Nov 23, 2009

The Case Against In-Stream Advertising.

Or; Why advertising should not be allowed to interrupt your conversations on Twitter.
A Short Article Written by William Burns

You're sitting at home, at the dinner table with family, enjoying a pleasant conversation and meal with the ones you love. Your son and daughter sit at the table enjoying dinner as you and your wife discuss the events of the day. Your wife turns to you and says "Honey, do you like the pasta dish I made tonight?", and right before you answer, a representative for Ronzoni Pasta walks in and says "Act now and get 25% off all Ronzoni Brand Pastas!".

A little bewildered, you look to your wife and say "Um.. yes dear, but the pasta sauce was a little bland. What brand did you use?"

"Well, I was at the supermarket and -" she begins as another representative wanders in and announces at your table "Looking for great deals!? Stop by your local Winn-Dixie for unbeatable prices on produce and canned goods!"

The sales representative wanders out of your dining room and things quiet down once again.

Your wife continues, "As I was saying... I was at the supermarket and I was looking at a jar of Prego sauce. It was on sale, so I figured I would give it a try."

"Yeah, it's a little bland for my taste, maybe we could try something different next time?" you reply.

Just then, a sales representative for Prego opens your window and pokes his head in, saying "I couldn't help but overhear that you were talking about our fine line of products! For a limited time only, Prego is on sale at your local Winn-Dixie!"

"Uh... yeah... we were talking about how your product was too bland for our taste..." you reply.

And without another word, the sales representative for Prego closes the window and walks away.

Your wife looks at you, confused and bewildered as to what has just happened, but after a moment, continues the conversation. "Anyway, hun... You want me to try a different sauce next time I go to the store? I could pick up some extra parmesan cheese as well?"

At which point, three sales reps wander into your dining room and announce:

"I couldn't help but notice that you were talking about getting a different pasta sauce. May I suggest Bertoli? In blind taste tastes nationwide, Bertoli beats the competition!"

The second representative speaks up, "And while you're at it, Four Seasons would like to introduce you to a new type of blended parmesan cheese, made from the finest cheese blends straight from Italy! We think once you try our new product, you'll have nothing but rave reviews!"

The third representative finally speaks up, "I just wanted to remind you that both Bertoli brands and Four Seasons are on sale at Winn-Dixie. Hurry while supplies last!"

All three wander out of your dining room without another word.

A few minutes pass as you stare at your wife, a confused look on your face, before turning to your daughter and saying, "So honey, how was your date with Bobby last night?"

Your daughter looks up, a little sheepishly, and begins to speak "Well... dad... umm.." and before she can continue, a masked superhero bolts through the door and stands behind your daughter. A full chorus of heroic music following him.

"I couldn't help but notice that this conversation has become awkward with your daughter, signifying that her date went a little better than she planned. As the official mascot of Trojan Condoms, I would like to assure you that Trojan Brand Condoms have all the protection you'd expect, while offering dual pleasure for both him and her!" he says in a deep and confident voice.

Your daughter's eyes widen in horror before she finally begins to cry. Tears streaming down her face as the Trojan Man pats her on the shoulder and asks "What's the matter, little lady?", giving her a knowing wink.

Defiantly she says "I'm pregnant."

The Trojan Man shows a look of concern before replying "Trojan Condoms are only 99.99% effective. We're sorry for the inconvenience, and on behalf of Trojan I would like to offer you a free sample pack." And with that, the Trojan Man opens your window and flies away.

"Honey," you stammer to your daughter, "Is it true? Are you really pregnant?"

Just then the doorbell rings.

Excusing yourself from the dinner table, you get up to answer the door, but before you have a chance, the door opens up and a representative from E.P.T. Pregnancy testing strolls in.

"I couldn't help but overhear your plight, and in this time I would like to offer a discount on E.P.T. Home Pregnancy tests. Remember, E.P.T. may as well stand for Error Proof Test. When you absolutely must be sure!"

You show the representative out, and again turn to your daughter. Your son, now snickering under his breath at his sister, can barely contain his contempt.

"Gregory!" you shout, "Knock it off!"

"I can't help it my teenage sister is a slut." Gregory fires back.

Before you can reply, two barely legal girls wander into your dining room dressed in schoolgirl uniforms, set up a Sybian on your floor, and begin to strip down erotically as they take part in sinful pleasures in front of your entire family. In between wild moans of passion and pleasure, they breathlessly say "We couldn't help but notice you were talking about teenage sluts... come to our website and get your fill if you're man enough to handle us..."

At this point, you're in shock, your wife finally asks "That looks like fun, where can I buy one of those machines?"

"Honey!" you exclaim, "Why on earth would you actually need a Sybian?" you ask. Immediately you turn to your children, "Gregory and Diana, look away. You're both too young to see this... matter of fact, go to your rooms. I'll talk with you later."

As your kids wander upstairs, you look at your wife, and before she can answer, somebody taps you on the shoulder.

"Hi! I'm Smilin' Bob, representative of Enzyte, the all natural male enhancement! Act now and you can receive a free 30 day sample pack of Enzyte for just the price of shipping and handling! We know that when you try our product, the lady of the house will be smiling and you'll be 'Swelling with Pride'"

Moral of this story:

Nobody believes that hijacking conversations with advertising is acceptable, except the companies hijacking your conversations. Twitter is conversation, updates, and talking points. Often times people who use Twitter mention other products or services as a recommendation, and in some cases those services and products are being mentioned because they are being paid to mention them. What they are not being paid for, is to have their conversations hijacked by third party advertisers which offer absolutely no benefit to the person having the conversation.

Unless Twitter plans on compensating the people whose conversations they will be continually hijacking with third party advertising, and also offers an opt-out for such practices to each user, this is not acceptable nor will it be embraced with open arms by the community. Personally, if companies are going to make it a point to hijack my twitter stream with their advertising, they had better be paying me for that privilege. I'm not using my Twitter stream as a means to sell a product or service, but instead as Twitter was originally meant to be used; as an honest microblog to allow people who enjoy my views to stay up to date with my thoughts, ideas, musings, and happenings.

It isn't a matter of people disliking advertising in all forms, it's a matter of intrusive practices and hijacking conversations for the benefit of third parties. Advertising methods are alright as long as they do not cause Metaphor Shear.

In this case, Twitter will be causing massive amounts of Metaphor Shear, while insisting that people find this type of advertising engaging and exciting. In reality, that's just something they tell the potential sponsors in order to sell those advertising spots on their service.

Questions? Comments? Death Threats?

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