5 Awful Ways Advertisers Are Cashing In On Your Life
I've written before about how advertising companies are discovering new and unscrupulous ways to peddle their bullshittery right up into your eyeballs and how there is very little we can do about it. But the ads we see on our mobile devices and computer screens are just the beginning in the Great Ad Wars of the 21st century. Now that we live in the future, you need to prepare yourself for the new wave of advertisements that are starting to appear in unlikely places. Places like...
Twitter Ads Within Twitter Ads
If you hate physically interacting with human beings and love short, snarky jokes about our president, chances are you're using Twitter. It's a place where comedians can talk politics, politicians can try to be comedians, and the rest of us can air our insecurities onto the web for everyone to see. Twitter gives you all of that and, what's more, it's FREE!
Usually, gold this precious costs you $5 at a bad open mic.
That is to say, Twitter is free if you don't mind seeing a few ads pop up on your timeline from time to time. A few years ago, Twitter started adding promoted tweets to everyone's timelines in order to generate some extra scratch for the site. So, in between your friend's tweets and some celebrity gossip, you might see a tweet from someone you don't follow with a little notation underneath letting you know this tweet is a paid advertisement. Nothing wrong with that at all.
"My friend, Jet Blue, is a good guy, but he seems to have an ulterior motive."
The practice has been going on for years, and nine times out of ten, I don't even realize I'm looking at one. Twitter's mission is to make the ads innocuous enough that they don't spam your timeline, auto-playing videos don't have sound by default, and they're only showing you stuff you might be interested in. It's one of the few ad platforms that you can ignore simply by moving your finger slightly. But let's say I actually do care about one of these ads, like a movie trailer or a product that is offering a deal I can take advantage of. Often times, especially with mobile, I've noticed it's not as easy as just watching the video.
Isn't "#AnimalsGoneWild" a tad redundant?
Some of my least favorite commercials involve Sarah McLachlan and sad dogs. So when I scroll past an ad promising a video of a sad little pup getting rescued from some tar, I want to see that goddamn pup get rescued from the tar! But this particular promoted tweet has placed an ad in front of the video that you're forced to watch before you can watch the ad that you're already watching! Like some sort of stale Xzibit meme, Twitter is now placing ads within your ads so you can get frustrated while you get frustrated.
If you think I'm watching a 15-second ad, I'd better get some actual fucking cheddar out of the deal.
Now, I'm no fancy suit-wearin' marketing guru here to tell Twitter how to do their job, but ads like that seem completely counterintuitive. It's like they're actively ignoring the fact that nobody goes to Twitter for its video content and they've been consistently losing money since starting the company. Sneaking these ads into our timelines and then making us watch a commercial before the ad is a real quick way for anyone to lose what little interest they had. Especially when I can just google "saved dog from tar" and find out that the little tar-puppy is doing just fine. Thanks for nothing, Twitter.
Google Home Ads You Didn't Ask For
One of the quintessential parts of living in the future is having a house you can talk to and force to do your bidding. Intelligent personal assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Home make that fantasy a reality by connecting to your online world to make your life easier. They can play your favorite music, offer traffic and weather updates, and even control your lights and thermostat for you. Sure, it may be dancing terrifyingly close to crossing into Skynet territory but so far it appears that these smart home devices work for us, not against us.
But having a robot servant that is always connected to the internet invites a litany of potential complications, not the least of which are unwanted intruders. One of those unwanted intruders appeared back in March when users asked Google Home what their day looked like. Imagine their surprise when they heard this:
Did you know that the live-action Beauty And The Beast movie was happening this year? I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't because Disney totally didn't dedicate a ton of press to it over the past year. So it only makes sense that they would need to shoehorn it in between your traffic stats and your appointments for the day on your Google Home device. Thank you, Google Home, for letting us know about this underreported, independent movie.
"I'm your guest, I'm your guest. Even if you don't like it, I'm your guest."
Even though Google pulled the Beauty And The Beast plug after a torrent of user backlash, they still refuse to call it an ad, instead calling it "timely content in the My Day feature." And what's more, they did nothing to quell the concerns of additional ads, which are totally what these are, appearing on your daily readout in the future. So not only does your $130 smart speaker spit ads at you when it's supposed to be giving you important information, but now the guys running the show won't even own up to it. Sure, you could always switch to Alexa if you want but then you have to deal with everything you say being handed over to the CIA. It turns out that maybe inviting super intelligent listening devices into your home leaves the door open for some unpleasantness. Who would have thought?
Ads In Windows 10 File Explorer
Microsoft loves to let you know that Microsoft exists. When you get a new PC, Internet Explorer -- the tool you only use to download a browser that isn't Internet Explorer -- is always set to Microsoft's home page. When Windows 8 came out with its redesigned tile menu, half of the default icons were advertisements for Microsoft products. And even when you were already using Windows as an operating system, Microsoft bombarded you with messages to download the new Windows operating system simply because they could.
Getting Windows 10 for free is almost worse than getting nothing at all.
At some point, Microsoft decided that the "kick down the door, guns blazing" approach to advertising their products wasn't intrusive enough and decided to go the extra mile. If you're using Windows 10, the operating system we already established was forced down your throat, you may have already noticed what I'm talking about. When you open up File Explorer, probably the only application you absolutely cannot live without on any operating system, you are now greeted with this.
Yes, your eyes are working correctly: That's a fucking ad in your fucking file explorer. At the top of the page, before your local drives and devices, you're getting an ad to upgrade to OneDrive for the low, low price of $WhoTheFuckCares? Normally, if you saw an annoying ad in the one program your computer requires in order to function as a computer, it meant you had a virus and should throw the system into the nearest lake to prevent your social security number from appearing on some Russian black market website. But the tomfoolery that users are now seeing in Windows 10 is there by design. Microsoft decided to ignore the fact that their notification center (the area in the bottom right of your taskbar next to the clock) is already set to display information like this. They also didn't see it fit to show this ad in their redesigned start menu that looks less like a Start Menu and more like Times Square on New Year's Eve.
All its missing is an ad for Hamilton.
Microsoft wanted to make sure you can't escape their advertisements for a single second by placing them in the one place on your PC that you can't live without. Luckily, there is a way to stop them from appearing buried in the folder settings. But since these ads were enabled without your permission in the first place, we can't be sure Microsoft won't do this again down the line when they feel like your eyes are not looking at enough of their ads.
Ads On NBA Jerseys
If you remove football, baseball, college football, and NASCAR from the equation, professional basketball is, without a doubt, America's favorite pastime. For as long as basketball has been a sport, the superstars of the game have brought in massive amounts of advertising and memorabilia sales, from Michael Jordan to LeBron James.
And to a somewhat lesser extent, Larry Bird.
With the NBA being the marketing juggernaut that it is, bringing in over $6 billion during the 2015-2016 season, you wouldn't expect drastic measures to be taken in order to make those 10-figures into 11, 12 or 13 figures in the coming years, would you? Well, that's where you would be wrong, you simpleton. It turns out there is an untapped market for ad revenue that is literally on screen the entire game and nobody has thought to monetize. That's why, starting with the 2017-2018 season, teams will begin selling ad space on players' jerseys.
This whole thing began back in April 2016 when the idea was proposed by the board of governors for a three-year ad pilot program. This came at a time when the NBA had introduced the much-hated sleeved jerseys which many saw as an attempt to create more ad real estate at the cost of player flexibility on the court. While the new sleeved jersey design is reportedly going away, that hasn't stopped several teams from jumping on board with the advertising plan and the possibility of other sports leagues following suite.
"I am contractually obligated to love these awful, awful sleeves."
The Boston Celtics will begin wearing General Electric patches on their jerseys, the Philadelphia 76ers will feature StubHub branding, and several other teams are securing or have already secured ads for the upcoming season. Experts expect this new ad strategy to bring in over $100 million over the next year, a number that's big enough to promise even more ads in the future. So your favorite players might end up looking like they are donning wearable NASCAR cars. In fact, if they're looking to bring more eyeballs to the screen during games, wearable NASCARs isn't the worst idea I've ever heard.
It would be like a Globetrotters game only less ridiculous.
Sped-Up Television Shows
If you weren't born into a time when all your favorite TV shows were streaming 24/7, just waiting to be binged, you may have never had to sit through syndicated TV shows in order to see your favorite episodes. Binging shows online is a great way to avoid commercials while still supporting the companies that make them. A basic Hulu subscription makes money by adding Hulu-centric commercials in-between shows, Netflix raises money from paid subscribers and Netflix Originals, while every other streaming service has found some way to monetize content without lowering themselves to the TV format of "five minutes of show, one million minutes of commercials."
"Tonight's commercials are brought to you by The Big Bang Theory."
Sometimes, when the remote is too far away and your phone is charging all the way upstairs, you may find yourself actually watching a show in syndication, and you might also notice that something is a little... off. The characters seem a little bit fast-paced and the dialogue sounds pitchy. The good news is, you're not going crazy. The bad news is, you are totally being manipulated because just about every episode of syndicated TV has been sped up ever so slightly in order to squeeze in a lot more advertising. I noticed this myself while watching Friends on because the characters, Chandler specifically, sounded less like a group of hip, twenty-something New Yorkers and more like Alvin And The Chipmunks. In addition to trimming down the theme songs and cutting entire scenes out from episodes, shows like Seinfeld and Friends have had their runtime kicked into high gear in order to shorten the episode even more. If you don't believe me, check out this quick video. I caught an episode of Friends on Nick at Nite and recorded a minute of it on my phone. I then immediately switched over and recorded the same scene on Netflix. After playing the two identical scenes next to each other, the differences were pretty staggering.
The syndicated clip changes pace almost immediately, which ended up cutting out a full two seconds from the 50-second clip. While that might not seem like a lot for that snippet, it adds up over the runtime of the episode. Combine that with the cut-off theme song and how the end credits usually run in a bottom window while the next episode is starting and what you've got is an exponential increase in the number of commercials you're watching vs. the amount of irreverent 90s sitcom action.
"What about all that green space? Can't we put ads in there, too?"
The lesson here is that we're having advertising crammed in just about every aspect of our lives and most of the time we don't even realize it. We're not far off from a Black Mirror-esqe future where we'll need to watch an ad before the red light will change to green or they'll start throwing advertisements on the moon.
It's... it's too late.
Technically, this is an advertisement for Erik Germ's Twitter. He is aware of the irony that comes with that and hopes you can look past it.
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