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Issue № 55

Clickthru Is Evil II

by Published in Business, Industry

Marketing is them getting you to say yes. Period.

It doesn’t matter if they are selling pixels or used cars.

Ten years ago, Tim Berners-Lee invented the web. Five years ago, the advertisers discovered it. This year, with DoubleClick’s concoction of the poisoned cookie, the advertisers are about to ruin it for pixel mechanics and privacy advocates alike.

It is Our Fault. We changed the rules. In our bathrobes, in front of our keyboards, we created a paradigm shift in business which is now responsible for a large part of the economic growth of the past five years.

We were able to convince our clients that, instead of buying ads,  they could spend a hell of a lot less money by putting up a website for their companies.

We showed them how to expand their message; provide their customers with an enormous amount of information (available 24/7); show their latest wares; change these offers at the speed of light; and receive sales leads from people who pre-qualified themselves by visiting the site. All at an attractively low price.

With a few <TAG>s and some images,  we began to gut the Traditional Media Outlets and their bastard children, the Advertising Agencies. (The “Hidden Persuaders” as Vance Packard called them in a book published forty years ago — when advertising was actually far more innocent, and children could identify Jesus or Santa Claus before they knew who Ronald MacDonald was.)

We moved larger and larger companies to the web.The web began to cut such a wide swath through Print, TV and Radio, that Advertising Agencies saw their billings heading south as companies that used to advertise in those media redirected their marketing efforts to a medium where the investment was low and the return high.In a panic to save their industry, the Advertising Agencies discovered…

The Banner Ad

Wow, they thought, what a great thing! Less copy, smaller storyboards, and we can get the same money or more!

They began to pitch their lost clients with new ways of getting the message out:   “We are now giving you a ‘GLOBAL’ audience”.

And all was well in Ad Land. Until…

“Hold it” the advertisers cried. “We know how many issues of magazines are produced, we know what our viewing and listening audience is; how will we know that this online ad stuff isn’t money down a rathole?” The Ad folks smiled.

Click Thru!!!

“We can count how many times your ad is clicked on!! Yes, we can count the impressions, we can tell you where the vistors are coming from, we can tell you what browser they are using! Say it with me, Click Thru is good!”

DoubleClick was one of the first companies to serve ads as a way to make a buck on the web. The early services were Slooooooowwwwwww.Your present author bitched to the sites that were early adopters of Internet ads, and bitched again to DoubleClick about the bandwidth-sucking behaviours of their technology. Perhaps “bitched” is the wrong word. Harrangued them with the obsessive rage of a paranoid schizophrenic, assaulted them like a kamakazi, belabored them with charts and studies like a technology and marketing consultant.

Well, it worked.

Now they have gigantic server farms pushing ads across the web faster than you can say Holy HTML. No longer do you have to wait until the ads are served and counted, and counted and billed, and clicked and billed. Yep! They are fast and seamless now.

The Poisoned Cookie

Cookies are small text files sent by crafty web sites to record your visit. These cookies are stored on your hard drive as you view web pages, allowing sites to record information about your visit.  Pixel mechanics and their clients use this information to determine that the 3MB image of the new product has gotta go, that the site is not working, that visitors don’t like “Flash” presentations, or that there are way too many images on the site.

Cookies have been used by sites to say “hello this is your third visit” or “this is what’s new since you were here last,” to remember what’s in your shopping cart, to present you with any number of options in hopes of getting you to click on the Money Page. (Sometimes they are even used creatively.)

Alas, the race for eyeballs and the advertising dollars that follow has taken a dark turn with DoubleClick’s new marrige of the cookie and banner ads. (See references below, but OPT OUT before viewing the articles.)

DoubleClick’s banner ads now contain cookies which record information about your visits to sites served by them. With the aquisition of Abacus Direct, a direct mail firm, whose database of Catalog shopping records can be tied to your surfing as you move from site to site… well, your privacy is out the window.

Because if you believe that they won’t sell this information to any and everyone with the price of admission, you’d best turn your computer off right now and donate it to the charity of your choice.

The Grand Theory is that the junk mail you get will be targeted to what you have done online. (Gee thanks, more crap in my mailbox. I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready for mail-order catalogs from Trixie’s House of Domination.)

DoubleClick explains how environmentally responsible they will be. They claim that their innovation in direct marketing will reduce the number of mailings it takes to achieve the desired results. (The desired results = getting you to say “yes.”)

Double Click’s new gambit has privacy advocates across the web condemning the practice, and the Federal Trade Commission  holding an “informal” inquiry, what ever the hell that is.

From a pixel mechanic’s perspective, the poisoned cookie means the loss of one more tool in our kit to create sites for our clients – which means one less way for our clients to service their customers.

But the hell with pixel mechanics.

For people who use the web, DoubleClick’s poisoned cookie spells an invasion of privacy the likes of which Stalin himself never dreamed. Opt out early and opt out often.

References

Before you use these links, you may want to OPT OUT first! The Standard is a Member of the DoubleClick Network.

thestandard.com: Privacy Issue Makes DoubleClick a Target

thestandard.com: The Trouble with DoubleClick.

Opt Out Online Opt Out - Center for Democracy and Technology

DoubleClick opt out page

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