Debbie Does Spam

Lately, nearly all my spam comes from a deborah-something email address. I don’t know what is behind the recent onslaught (these things seem to go in cycles: get a watch, refinance your mortgage, shrink this, grow that…) I only know that the great tide of unwanted bits never stops. Spam is on the sordid end of the advertising spectrum.

We live in a sea of advertising: on the sides of city buses, in subway cars, on billboards. Every hour on television is overtly 25% advertising and promotion. On the web, banners blink, text ads run down the side of countless pages, and flash ads are even (temporarily, of course) obstructing site content and navigation. The biggest college football games are now things like the AT&T Cotton, Allstate Sugar, and Fedex Orange bowls. You pay $10 for a movie ticket, and have to sit through ads. This is our life on ads.

Do some ads annoy me less? Of course. Trailers for movies are sometimes (but not often enough) something I want to see. Art magazine ads don’t feel as intrusive to me, because they generally consist of art and the details I need to go see it. But I still consider it a plus that The Believer doesn’t run ads. I wouldn’t buy books that sandwiched ads with the narrative. Relevancy isn’t some holy grail — context is less irriting to me, but it isn’t a plus, and it won’t make me buy.

If your content/service/experience is really worth it, I’ll pay for. It won’t be because you sponsored a concert series or a sports star never appears without your logo. If your ad is online, chances are I’ll never even see it. Brand awareness isn’t a good thing if you’re pissing me off. Nobody really wants to live in the pervasive advertising worlds of Everyone in Silico or Minority Report.

I sometimes wonder if I am the only one who isn’t interested in more targeted advertising. Really, is being a target a good thing? Do you want to be one?

What would happen if the advertising stopped?