Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

The death of honest advertising

I was watching a video a few days ago, linked from some very popular site, to an in-flight safety video filled with wizards and hobbits. Sounds fun? it is. It’s actually rather cool. And just before I went to share it,. I noticed the millions of views and realized it was probably already seen by everyone, and then the really obvious point bashed into my head… I was working as a viral marketer for air new zealand.

It was perfect. I am as cynical as anything when it comes to marketing and PR and the various ways companies manipulate customers (even down to the shape of floor tiles in supermarkets…oh yes), and yet here I was, cynical old cliff about to dutifully send out some free viral PR for an international airline. They had caught be, hooked me in, and very cleverly, in a way that would make the best NLP practitioners smile whispered in my ear “why not tell everyone how cool a company we are”.

The cost of the video was probably non trivial, but it was money well spent. And I’m sure they will pore over the figures and declare it a business and marketing triumph. Why bother paying for adverts which people ignore or actively block, when you can get people to promote your brand for free?

It’s a work of sheer amazing human ingenuity that not only got people to embrace having a company logo on the clothing you wear, but actually got you to pay money for the clothing at the same time. We actually pay to advertise Nike and Adidas to people around us. I don’t think there is a single brand of car in existence that doesn’t have a big phat logo on the front of it.


What occurs to me, is that as this stuff works, and works so darned well, the need to engage in actual honest ‘here is an advert’ advertising is probably dwindling. It’s clearly not as effective as the viral/subtle stuff. I find this a bit worrying because I am acutely aware of how powerful advertising is, and if this stuff is even better, than we really are all just pawns in the hands of martin sorrel.

Worse, I can ‘strike a deal’ with advertisers. Generally I have adblock turned off for sites I visit, only toggling it on for strobing nightmare crap, but I can’t opt out of, or even recognize the viral and real subtle stuff. Next time you are annoyed by an advert, remind yourself that you at least know what you are watching. You KNOW someone is trying to sell you something. It’s an honest transaction of time/attention/money. The times you really should be wary is everywhere else, where you are being marketed to and promoted to, and you don’t even realize it.

4 thoughts on The death of honest advertising

  1. This is so true. So damn true. Come to think of it, I’ve never realized it myself. Wow, this surely is quite a psychological revelation.

    Now let me share this insightful post so that I can end up donating you some free advertising. Haha, the irony.

  2. Its even more subtle than what you fear. It wasn’t 1 advert, it was actually 3 adverts inside each other!

    The video you refer to was created by no less than WETA Workshop, the company behind LOTR and the company who are about to release the first of the Hobbit films. Its no wonder the New Zealand airline wanted to be associated with wizards and hobbits, because when the first LOTR film appeared, it was a huge boost for years for the whole of the New Zealand tourist industry and they (the New Zealand government and their tourist industry) very much hope to promote New Zealand again off the back of the Hobbit films!

    So its an advert for a New Zealand airline on the surface, but its also underneath that, also an advert for the whole of New Zealand itself, as a tourist destination, ultimately promoted by the whole of the New Zealand government in association with the New Zealand tourist industry … and if all of that isn’t enough, its also an advert to gets us ready to think again about wizards and hobbits, ready for the start of the 3 new Hobbit films! :)



  3. In things which came those last years, in advertising, which are amazing me: voting.

    I mean, advertising companies, Google the first, worked on the issue to have ads relevant to the users, to avoid spamming things which won’t get clicked. So they made algorithms, kept data, created profiles to follow what you like, and to show you more relevant ads.

    But really, the amazement for me came with voting. Take Facebook, for example. You can “like” an ad. You can also close it, hide it, and explain why it’s not something you want to see.

    It’s pure genius! Why bothering with algorithms and tracking cookies when you can get the user to tell you EXACTLY what he likes in an advertisement?

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