The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades

One of the absolute worst songs ever recorded, in my opinion, is Timbuk 3′s “The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades.” While I could make a lengthy post out of my utter hatred of this song, I will spare you for now BUT since I seem to have a pathological need to cross reference music in these observations about SEO that must, by this point, seriously annoy many readers, I thought this truly abysmal attempt at music would be a good one to use. I mean really, it’s not good for anything else…certainly not for listening, or anything remotely like that.

Well, I sure as hell don’t think that the future of paid ads is full of sunshine and light. I may indeed have to wear shades, but it’s to hide my cryin’ eyes. Honestly, the future of paid ads scares the bejaysus out of me and there are three handy reasons for it:

1. Money’s involved and people are really, really stupid when money is involved, especially when there is a LOT of money involved. Stupidity is bad enough on its own, but coupled with the attempt to make more money, it can make you feel like the one vaguely attractive girl at a meeting of the county chess club.
2. Many traditional marketing methods no longer work well, so advertisers are forced to look for alternatives. These alternatives tend to be freakishly invasive and creepy. Just check your Gmail ads sometime after you’ve been emailing your favorite transvestite friend. Ick.
3. Machines will be forced to make judgment calls about what they think you want to see (like with the Gmail ads), and that’s going to be enough to make a freight train take a dirt road. God forbid I ever refer to a cat by the p word.

The Money Plus Stupidity Equation
This usually equals disaster, if I may have a mathletic moment. A Paris Hilton/Jessica Simpson/Lindsey Lohan reference would be too easy here so I’ll spare you. The point here is that when lots of money is being sought or held by people who aren’t overly bright (see above), the world could easily end. I’m sure Timbuk 3 had money, and look at the stupid song that they unleashed upon the world. I wish I had more of a point to make here but I really don’t.

The Personal (AGHHHHH) Touch

Few companies are as high on the shudder factor as Microsoft. They are apparently really interested in audience intelligence, which is defined as “figuring out what kind of person the Web user is based on their surfing and searching habits — and display[ing] ads including video.” Based on my surfing and searching habits, I am one bad seed, let me tell you. I like Cabaret Voltaire videos, knee high leather boots, strawberries and cream, cursing, and the Fibonacci numbers. If I’m being shown ads based on that, god help me. I’ll be expecting some perverted math fetishist to be knocking on my door at any minute. Actually, that doesn’t sound so bad…

Process This!
Think about how you slow down when there’s an accident, and you try to get a good look. This certainly does not mean that you are sexually turned on by car crashes like someone in a J.G. Ballard novel does it? Well, if it does, keep it to yourself please, you pervert. Speaking of J.G. Ballard and his infamous novel, aptly titled Crash, if I’m searching for it and buy it, does anyone know who I’ve purchased it for, or does a machine simply “assume” that it’s for me? Will I then be shown ads that tell me where to buy footage of car crashes? Or how to connect with others who so obviously enjoy car crashes? There’s no way of telling the machine that hey, I’m not the perv, JON is the perv, is there?

It’s a grim future to consider, isn’t it? It’s the same feeling that you get when one of your favorite novels is being made into a movie starring Ben Affleck. First you’re incredulous. You quickly become agitated and try to convince yourself that actually, it’s not Ben, it’s most likely Tom Wilkinson and someone’s gotten really confused. Then, once you accept reality, you cry yourself to sleep after a few vodka tonics. It’s not pretty.

What worries me the most is the invasive bit of this…normally I prattle on (and on) about machines not being able to properly interpret meaning from simple words, and while that’s frightening enough, it’s the invasion that freaks me out the most. I’ve been listening to someone on the radio for 45 seconds and not realized that he’s plugging a product. It’s all become so NATURAL, like those pesky product placements in films that gently suggest to you that, since Bruce Willis likes 7-Up, you should go out and get some. I can look away from billboards, and I can completely ignore ads in magazines or on the sides of the SERPs, but it’s really becoming difficult to completely avoid all forms of advertising. And, as you may have been thinking, marketing is kind of the industry that I’m in right? Most likely that means that I’ll become a creepy (or creepier) and invasive presence in someone’s life at some point in the near future. Go ahead and get some restraining order templates ready because you’ll be needing them.

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9 Responses to “The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades”

  1. Jane says:

    You’ve totally alluded to my next SEO Chicks post. Whee!

    I laughed and laughed the other night whilst watching Resident Evil: Extinction (which was magnificent, by the way. Mila Jovovich + zombies = win). All these incredible feats of technology were being carried out by Sony Vaios. Nothing else in the giant underground building had any brand name whatsoever. The marketing meeting went like this:

    “Our logo is all high-tech and stuff. RE’s underground building is all high-tech and stuff. If we pony up for some sweet product placement, bazillions of movie watchers will think our crappy laptops are all high-tech and stuff.”

    I refuse the believe that the two nasty computers I’ve owned that have displayed that name would be capable of taking over the zombie-infested world. They’d be Macs or Lenovos and everyone knows it.

  2. Julie Joyce says:

    They would absolutely be Macs!!! Nothing from Sony could take over the world. At least they weren’t trying to pretend that Dell could do it though…they had SOME sense apparently.

  3. Jane Copland says:

    Guess how long it took for my last Dell laptop to die?

    Answer: Fifty days. 5-0.
    “How many days do you have left on the warranty?” the Dell rep says.
    “Three-hundred and fifteen,” I says.
    “Thirty-five?” she says.
    “No, three-hundred and fifteen,” I says. I says it until she bloody believes it. Gawd.

  4. Julie Joyce says:

    50??? Holy hell. I am actually so concerned about my Dell dying that I’ve already purchased a Mac and it’s waiting in the wings. Well, it’s waiting in my living room actually.

  5. Jane Copland says:

    It was an impressive effort for the computer to die that quickly. And an epic death it was, too: it didn’t even BSOD on me. It would just make this pained squealing noise when I’d try to turn it on and refuse to even bring up the Dell screen.

    Then the “overnight” shipping of the replacement took seven days. By overnight, they meant that it’d get to Seattle overnight from when they put it on the plane. But they’d wait a week to do that.

  6. You mention the personalization of ads by Google, but have you ever examined the products Amazon recommends based on your purchase history? I’d love to have a psychologist analyze my suggested products. They would probably determine I’m more nuts than I think I am.

    Anyway, besides the stuff I’ve bought for myself, there are presents for the wife, the step kids, the parents, grandma, friends and so on. As you might imagine, purchases for such a diverse group of people creates a list of suggestions all over the map… and is therefore utterly useless. Sure, Amazon offers you a way to mark suggestions as “yes, this is fine” or “no, this is not”, but who the hell is going to go to that much trouble?

  7. Julie Joyce says:

    Gene! Ah yes, the good old Amazon “based on your history you may be interested in…” Jay and I share the same Amazon login, so Amazon apparently thinks that there’s one person living in our household who enjoys video games, boots, children’s leg warmers, Patrick McGrath novels, and nutritional supplements.

  8. Jane Copland says:

    Suggestions based upon personalisation can fail even when you’ve only purchased or searched for yourself. I adore Last.fm (and can’t work out why it took me so long to sign up there), but I sometimes find its recommendations a bit weird.

    Last week, I told it that I liked Amy Winehouse and to play me similar artists. It played me Fergie. To make it worse (possible!), it played me “Fergalicious.” Now, I have to think that Amy Winehouse would come out of a crack-induced coma to object to that. I sure would have.

  9. Jane, your comment reminds me of the iTunes store and its “Listeners also bought” suggestions. I’ll occasionally look at those and go WTF as in why would someone listening to this artist ever want to listen to that artist?

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