Between Jan 7th 2005 and Jan 24th 2005 roughly 1.5% of my incoming email has been non-spam, non-mailing list fodder. I suspect I’m actually doing pretty well, percentage wise, compared to many of my compatriots.
If it weren’t for the spam filter system in Thunderbird, this incredibly low signal-to-noise ratio would make email completely useless to me. No better than Usenet News, which I had to finally abandon as a total waste of my time in the mid-late ’90s.
My primary online communication now occurs using two technologies — one very old, and one relatively new — IRC, and Instant Messaging. Non-internet telecommunication is primarily via SMS or my cell phone. None of these are currently plagued by advertising. Our regular telephone line is also mostly spam these days — telemarketers and some asinine automated computer system that keeps autodialing our line and beeping annoyingly into our voicemail have made POTS essentially useless as well (not to mention Bell, who, for some reason, seems to be incapable of providing a baseline of reliable service any more).
Regular mail service also contains more than its fair share of noise, as junk mail, but at least it remains useful in that it’s the only way to get physical objects delivered from point A to point B. Given that it’s possible to get the majority of bills and invoices issued electronically, this is useful primarily as an enabler for online shopping, of which I am a growing fan.
Some day marketers and advertisers will…change. I’m not sure how, or when, or what form these changes will take, but eventually they’re going to have to realize that we (the big “we” being “the people they’re attempting to sell things to”) are no longer going to stand for their exploitation and destruction of our communications systems. There are, of course, new laws being proposed all over the world that are attempt to restrict the flood — anti spam laws, do-not-call lists, and so forth.
One would hope that out there, somewhere, there is a young, clever, whipper-snapper of an advertising/marketing executive who will realize these laws are a clear indication that their current strategies are becoming more annoying than they are effective. The amount of money and time and effort that is put in to these carpet-bomb style marketing strategies must be unbelievable, and while the return rate must obviously be high enough to justify the cost, I would like to think that there Has To Be A Better Way.
Marketing and advertising are in dire need of an evolutionary shift. No one wants spam. No one wants telemarketers calling at all hours of the day and night. No one wants junk mail. Continuing in this vein, no one wants television commercials or banner ads or newspapers and magazines that are mostly taken up by adspace. No one likes billboards or posters or bus-side banners or “street level” spamming of stickers and grafitti.
Isn’t there a way to selectively provide product information to people who need and/or want it? Is spamming your product logo at people all the time really the most effective way of gaining marketshare and product recognition?
Unfortunately, it probably is. If it weren’t, then there would be money to be made with a less obtrusive and annoying method.
For what it’s worth, I’m less a fan of the extremely narrow targeted-advertising strategies because of the consumer profiling involved with compiling those lists.
I think I just want the entire marketing and advertising industry to vanish. Imagine what would happen, what the world would be like if, all of a sudden, there was no more advertising. If, when you were interested in buying something, you had to specifically go out and find information about the various products available. We would all become much more thoughtful, informed, and less autonomic consumers. The “infosphere” would be so much less polluted. We’d probably spend less, consume less, pollute less, and waste a lot less time wading through the noise trying to find the signal. In general, we’d probably be calmer, less stressed, happier, more thoughtful, healthier, and better informed people.
Or so I would like to think. The problem, of course, is that advertising works. I just wish it didn’t.