about   |   writing   |   archives

You Are a Walking Advertorial

Washington DC: which bit is the advertising?

The lady at the counter gives an upgrade with a smile and nary a request for a credit card – legroom weighs the odds of sleeping in my favour, a bonus to an otherwise drab Sunday spent flying from LA to DC.

The gent sitting next to me is an advert for high risk heart disease – the last passenger to rush aboard the plane, snarling at fellow passengers as he marches the isle trying to find space for his luggage, squeezing his plump frame into seat 8E before proceeding to wolf down 2 buttery croissants. It’s a compelling enough everyday drama for the stewardess to raise her seen-it-all-honey eyebrows, and its compelling enough for us to want to know more. If you’re in the business of pushing ads this is obviously an opportunity to place your product.

Consider the ease at which today you can create a personal home page and host advertising to make a few cents. Now take that experience and apply to the physical world, apply it to you. In a future perfect world where everything and everyone can be digitally tagged and everyone has the tools to filter and read those tags (everything and) everyone around us is an advertisement for something whether it’s a lifestyle or as in this case, a lifestyle to avoid. But why would anyone bother to tune in to the “you” show? What makes you so compelling?

You thought that a system that auctions keywords to search terms was smart – it was after all smart enough to create and cement a multi-billion dollar search/online-ad monopoly. But wait until this advertising extends into the digitally tagged physical world – keywords matched with people and objects and events all in real time. A constant wave of auctions matching ads to micro-events and an army of people ready to both take on the micro-paid assignment and become the interactive human billboard.

Is that couple arguing or just a preamble to pitching marriage guidance services? Is the plump gent that just squeezed into seat 8E genuinely stressed and late or simply trying to make a few extra cents as a walking, event-contextual advertorial pushing the merits of a door to door limo service? – “Don’t be like me, sign up for 100% guaranteed stress free limo services”.

Ah, but people will filter out the noise won’t they? But of course.

Not. This assumes that the noise can be separated from the signal. And don’t forget that the heavily subsidised tools that we use to navigate and filter the world around us have to find some way of clawing back that subsidy.

Look on the bright side. We have the potential to become micro-celebrities in our very own day time infomercial. And more importantly we get to define the future through the choices we make today.