7 Horrific Internet Ads We'll Soon See
Ads are a necessary evil on this, your Internet. All of the hot content that you so desperately crave costs money to produce (if I wasn't getting paid, I'd be pursuing my first love: guessing people's weight on the street), and ads are one of the few effective ways Internet companies have found for generating revenue.
Because you jackals don't like paying for anything.
But that doesn't mean ads are loved; the "evil" part of "necessary evil" is there for a reason. And every year they seem to evolve, get a little more scummy, a little more villainous. We've progressed from ads that promised you were the millionth user (you weren't), to ads that asked you to punch a monkey (the monkey was filled with poison), to ads that played sound (which is a war crime). Seeing as three data points make an ironclad, scientifically unimpeachable trend, this implies that the future is filled with unimaginable advertising horrors. To find out what despair awaits, I mounted a clock to the hood of my 1993 Astrovan, accelerated into the time beyond this one, and found the shocking truth.
Ads For "Insurance"
Ads have long been able to use tracking cookies to read our browsing habits. They also know roughly where we are in the world -- it's how the government can warn us about hot singles in our area. And it's not too hard to imagine ads gaining access to information we post on social media. Or has that happened yet? I'm not sure. Is it a bad sign when you can't tell if you're in a dystopia?
When asked, experts say: RELAX AND KEEP ENJOYING THE CONTENT. ALWAYS ENJOY THE CONTENT.
With this information available, it doesn't take much imagination to envision a world where ads make thinly veiled threats to the things you hold dear. Property, possessions, loved ones. A big picture of your dog, with vague threats to his life printed in tidy, professional Helvetica.
"It would be a shame if Mr. Muffles caught on fire because you couldn't find two measly dollars a day
for Dog Fire insurance."
Ads That Can Tell When You're Drunk
There are already simple games and apps that can guess how inebriated you are, and there wouldn't be much stopping a website from doing the same, tracking the sloppiness of your mouse movement, or misclick frequency, or number of times you type "you know what your problem is?" into a text field. And that's the kind of information that an advertiser would be very interested in.
"Our product is terrible and expensive. Who exactly is our target demographic?"
"Good thinking! Now let's do some fucking cocaine."
You'd be there, minding your own business, gulping down content and red wine, when suddenly you'd find yourself bombarded with ads for aspirational items you can't really afford, or rehab programs, or elaborate gifts that would finally convince Debra to take you back.
"ONE WEIRD TRICK THE GUY NAILING YOUR EX-WIFE DOESN'T WANT YOU TO KNOW."
Ads That Neg You
"Negging" is, of course, what it's called when horrible garbage men insult women with the goal of lowering their self-confidence and making them easier to seduce. It's horrible, but if there's one thing we've learned from music-playing ads, it's that "horrible" isn't a big problem for advertisers.
"Does anyone worry that we might be making the world worse?"
"No, never! Now, seriously, let's do some fucking cocaine."
Which is unfortunate, because the exact same psychological manipulation can be used to get you to buy things. Protein powders to make you stronger, pencil-neck; mascara to make your eyes look less bug-like, pencil-neck; and serrated knives to finally silence the Internet comedians who so constantly mock you, pencil-neck.
Ads That Follow You From Device To Device
Have you visited any shady websites recently? Don't all raise your hands at once. If you have, you'll have probably seen those ads with little X's in the corner that look like they should close the ad, but no, no that didn't work, and oh, what's this, another browser tab, why you little rascal. But at least right now we can always close the browser or shut off the computer.
NO. NEVER SHUT OFF THE COMPUTER. ALWAYS ENJOY THE CONTENT.
But we've got computers with us close to 24 hours a day now, and with a little ingenuity and applied misanthropy, it won't be long before we see ads capable of stalking us from device to device. You'll shut off your computer and your tablet will start badgering you about the size of your penis. You'll whip that out the window and go to bed, only to wake up at 3 in the morning with your phone blaring a notification about your inadequacies.
BEEP BEEP BEEP NEEDLEDICK BEEP BEEP BEEP
Ads That Kidnap Your Baby
We've long seen ads that target senior citizens, luring them into fraudulent investments or other scams, but few ads have targeted the other end of the demographic chart: babies. Which isn't too surprising, because although babies are dumb and prone to a variety of nose-stealing scams, they don't actually have many assets worth stealing.
Except for themselves.
"Does anyone worry we've done too much cocaine?"
Imagine an ad that convinces babies to crawl outside into unmarked vans, or into prepaid-postage boxes, or perhaps directly into the screen using whatever technology that VHS cassette had in The Ring.
Wait, hang on.
Actually, that's dumb. That could never happen. Forget I said anything. Put your babies in front of the computer all the time.
"Lucky for us that Cracked will let basically anyone sponsor an article."
Ads That Give You Viruses
Not your computer. You, personally. Impossible? Only for now. At the moment there aren't many methods a computer can use to spread communicable diseases. Sure, your phone or laptop could maybe overheat enough to burn your thighs, or your Xbox controller could vibrate off the table and onto your soft bits, but those are really injuries more than diseases, aren't they? The great thing about the future is that anything is possible.
Even clouds will be full of content in the future.
Imagine a smell-o-vision that some hacker rigs to spray measles into your face. Or a hypnotic audio file that convinces you to start licking poisonous plants. A hacked applet that causes your brain implants to overheat and infect. Sure, this isn't going to happen tomorrow. All of those technologies sound pretty far out there, for now.
But "out there" can show up on our doorsteps awful fast.
Ads That Look Like Notes From Your Future Self
For a long time now we've seen ads designed to look like articles on the site you're reading -- a technique first originated in the prehistoric world of print advertising. By this point most of us can tell the subtle differences between hilarious, never-lets-you-down content and the bogus kind. But how many of you could resist content purportedly written by yourself, in the future, begging for your help to save this and indeed all times?
"No, you see, that's definitely going to get us fired."
Using the information dredged from our browsing histories and social media accounts, advertising algorithms will soon be able to extrapolate plausible future histories for us and use those to craft messages targeted at our deepest hopes or fears. If you're worried about a big game/first date, a message from future-you warning of what you must do to score/score will certainly catch your eye. And if future-you states with great certainty that you'll need some goddamned incredible products from Adidas, McDonald's, or Raytheon, tell me you wouldn't rush out to stock up.
"This is going to be a first date she never forgets."
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and voyager on the seas of time. His first novel, Severance, is incredible and available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
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For more from Bucholz, check out 7 Ways To Trick Yourself Into Not Sucking So Much and 8 Things That Would Inevitably Happen If I Had A Dinosaur.