Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Morrissey marred

So the Times paywall, we are told, is a great success, or at least less of a disaster than some might have predicted. The problem is that, until one of its broadsheet competitors does something similar, there’s no sensible way to make a comparison. What most people agree on is that as newspapers become online entities with optional dead-tree add-ons, they can’t survive on income from advertising sales alone.

Part of the problem for media producers is that the move online has coincided with an increased sophistication and cynicism on the part of users towards advertising in all its forms. If we’re to be sold to, we want our intelligence flattered a little; and yet the form of online ad that’s most likely to grab our attention is the most irritating and patronising. Would you buy a car or a coat or an ice-cream if you associated it with the digital equivalent of an annoying insect that buzzes around as you try to read or watch or listen or shoot zombies or masturbate? Buy an Audi, because when your cursor goes too far to the right-hand side of your screen, the word “AUDI” jumps out at you! OK, maybe not.

Of course, if the Times’s subscription model really works out, they’ll be able to ditch those annoying ads, won’t they? Won’t they? Well, not if Thorne, on Sky 1 (another News Corp entity of course) is anything to go by. Punters may pay the Murdoch shilling for this pretty effective thriller; but they also have to suffer clunkingly intrusive product placement for Illy coffee and Apple computers. And it’s the same problem as with the online ads: if you don’t notice them, they’ve failed; if you do notice them, you start to associate the coffee and the laptops with having your quality time with David Morrissey ruined, and you buy Kenco or Dell instead. It’s a form of metafiction, except that it doesn’t just draw the viewer’s attention to the fact that Thorne is a drama, and the people throwing tantrums on screen are in reality actors; it also reminds you that the whole process is also a commercial entity. First of all, your suspension of disbelief is punctured, and then you’re expected to pay for the pin.

Even weirder is the moment when Jack Shepherd, as Thorne’s widowed dad, suddenly declares for no particular reason, “I’ve got Sky now, thank God.” Which is a bit like preaching to the converted, and at the same time telling them that God doesn’t exist.

PS: More on the paywall thing, from Emily Bell.


Rol said...

I fear product placement is only going to get worse as conventional advertising becomes obsolete thanks to Sky+ et al.

I haven't been watching Thorne, but I did notice a really clunky example in last week's Fringe where the camera cut clumsily to the badge of a car in a way that jerked the eye to notice what model the heroes were driving. It really broke me out of the reality of the show... and like I say, I fear that's going to get much worse in future.

Fat Roland said...

You get a special badge for that post title.

GreatSheElephant said...

That is definitely a quality post title.

The ads I hate are the ones that are personalised to your search habits. So having indulged foolishly in a little 5* hotel porn recently before booking some vile hostels I'm now seeing nothing but ads for hotels I'll never in my life be able to afford to visit and it hurts. I suppose deleting my cookies will help but I need to find my list of site logins first.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I don't personally buy from any ad which annoys me. In fact it's hard to think of a product I've bought as a result of an advertisement, let alone a RUDELY INTRUSIVE one.

I also loathe those websites which don't let you out again without closing whole browser and re-opening. Just how do they think that p***ing off a potential customer will sell anything, even if that customer started off being interested in the website until they found that they couldn't browse products without setting up an account or were frozen into website against their will when they tried to leave.

Spinsterella said...


How could you title a post like that? You *know* we're all Moz obsessives out here!

Tim F said...

True, Rol. We’ve got to the stage where the only successful advertising is subliminal, which is in theory illegal – although they have to spot it to ban it...

Thank you, Roland.

5* hotel porn, GSE? The type that doesn’t show up on the bill?

Laura: The online version of people who try to sell you double glazing at three in the morning.

Sorry, Spin. But it got your attention. Maybe I should get into advertising...

Rog said...

It used to be that annoying the punter counted as a result - I bet more people remember the Shake 'n Vac commercial than any of the programmes it cut into. Nobody remembers buying the product though.