Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Bad Advert Ideas (Part One)

Some ideas just don’t work: mustard seed underpants, discount placebos, poo-flavoured microwave meals, charging down a valley towards Cossacks and Hussars when the valley walls are bristling with enemy gun batteries.

Charging down a valley towards Cossacks and Hussars while the valley walls are bristling with enemy gun batteries

But some people don’t realise when ideas aren’t working, and carry on regardless: ketchup bottle sex toys, gourmet restaurants at truck rest stops, denying the working class, charging down a valley towards Cossacks and Hussars when the valleys walls blah blah etc.

It's a great idea to read more about bad ideas, after the click!

So, do any of you recognise these bad ideas: Punch the monkey to win a prize! Shoot the iPhone to win! How many red balls can you see bouncing?

A few of these stupid games can be found at Sucker Punch Saloon which is like a museum for banner ads, but I only recognise one. The old familiar favourites of red balls, punched monkey and iphone artillery are all missing.

Some are now appearing on Facebook. ‘Amazing weightloss’ or possibly ‘cartoonify yourself’ in my case (googling blog-images will distort anyone’s cookies – don’t judge me). Here's a small hint: don't cartoonify yourself.

Banner adverts are almost all dedicated specifically to morons. They use the most elementary tricks imaginable to get you to click them – it doesn’t actually matter whether you punch the monkey, or how many red balls you think you see bouncing (7, because there’s one just going in a circle in the middle and you always feel clever for spotting it). You could click it anywhere, because you still follow the link. It's like being the millionth visitor to a site. A chain of pages and adverts then leads you on a merry chase across the internet, with no free iPhone or magic prize in sight. For every consecutive bad decision you make, an unscrupulous internet advertiser earns more mysterious internet-money from your pageview.

I’ve clicked several in my time, whether desperate, drunk, desperately drunk or just sardonically indulgent. Some have been for webcomics or actual services, obviously. But the evil ones have led me all over the super-highway, asking me to choose a prize, fill out a survey, submit my email address, fill out another survey, submit my postcode, give a blood sample, submit my email address, donate some bone marrow to a serial killer, install a webcam in a child’s bedroom, submit my email address, deliver a plain brown parcel to a non-descript warehouse in Guatemala, fill out a survey then finally join a commando mission investigating a mysterious helicopter crash in a Central American jungle. Then submit my email address.

Arnie vs Predator: I should never have tried to punch that internet monkey!

Obviously some banner adverts are good ideas, like I said. If they’re informative or somehow charming then I won’t begrudge a website making some traffic-money. It’s not like Facebook needs more revenue, sure, but I’m not going to begrudge it either. This is me not begrudging. Facebook provides a useful service to my entire life, it turns out, and who am I to question their revenue source?

Even some postal leaflets are good ideas (local junk-nom deliveries, for example, or local mechanics and plumbers) and some leaflets being handed out in the street are good ideas (free entry into a club, drinks promotions, guides to surviving the raging plague).

Even terrible banner adverts might accidentally get clicked on, which registers as traffic in an analytical tool somewhere, justifying a contract somewhere. Mysterious internet money is at least directly, accidentally generated.

But let’s consider bad leaflets. There is no direct feedback from leaflets – no matter how much you pay, they might still be delivered to the side of a railway track to rot under a bush. Almost all leaflets are terrible ideas, because the response-rate figures are both vaguely defined and closely guarded secrets.

I’m pretty sure everyone’s reaction is the same as mine: stuffing all the posted leaflets into a room with nothing but a brief note tattooed on ‘leather’, then locking the door and watching them via a security camera, gloating as they fail to escape my deadly traps – the door is reinforced. I’m working on a developing a software version for my junk emails. The delete button is too good for them.

Soon, very soon! … Um… okay, they’re inanimate and it’s a setback

Even the good-idea-leaflets must have far, far less than a 100% response rate. But what if you’re a bad idea leaflet? Maybe there’s a sale on furniture or say, mustard seed underpants?

The only reason the technique continues is that it’s a Mexican stand-off. Your competitors are all still sending out leaflets, and you’re afraid that if you try to save money on it then they’ll dominate the market. Leaflet advertising is an escalating war, and nobody wants to back down. Slowly, companies are getting brave enough to stand up and say “Let’s make banner adverts online instead! We can trick morons into punching a monkey! If everyone else is doing it, there must be some money in it!” But answer one question: how often will you click on the banner advert appearing on your Facebook profile?

The answer is probably, sadly, inevitably and definately that enough people will be recorded clicking on it to make it an everlasting feature of revenue.


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