The Price We Pay

We’re used to paying a great deal for free.  Some of it is more noticeable than others and some can actually be quite bad for you.

When you turn on a television, chances are you watch a bit of “free TV”.  It’s delivered over the airwaves and all that it takes is an antenna.  Of course, it’s not free.  It’s actually big business and we all pay for it by having to sit through commercials.  Some commercials are better than others – are you ready for Super Bowl Sunday?  We know that it’s the price that we pay for free television and we just accept it.

Disposable income willing, you might be inclined to pay for television.  For some channels, that means the end of commercials since you’re now paying directly for the service.  For other channels, you still get them because they’re paying the bills for free service to their own community.  In Canada, it often means that the commercials that would be on the local US stations are replaced by Canadian commercials so that we’re paying back to ourselves.

It’s not a real stretch that the concept of advertising extends to other media that we enjoy.  Radio, and of course, our electronics.  It’s become just another thing that we’ve become accustomed to.  After all, someone has to pay the bills and encourage further development.  This blog, for example, is free for you and me but the hosts do serve up advertising near the bottom to pay their hosting costs.

It’s a sort of cooperative capitalism that we’ve all become familiar with.  You might fight back by installing an extension in your browser like Adblock Plus to take control if you feel the need.  I can tell you that, if you have a slow internet connection, that blocking advertising can definitely enhance your online experience.  The content gets to you just a bit faster.

There are a couple of instances when online advertising just becomes incredibly intrusive.

1)  The advertising takes over the browsing experience via a popup or it places a condition on you that you must do this or that before you actually get to the content you wish.  I find that happens regularly when I’m doing reading – “Please like our advertiser”, “Sign up for occasional advertising in exchange for access to our content”, etc.  I’ll be honest; I’m out of there when that happens.  Call me lazy or call me taking control of my reading, it’s how I roll;

2)  The advertising becomes inappropriate or malicious.  I think we’re all aware that the big advertising firms follow us around as we browse and try to serve up advertising that would address our needs.  Like all things computer, it’s not always perfect.  But, this story “Did you visit HuffPo last week? You might have a virus” is just downright scary.  Are we naive enough to thing that content providers don’t just subscribe to a service rather than actively selling to their hand selected advertisers?

Having said all that, isn’t there a way that advertising could actually be productive and add to the user experience?  

I have an example.

One of my time passers when waiting for a dentist appointment, for example, is Bejeweled Blitz.  It’s a game to match the same coloured gems for points.  There’s not a great deal of thinking required; just really nimble fingers.  If you accumulate enough “currency” in the game, you get the opportunity to purchase power ups to make your blitzing more effective.

Back to television for a moment.  Unless you’ve been without electricity, a popular advertising character is Flo from Progressive Insurance.  I will confess that it’s some of the best television commercial spots with her.

Recently, she’s appears on Bejeweled Blitz.

There’s no question that it’s advertising and it hits right home if you’re a television watcher!

But the cool thing is that Flo doesn’t detract from the game; when activated, she’s just another part of the game and rides across the screen on her white horse giving you a different type of power up.

There’s no question at all that she’s there to remind of us the insurance company.

The nice thing is that she fits right into the experience, is part of the game without detracting from it and making me just through additional hoops, and quite frankly, is the most powerful tool at present.  Thanks to her digital powers, I was able to hit the top of the scoreboard one day.  That doesn’t happen much.

Why can’t we all get along and advertisers find creative and appreciate ways of getting their message to us instead of just being an annoyance?

Oh, and be prepared for those little side looks in the waiting room…just saying.

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