Spam with your Television? Advertising, Paratexts, and Laziness
I’m variously annoyed, depressed, and amused by spam. Annoyed because, well, it’s annoying. Depressed because it can only exist because some doofuses actually click through (“Do I wish I had a ‘trouser beast’? Why, damn it, I do! I’d better click through and buy me some of those pills, so that tomorrow I wake up with one that will, as this ad promises, ‘scare the neighbors’”) and thus it reminds me both of how stupid some people are and of how stupid many people think we all are. Amused when its inappropriateness can only be met with laughter.
Part of running a blog involves dealing with spam. There’s the whacked out spam that reads like clothing I’d often see when I lived in Hong Kong, peppered with English phrases yet designed by non-English speakers (“crazy pilot home run go anaphylactic shock heroes live for the best why Friends dig it barroom brawl cheese town tank boy”), and then there’s the stuff posing as real messages (a recent one is “I have been searching everywhere on the internet for this specific information. Finally I find it here! Thanks.” Maybe I’d believe it more if there was information in the post on which it commented, not just opinion/rambling). Both just want you to click through.
But around this time of year, I always get some new show / returning show spam that doesn’t want you to click through, but that wants to sell a show. It rarely goes into the filter, and seems not to have been delivered by a ‘bot. Rather, some poor intern somewhere seems to have the job of trawling through Google, and replying to all blogs that mention a specific show with enthusiastic plans to watch the new season. More after the fold:
Example: I recently received a comment on a two year-old post about CW’s ill-fated Life is Wild. In that post, I made some comments about various other shows, including Gossip Girl, about which I wrote:
To The CW, if you must keep the Kristen Bell voiceover for Gossip Girl, try to limit her reference to herself (“Who loves you? Gossip Girl,” “Gossip Girl here,” “Where will you find out? Gossip Girl”) to once per episode. Mimicking Elmo isn’t a strategy for being cool
That inspired this comment:
Wow! You are right! Gossip girl really rocks! The new episode season 3 is going to air in less than 30 days. Let’s watch it man
Note that I didn’t say it rocks. And, as an aside, I find the “Let’s watch it man” (emphasis added) hilarious, since it poses the writer as a dude speaking to another dude, which doesn’t seem to match the gendering of the show (“bro, let’s get some Buds, kick back and watch the GG”). But observe its sly attempt to use my blog to let you, the reading public (yes, you, Mum!), know when the show starts up again, and to encourage you to watch it.
And herein lies my ultimate beef with spam. It’s lazy. I’m not naïve enough to think that we could just wave a magic wand and make advertising go away. I’m also not silly enough to think that all advertising is Hell incarnate – some advertising serves an informational role. But would they at least put some effort and some thought into it? I think that this is the hard line for many people when it comes to advertising, product placement, spinoff merchandising, etc. The Simpsons, for instance, has videogames that capture the show’s feel and attitude, it has talking bottle openers that someone put some thought into, and it has Krusty Seal of Approval stickers. They’re all intelligent, and I can appreciate the effort both to extend the text meaningfully and to actually think about the audience member. But it also has cups with a generic image of Homer on. Boring. Similarly, I’ve seen advertising campaigns that are intelligent and thoughtful, and I’ve seen others that are lazy and stupid.
As I noted above, I’m sure the stupid stuff works with some people. Lazy paratexts sell and lazy ads can work. And yes, this Gossip Girl ad made me laugh, but otherwise it annoyed me. Which means the show’s playing a risky game, since I now see Gossip Girl as undifferentiated from the “grow yourself a trouser beast” ads that litter my Hotmail account. So too might my reader(s) (that’s two shoutouts for you in one post, Mom! Sorry that last one came in a rude sentence) if I let the comment be published. And as I type this, I’m aware of the irony that some GG intern will likely reply to this post with a similar peppy encouragement to watch the show. But, “man,” all I’m asking for is a little effort.Tags: Gossip Girl, paratexts, spam