It’s a funny old thing. The world that is.

No, perhaps it’d better to say the real world or, maybe I should put it as The Real World™. Whatever, the point is that physical reality often seems to be left behind in our digital age.

There are digital delights to be had for sure. I had a Very Significant Birthday recently, for which my children treated me (and their mum) to an adventure at the War of the Worlds Immersive Experience in London. We were presented with a series of live actors guiding us in small groups through various set-pieces, based on Mr Wells’ masterpiece book. The experience was further embroidered with some delightful virtual reality sessions. The latter included one memorable virtual trip down the Thames and into the estuary, with full motion and spray, into the bargain. It was well executed, well structured, highly enjoyable and – may I add – well worth adding to your to do list. Thank you, dear children.

But I digress, gentle reader.

Just as with Real World™, In the online one, we are assailed with advertising, forums, comments and – yes – even blogs. To a greater or lesser extent most of these mirror The Real World™ though with some profound differences.

You see, one is used to certain behaviours in The Real World. I was considering this as I deposited in the recycling yet another sheaf of flyers. They had been enclosed with our subscription copy of a TV listings magazine and I was dumping them, along with several (unopened) letters addressed to “The Occupier” and some personally addressed but overtly spam.

My train of thought was interrupted by a phone call: someone trying to get me interested in a VoIP supplier I had made the mistake of giving my genuine phone number. Well, their number is now firmly on my block list. I don’t mind too much being marketed TO but you only market AT me once.

All of which set me thinking further.

If I was asked to accept – and pay for – the delivery of an un-franked letter, only to find it contained marketing, I would be more than slightly miffed. That’s a pretty obvious and understandable reaction really, isn’t it? Similarly, were I contacted by my phone provider and asked to accept a collect call which turned out to be some kind of marketing, I would refuse it. Again, I submit that as a perfectly understandable reaction. You might even agree with me when I suggest I might get somewhat forthright over the issue.

So why is it then, that organisations intent on pushing online adverts, expect me to squander my data allowance and paid-for data (I’m a cheapskate and use a simple PAYG tariff) just to download marketing I never requested?

I can (just about) tolerate small static, well designed and well-placed ads. – the equivalent to in-page ads in a newspaper. Just. But show me gratuitous autoplaying video advertisement on a bright, animated item or – the popup or popover advert and I am almost guaranteed to have a Sense of Humour Failure.

Lets go back to The Real World™ for a moment and assume that a Dear Friend has arrived with an Interesting Snippet of news. He has his 6 year old son in tow. You are discussing his Interesting Snippet over a well earned cup of coffee whilst his son plays with his toys. Suddenly his son leaps up, starts dancing around the room craving attention and yelling “Lookit me! Lookit me!”. Now, I submit that the lad’s dad might just tell him to pipe down and reprimand him for his rude behaviour. Do you recognise a parallel with a gratuitous autoplaying video advertisement on a bright, animated item demanding your attention: It’s a directly analogous to a 6 year old dancing around the room craving attention and yelling “Lookit me! Lookit me!”

Well, that’s me about all done, although I’ll leave you with one more thought: I decided to do a Real World™ approach to an existence on Facebook. I found an old loud hailer and set off down to our local shopping mall where I announced to all and sundry my every action and every thought. I must say it did have a modicum of success. I got lots of attention and even amassed a grand total of three followers – although I do admit that one was a store detective and the other two were policemen.

It’s a funny old thing. The world that is. It really is. Online it’s even odder.

By John Kirkwood
Categorized as blog

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