Déjàdvertising vu

>> Thursday, March 22, 2012

I'm not sure if I understand advertising. I mean, yes, I understand advertising as well as the next guy, I just don't know if I grok that it actually works, y'know? I tend to spend a lot of time ignoring it, but (having said that) I have no idea how much the stuff that's slipped across my eyeballs over the last four decades actually has embedded itself in my unconsciousness with me unaware of its mischievous (perhaps pernicious) presence.

Do I occasionally stop at McDonald's because I'm kind of a sucker for a greasy mashed cryptomeat patty, a box of deep-flash-fried potato fragments and a big cup of corn syrup and carbonated water; or do I sometimes feel the urge because I can still recite bits and pieces of that playground jingle McDonald's used back in the late '70s (or was it early '80s?)--you know, that sing-song recitation of the menu, "Big Mac/Fillet O'Fish/Quarter Pounder/French Fries/Icy Coke/Thick Shake/Sundaes/and Apple Pies"? Can I really say that my decision to pull in and grab a shake somewhere is the product of my own impulses or something that was set in motion by a passing billboard? Etc.

Even if we're just talking about "brand awareness", that's really a lousy substitute for actual research into a product and a lot of comparison shopping. Did I go with this particular brand in the supermarket because it was a better bargain or just because I'd heard of it before?

These kinds of questions bubble up and oppress me especially when I run into or read about an ad campaign that seems really, really dumb. Like, for instance, Microsoft's "The Browser You Loved To Hate" campaign, which I read about the other day in a Slate blurb by Matthew Yglesias. I don't know what to make of this. At all.

I mean, on the one hand, I guess there's something to recognizing that your product already has a lot of brand recognition--as something that utterly sucks balls and shouldn't be used for anything, ever. (Or for just one thing: downloading Firefox, Chrome or Opera.)

On the other hand, this isn't actually the first time Microsoft has tried a "No, really, Internet Explorer doesn't suck as hard anymore"-themed marketing campaign. I think they've done more-or-less this same exact thing (or a variation of it) with every major IE release starting with Internet Explorer 7; and before that, Internet Explorer hadn't really even been marketed at all, the acme of that being IE 5 (which was part of the subject of the DOJ's antitrust suit against Microsoft).

I think maybe that's the biggest problem with what they're doing here: I can sort of imagine a "give us a second chance" ad campaign working for somebody who's never had a second chance, but it's hard to imagine that such an ad campaign could have any kind of effectiveness when it's reminiscent of the last couple of times someone asked for another opportunity. At this point, indeed, word-of-mouth from trusted sources isn't even enough: I've had friends tell me that Internet Explorer 8 is really pretty good, actually, and they may be right about that but I don't actually care that much; I heard the same thing about IE 7 and IE 8, and the damn bloatware did nothing but piss me off, and Firefox does what I need it to and I'm used to it. Internet Explorer 9 could be the best software ever and the fact I've been burned before leaves me unwilling to even try Microsoft's plea to just use IE 9 on one or two social networking sites--not even considering that IE is pre-installed on my Windows machine and I may be having the update pushed to me in the near future so I don't have to do anything except click the notification balloon telling me Windows has found updates to get the program on my system. (Here's how tarnished IE's rep is with me: if I decided I was through with Firefox, I'd go to more trouble to install Chrome or Opera before I returned to a piece of software that's already installed on my computer, a clicked icon away.)

What would it take to get me to use Internet Explorer again? If you've stopped, too, what would get you back into the fold? Is it enough that they try to be witty? That they insist that you don't have to worry about being fooled again, they really mean it this time? (Microsoft's collective hand to God: the football will still be there when you try to kick it, Charlie Brown.)


Warner Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 11:42:00 AM EDT  

My wife's bank's security software only works on IE.

I had a chance to be their head of IT back in the 90s. Glad I turned that one down.

Phiala Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 12:21:00 PM EDT  

I hate you.

I never would have known that I could sing that McD's jingle if YOU HADN'T BROUGHT IT UP.

Eric Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 12:50:00 PM EDT  

Thank goodness the "genetic memory" SF writers like Frank Herbert have featured in stories like the Dune books almost certainly doesn't exist. People would be still be reciting that jingle 10,000 years from now.

("Have the Waters Of Life opened your inner eye, Alia?" "Yes." "And what do you experience, child?" "Big Mac, Fillet-Of-Fish, Quarter Pounder, French Fries....")

David Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 4:37:00 PM EDT  

I can't sing that McDonald's jingle, but I can still sing the ingredients of a Big Mac.

It's those special skills that make my resume such an attraction for prospective employers.

Nathan Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 5:42:00 PM EDT  

Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce. Special orders don't upset us...

I always liked that song better.

(And I'd use IE if someone paid me.)

Eric Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 7:54:00 PM EDT  

Careful, Nathan: last time I said something like that, I wound up having to read Sarah Fucking Palin's "memoir".

Random Michelle K Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 9:51:00 PM EDT  

I can sing the "Big Mac" jingle, and go past a McD's at a minimum of twice a day. Haven't set foot in one since the time Grandmom was craving a fillet o' fish, and the prior time had been at least decade before. Probably longer. So I can't say that having memorized their jingle makes me want to eat their "food."

As far as IE, I use it for a handful of things for work that require IE, or work "best" in IE.

In fact, I generally have three browsers open at work: IE for SharePoint etc, Chrome for Facebook (to keep it isolated from the rest of my browsing) and for testing things, and Firefox for all my actual browsing (and testing things). And I usually have to use Safari a couple times a month to test things.

Despite using it every day, I still can't stand IE. And the reason Facebook is isolated in Chrome, is because I can't say I much like Chrome. It's missing all the add-ins that I have found to be essential; plus, I feel nervous putting all my eggs in the google basket.

Of course, we haven't updated to IE 9, because, you know, shit doesn't work on it, so we can't use it. But I can't imagine liking IE9 any better than IE8.

On the other hand, I'm a sucker for a really good ad campaign. As much as I will not set foot in their stores, I still love the Michael Jordan - Larry Bird commercial series run during the Super Bowl. And I love the Budweiser Clydesdales (though I despise the Clydesdale "football" commercial)

That didn't answer your question at all, did it?

ADDENDUM: Dear GHOD I hate bloggers word verification. It shouldn't take four fucking tries to make a damned comment.


Eric Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 10:10:00 PM EDT  

No, I'm sorry, Michelle: I don't like Blogger's new word verification either, but without it, I keep having to clean spam out of old posts.

I hope it isn't deterring comments too much: I'm damned either way.

Steve Buchheit Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 11:39:00 PM EDT  

Advertising often doesn't work the way people thinks it work (especially people in the advertising business). It's a classic "forest for the trees" problem. And most people gloss by the majority of advertising, especially if you're not interested in the subject matter. It hits the visual centers, and the brain discounts it unless the subject matter is of interest. It is very much a learned behavior.

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