircuts, why not hire a personal trainer? And a maid you'll never get laid with your apartment looking like that. Gay men hate filth.
In time you will come to understand these things and more! I have to admit, though, I'm slightly jealous. Gay men have much more fun than even blonde women.
Best of luck,
hello, ms. esther.
so, i was engaged in an email conversation with this fellow that i've slept with several times, but who is "not looking for a relationship right now." why am i still talking to him? because he's just so dreamy & if i hang on long enough he will discover how truly amazing i am. also, so my presence keeps the other chicks away -- i haven't put in all this time & put forth this much effort just so some other woman can snatch him away, the ravenous sluts. he's mine!
anyway, during this correspondence i called a friend of mine as "mr. flinchy." the object of my obsession -- who, in an interesting twist, my gal pals refer to exclusively as "mr. flinchy" -- was unfamiliar with this character, so i sent him links to a few pertinent installments of filler. i'm so excited, as he will no doubt now recognize the foolishness of his selfish, selfish ways & fall in love with me, which is obviously best for everybody. i just can't wait for his reply!
thanks, polly esther! i'll invite you to the wedding.
OK, I'll wait with baited breath for that lovely embossed invite to arrive.
Not to cast a shadow of doubt across your obviously bulletproof strategy, but the strange paradox of these situations is that the longer you hold onto him, the less likely it is that he'll discover how truly amazing you are. If you're clinging to him like a leech, he can't see you.
I should know. I once called this guy to ask him out once a week for several months. Each time he would politely reply, but he'd claim he was busy. And he'd never tell me to call him back. But he was so dreamy, there was no way Perfect Me wouldn't land him eventually! I had this whole excruciating fitness schedule fueled solely by my obsession with him. I wrote at least five songs about him.
Here's the thing: He couldn't see me, and more importantly, I couldn't see him. I didn't know him from Adam. Why would he trust or respect a weirdo like me who could decide I was madly in love after one date?
Sometimes you just have to give up. Rejection is meaningless. You don't know Mr. Flinchy well enough to know what he wants. And who cares, if it's not you? I mean, this guy I was obsessed with went out with Uma Thurman in high school. Have you seen Dangerous Liaisons? That's how she looked then. Hey, I'm not chopped liver, but I'm no Uma Thurman. So, what're you gonna do? Sit around and lament the fact that you don't look like Uma?
Well, maybe. But I'll TELL you what YOU'RE gonna do. You're gonna dump Mr. Flinchy and move on. The right plane can't land if the wrong plane is blocking the runway.
And it sounds like your wrong plane is leaking fuel. Get rid of it before it blows up the whole fucking airport.