Spoiled Brats

Just got back from a week on the coast. Found a joint that takes dogs and doesn’t have wireless or cell phone coverage.

That was cool. Getting off the grid is good for your soul, every so often.

I came back to a ton of “urgent” email and an inbox stacked to the ceiling… and I’ve been happily knocking items off my to-do list all day. Because I’m taking off another few days to hang with my family, starting when my nephew’s plane lands in about half an hour.

And while I’m thinking about work: I want to extend a special welcome to all the folks from AWAI who have wandered into my little corner of the advertising world. You’re all in for some serious shock and delight.

Back to biz: I just discovered a new wrinkle in mainstream online ads.

The Madison Avenue kids are getting obnoxiously clever.

I was surfing for news, and while on a story in the Washington Post, I accidentally scooted my cursor over an ad for Pfizer’s latest erectile dysfunction fixer-upper.

Just touching their ad ignited their video, with very loud audio and enough rapid-fire editing to hurt my eyes.

Nothing new about any of that. But here’s the kicker: I couldn’t turn it OFF.

There was no “X” delete button, no volume control, no pause switch.

And the video was looping — going through the same eruption of noise and movement every minute or so. I was transfixed by this intrusion into my concentration, and just watched for about ten minutes. Daring it to do something different, or at least wind down.

No such luck.

It was easily the most irritating ad I’ve ever seen in my life. And that’s saying something.

I love it. This “you can’t stop me” new twist on video online ads has officially signalled the end of decency as we know it on the Web. By comparison, pop-ups seem quaint and innocent.

Now, it’s almost a sure bet that this type of obnoxiousness will work to bring in short-term results. We know this because we know other obnoxious tactics like telemarketing and blast-faxing work like crazy for the bottom line.

It’s a sad fact of life — aggressive behavior gets rewarded. Jerks who cut in line get faster service, and assholes who make a scene eventually get their way. There are seldom any consequences. This is the legacy of a culture that tolerates spoiled brats.

We all hate negative political ads, too, and insist they shouldn’t work. But they do. So politicians use them. We’re in the middle of a particularly nasty campaign cycle here in Nevada, and it’s gonna get nastier. The letters-to-the-editor will be predictably outraged, but the voting will be affected exactly in the ways the campaign managers desire.

Most marketers will see the success of obnoxious online ads as evidence that they, too, must get on that bandwagon. The white noise of the ad culture is gonna get thick and evil and noisy. Expect to see deeper levels of irritation — already, it’s difficult to read a page of news in many online rags. Soon, the distractions will multiply.

Smarter marketers may sigh at this further disintegration of decency, but smile at the prospects for themselves.

Because the increased noise out there creates a need for quality, good content, and real personality.

That’s your opening. When everyone else is shouting, speak softly and carry a big damn stick. Hustle your prospect off to the side, and calmly let him know you’re a different kind of option in a world of screaming and kicking.

While the rabble, stumbling around in a walking slumber, are easy targets for loud and brash distraction, the best prospects crave real connection and focused content. As Madison Avenue recoils at long copy and opts for short bursts of outrage and irritation, stay with your well-crafted stories and inside advice.

There is no passion in obnoxiousness.

And sharing passion is one of the keys to building a list of rabid customers who be your fans for life.

Stay frosty. The plane just landed…

John Carlton

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  • John,

    I got the same annoying ad myself and had to delete it in the task manager.

    I was so pissed-off by the ad that I don’t even know what they were selling because I was so busy frantically looking around for a way to delete the message.

    Even if I did get the message, my reaction would be to never buy whatever it was, ever, because they had the nerve to annoy me so.

    They were discouteous with my time…shame on them

    My two cents…


  • Lance says:

    I’m not 100% sure, but I believe that if you hit the Esc key it will stop the ad.

    By the way…ECELLENT POST!!!

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