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28 October 2011

Why can't ads be more fun?

The worst part about advertisements these days, in my not-so-humble opinion, is the degree to which they belittle the user. Well-endowed lady wants to be my Facebook friend? "Click here to confirm request." Riiight. Lonely singles near me? Yeah, sure. OH GOOD LORD, A THREAT HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED! Oh, wait, y'all really are evil! On the infrequent occasions that I do watch TV, the ads are less flagrantly insidious, but they're nonetheless relentlessly patronizing.

The second-worst part of ads, IMNSHO, is the brute-force repetition. The same inane 30 seconds once? I can do that, but five times in an hour? You've got to be kidding me. Nope, no kidding here. Just 30 seconds of the same inanity, again and again.

Consequently, I find unique and intelligent ads rather inspiring. I know, it shouldn't be this way. One might thing that unique and inspiring would be more common amongst something so prevalent. Anyway...

Some of the GEICO ads that have played on Hulu lately have managed to avoid the "worst part". They're short and playful, vaguely reminiscent of [adult swim] commercials. "Is the sword mightier than the pen" is my current favorite; I still sometimes chuckle when I see it. They still fail occasionally in the repetition department. If you're a large international corporation, how hard is it to make more than a handful of moderately-entertaining 30-second spots?

Which brings me back to banner ads. I just saw this at the top of ars technica today for the first time, and it really caught my eye. I don't read or write Javascript, but I found myself puzzling through it and then following the link.

At the top of the page, I find this banner, which visually reminds me where I came from, that I've come to the right place, and gives me another little puzzle. Neat. Thank you, Heinz College of Carnegie Mellon.

None of this is revolutionary, but I do hope it is evolutionary. Ads don't have to be boring, and I'm guessing that interesting and intelligent ads are more effective even as they're less painful and insulting. My guess is that a generational change-over in marketing departments and their managers is underway, and will be slow. Still, I look forwards to a new generation of more modern advertising approaches that gives me something to think while my eyeballs are held hostage.

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