Friday, July 20, 2012

Shop the press! Online advertising reaches new low

Want to buy the jumper that serial killer is wearing on the front page? Now you can!

You know how sometimes on your favourite TV program the characters will stop what they're doing to reach into the fridge for an icy cold can of Coke? Or they'll have an important plot-forwarding conversation in the car park of a McDonald's? Or they'll suddenly express a fondness for Cheerios?

Or Funyuns?

It's called product placement and it works because we like these shows and we like the characters, and when we see them using a product it can act as a silent, subconscious word-of-mouth recommendation. (Case in point: I bought a bag of Funyuns the other day just because Jesse Pinkman said they were awesome.) (Side note: They're not.) (Second side note: Stand by for a future Incredible Inedible.)

It's perhaps not ideal, but it's usually unintrusive enough not to cause any real problem with regular viewing.

But thanks to new technology product placement is starting to creep into some very inappropriate places. Namely, online news reports.

Today I saw this Daily Mail story about Annette Bening and Warren Beatty's 20-year-old transgender son Stephen (born Kathryn), who has released a web video for activist organisation WeHappyTrans.com .

In the six minute video Stephen talks about what it's like to be transgender and gay - but FORGET ALL THAT BECAUSE OMG WHAT IS HE WEARING?

GET THE LOOK!

If you're like me I'm sure the first thing you thought when you saw that video still of Stephen Beatty was "WHERE ON EARTH CAN I BUY THAT SNAZZY JUMPER?"

Well fret no more. Thanks to new web advertising technology provided by Luminate, the Daily Mail can tell you. Just hover your mouse over the image, click on a "hotspot" and VOILA!

Now you can look just like Warren Beatty's transgender son!

I can't even begin to describe how a) offensive and b) ridiculous this is.

I can't be sure, but I'm fairly confident that when Stephen put that jumper on and headed down into his very unattractive basement to make that video he wasn't hoping to start a new trend in knitwear. I'm pretty sure he wanted people to pay attention to his message, and not his clothing.

This sort of product placement is intrusive and totally undermines any serious meaning a story may have originally carried. It's the web equivalent of pouring your heart out to someone only for them to interrupt with "Nice story, but where did you get that jacket?"

Putting this sort of thing on fashion photos, celebrity or red carpet shots is one thing, but the very idea that anyone would want to "get the look" Stephen is sporting in his video is laughable, probably even to Stephen himself.

Meanwhile, Daily Mail, why stop there? There are heaps of stories on your site today on which you could encourage readers to "get the look". Like the rise in unemployment:

* Not a real screenshot, I made this.


* Not a real screenshot, I made this.

Or the bloody fighting in Damascus:


* Not a real screenshot, I made this.




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