This new iOS project is essentially an experiment in direct-selling digital goods, so I’m not especially hung up on all these gnarly new questions about ads and their value, on Google and Facebook but offline as well. Yet it would be very wrong to assume that I can disregard business stuff like ad-based marketing, because ideas like MixBall will always need the attention and support of customers or fans or patrons or investors, and now that I’m pondering unanswered questions about promotion and consumer behavior, here are some random weekend advertising ideas:

– Why is the sound always overcompressed in video commercials? I mute the stream and therefore this does not seem to have the effect that the producers are intending. The only explanation I can imagine is that a lot of people walk into the next room or have a chat during commercial breaks, and either the proportion of those people is greater than the proportion of people who get annoyed by obnoxious audio quirks, or those people spend more money on advertised goods.

– I guess the colors are usually all blown out too, does that annoy visual people? Should sponsors care about this stuff?

– Can advertising work? Of course. Does most advertising work? Very different question…

– I’m not that nervous about Facebook spying on and then advertising to me based on my personal life (maybe I should be), but aren’t they something like 50 years behind with this idea that canned social advertising can convince me to spend where a straight commercial would fail? Isn’t it already uncool to buy the same stuff as the other people that I know?

– Is anyone else annoyed when ads and media have that obvious sort of glossy, meatless focus-group quality to them? Rows of brilliant-white, picket-fence teeth sparkling from inside diverse and demographically-precise protagonists, an awkward and asinine cliche grafted here, an agreeable slice of the Generic American Songbook cued there, and I slip right right into “uncanny valley” mode. It bothers me more than the hypothetical NSA archive of my Facebook timeline, because it feels vaguely as if the culture I belong to is being imitated by an alien entity in camouflage. I stare at this grotesque parody of human interaction, and my animal brain recoils at the knowledge that it is about to be tempted with yet another inappropriate way to spend money. Needless to say, the experience does not put me in a buying mood. The worst offenders of this kind seem to be movie previews, and I can’t tell if the effect is actually more noticeable these days, or if I’m just more likely to perceive it after brief exposure to film school. How can advertisers prevent this problem, and again, would they even want to?

– I’m thinking mostly about video ads, even specifically the kind that pop up for a mandatory 30-second interruption. Does anything else work, online? Do unexpected things work with small and/or weird subsets of the population? I suppose market researchers have answered many of those questions already, and I could probably buy access to some of the answers.

– Does that information matter for every product? Is anything more effective than a personal recommendation? Does anything else even come close?

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