There are ads for all kinds of all kinds of things I’ve been looking at on retailers’ websites, with one exception. There are never any nice boat ads.
Not so long ago most of these advertisements were static. They just appeared and kept good and still while you looked at them or ignored them. I ignored them, having been trained on newspapers where it was obligatory to separate the editorial department from the advertising department.
This was necessary to prevent the well-heeled advertisers from influencing the editorial department’s choice of news and features. Every day there was a tussle between advertisers wanting an editorial report about their product (free advertising), and the editorial department, which devoted a lot of time and energy to fending off these requests without offending the advertisers who, after all, were providing editorial’s salaries. A tricky business.
But it is no longer possible to ignore advertisements on the Internet. They jiggle and wiggle and flash at you. They attract your attention with pictures of smiling girls with long legs and perfect teeth. The technology has evolved in favor of the advertisers and there’e nothing the ignorers can do about it.
If, for example, you should innocently visit a few websites on a quest for the perfect pair of underpants at the cheapest possible price, you will find underpants ads popping up every time you log on to the Internet.
This is very worrying. It feels as if somebody out there is reading everything I type on my keyboard, peeking into my personal diary, or inspecting my underwear drawer. This highly targeted advertising is unique to the Internet. Newspapers eventually managed regional advertising, but could never grab you by the neck and force a personalized ad down your throat.
As I’ve said, this is worrying, not only from the Big Brother aspect, but also because of the rampant discrimination displayed by the fact that there are no boat ads.
I wouldn’t mind if a nice little Folkboat jiggled at me now and and then. I would be quite happy to inspect a flashing Hinckley or a Morris 35 draped in long-legged women. But no, nothing like this ever happens. Only underpants.
I know this whole business of personally targeted advertisements is the surreptitious business of little packs of electronic code called cookies, a deliberately sweet little name for a dastardly concept, but it also seems to me that advertisers of boats for sale have fallen far behind in the electronic advertising race.
So I would like to make a personal plea to boat brokers and private advertisers of boats. Since we can’t beat ’em, let’s join ’em. C’mon lads, get your cookies in a row. Down with underpants. Up with boats.
In good times, people want to advertise; in bad times they have to.
— Sydney Biddle Barrows, Town and Country, Feb 55
“Poor Charlie, he keeps winning at poker but he loses a fortune on the horses.”
“Yeah, that’s because they won’t let him shuffle the horses.”
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)