I’m trying to stay away from blogs and Twitter this week. Facebook seems to be safe for some reason, but the rest of the intertubes are in an uproar over some bits and pieces about the proliferation of ads in certain services and it’s like poking bamboo under my fingernails… and it’s not a new thing. In fact, I think I’m the problem with this. It’s the same irritation I when Facebook or Twitter make a change to their home page and people run out of their houses screaming about the New Thing and that [the site] doesn’t respect their customers and “aaaaaaaah the world is on FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FI- what’s that new shiny thing? Oo. Wait, what fire?”
I find that if I wait about four days, the loud angst shrinks to a duller din; after two weeks, the entire episode is done. I just need to keep my shit together for the first few days of such events. I find that if I can hold it together for that long I won’t pull my own spine out and try to use it as a Q-Tip for my right ear.
In all honesty, I would turn into a “it’s not you – it’s me” thing but in this case, I think it’s just a general change in expectations that everyone needs to heed and it’s one that’s worth noting.
The thing is that when Facebook and Twitter make a change and there’s an outcry, it comes down to one small thing that I feel I have to point out, no matter how obvious but it should be: if you are using Facebook or Twitter, you are a user – you are not a customer. You are using their service sure, but you’re using it for free and either way, you are not the customer. In the case of Facebook and Twitter, the advertisers are the customer. This means that when there is a change to the page, the advertisers get to complain, feel cheated, or demand action if they don’t like it. They are spending money for space on these respective sites; you, as a user, are just consuming the service. You haven’t paid a dime to these sites – unless you’re playing games on Facebook for cash, I guess – but you still not the customer for these sites.
That kicks open the door to “what if I was paying for it, ya crazy fucker you?! Heh! How would you say then?” I would ask the question, “You are thinking ‘I paid for this! I should have no ads!’ aren’t you? Oh my, you are so off track on this.” At least, that would be my plan. The truth is that you have been getting ads, for things that you’ve paid for, for over 100 years at least. Honest.
I know, you don’t believe me. Keep in mind that baseball is over 100 years old already and they’ve had ads for as long as they’ve had Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, and Wrigley Field. It’s OK, I’ll explain.
Lets look at this example: you went out to buy a TV. You brought it home; it’s yours! You open the box and put it on the stand. You now peel off the Energy Star and [look at all these apps] stickers. Those are ads, just so you correctly identify them. Now you need to get content on it… you go with over the air broadcasts, but analog is dead so you now need to buy an antenna. Meh. oO! You go with cable, rent the box from them, and you pay for the subscription to the service. Either the “quasi free” way or the paid for subscription: you’re getting commercials. For a 30 minute show, you get 22 minutes of show and the other 8 is allocated for ads. That’s 25% of your half of an hour occupied with commercials. You decide to change the channel so you bring up a guide: if it’s Comcast, you’ve got an ad at the bottom of the screen. Ah well, you decide to subscribe to HBO, since that’s a premium service. Oh wait, they have ads too. They aren’t selling you products sure but they are telling you about what else is on the channel. They are actually telling you how good they are, so you keep subscribing. There’s got to be something else… what about Internet hosted content for TV? You go to Hulu. Wait, to show this on something other than a PC, you need to subscribe to Hulu Plus to get it on a TV… and there are the ads again. Or still, since they are in the web version as well. You paid for all of this and you’re still getting ads in all of it.
And that’s just one example. Let look at some other scenarios:
Go to a movie? Ads. For some random product – i.e. Coke – then for the theatre itself and then for future movie releases.
Go to a sporting event? Ads. All over the stadium/field/pitch. In fact, if a player stands still long enough, they will likely endorse a product for you. Especially NBA players and NASCAR cars: are moving billboards already.
Foodstore? Ads, in the form of sales and coupons.
Buy dinner at a fast food place? Ads, usually what’s on sale and mascot branding with Jack’s round head allover the restaurant in the form of pictures. Or did you think The King in BK isn’t building brand recognition?
Ride a subway? Ads. Complete with freelancing graffiti for causes that have no advertising budget.
Eat a Subway? Ads, telling you how good their $5 footlong is.
Bazooka bubble gum? Ads, right on the included comic.
YouTube? Ads and they stomped onto the playback of the video itself.
Own an iPhone? Ads, thanks to the beloved iAd APIs in the iOS SDK.
Walk down a street for free? Ads. Especially if it’s Times Square or some other city street.
Drive the car you own? Ads on the radio, along the road, and even in the air if it’s summer.
Go to buy gas? Ads all over the pump. If you’re luck you might even get a commercial on the embedded screen.
Books? Ads for other authors in the reviews and other books in the back section.
Newspapers? Magazines? Radio? Really? Do I have to say it when 40% of their content is non-content related?
You’re getting ads all the time and it’s usually from stuff you already own, rent, or subscribe to. The important thing to focus on isn’t that you’re getting ads – it’s a) how easy is it for me to get to my content in spite of the ad(s), and b) did the ad actually help me by telling me about something I didn’t know about? You know there have been tragic ad placement (previews on a VHS tape as an example) and there have been ads that have helped your quality of life. If there wasn’t a channel like QVC would never exist. In fact, if it didn’t work at some point, there wouldn’t be ads in the first place. For the HBO scenario above, I learned about new shows that they were putting out by not TiVo’ing over the ads at the end of a movie I got… it worked in the one instance because it wasn’t blocking me from anything and it told me about something that I’d want to know about if I knew about it. Basically, some ads systems are far better than others and that’s the important part of this.
Guess I’m just better at letting something roll down my shoulders than others… good thing too, given the amount of ads in our society:
Ads slide right off my shoulders and out of sight without a second thought.