It is now virtually impossible to escape advertising. There is seemingly no piece of real estate or virtual space too small to hold an advert. Brands now pay games developers to place adverts and sponsor notices inside virtual worlds. Fill up at a petrol station and look at the pump handle – and there’s an ad. Look up and you’ll see loads of them. By the time you’ve walked to the till to pay it’s probable that you will have seen literally hundreds more.
Of course, to some extent, one develops a sort of selective blindness to most of them, but one simply can’t escape them all. What’s really beginning to get my goat though is the extent to which I now feel overwhelmed by them. Take the X-Factor, for example. I’m personally not a fan of the Saturday evening brain rot that is The X-Factor (with the X representing the amount of money Simon Cowell makes from the whole depressing affair) but others in the Hilton Towers household love it. What struck me forcibly was the sheer quantity and frequency of ad breaks. I was not alone, it seems. There have been complaints and some figures declare that for every 7 minutes of programme time there are 4 minutes of unbroken ad breaks. Ye gods!
And don’t think the BBC is immune from the ad plague, either; the only difference with the beeb is that their adverts are simply for its own offerings, though I would concede that they don’t seem as numerous or protracted. Mostly.
I now read that Harper Collins is seriously considering placing ads in ebooks:
“Certain kinds of books [fiction] create immersive reading experiences whereby ads would be too interruptive for readers, and publishers and even advertisers aren’t likely to put a premium on that,” said HarperCollins group digital director David Roth-Ey, in an interview with New Media Age.
“But information books, for example a Collins birds guide, could provide very valuable real estate for contextual advertising – in this case potentially a binoculars manufacturer,” he added.
Oh goody! So for the time being at least, it seems we’re to be spared adverts in fiction, but as far as non-fiction goes let the floodgates open.
But I guess what’s really tipped me over the edge and into the Abyss of Despair is that all this junk – for which consumers pay handsomely – only ever results in an inferior, frustrating experience for the user. The worst expression of this that I can conjure up is the experience of viewing a legitmately acquired and paid-for DVD film. First of all they ain’t cheap. Then when you want to watch them you are presented with a non-skippable bollocking telling you about the evils of pirated DVDs and how it’s killing the film industry! [Er, right, that’s why I bought this DVD, so why are you lecturing me!] This is followed by often-unskippable film previews – essentially adverts – that are also pushed down your throat. Eventually, some ten, fifteen minutes later, you are finally allowed to watch the damn film you paid good money to watch ‘at your own convenience’.
Qualitatively contrast this frustrating and abusive experience with what happens when one views films from, er, shall we say, unconventionally sourced DVDs (that I may or may not have viewed on the odd occasion somewhere). Stick said DVD into player. Hit play. Watch. Eject when finished. No ads, no guff, no hectoring. Bingo!
OK the film quality itself might not be as good as it could be, but frankly that becomes less of an issue in the overall scheme of things. Surely, paying handsomely for a thing should result in the optimum experience, not the worst.
Tell me; where’s the incentive to play it straight and legal?