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…
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.