Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…


If you are not paying for the service, you are not a customer – you are the product.

I have become surprisingly intolerant of ads.

We cut the cable with Comcast about 5 years ago and all of our TV since then has streamed over the interwebs or arrived on shiny disks in red envelopes. Most of what I want to watch comes from Netflix which has no ads at all. Mrs Clown mostly watches Hulu but recently we have made an effort to watch more stuff together which means (duh!) me watching more Hulu.

I’ve found that I can’t tolerate ads any more. As soon as Hulu starts up an ad for carpet cleaners or healthy yoghurt or whatever, I feel a rage building inside of me and it entirely ruins the viewing pleasure. I can’t bear to watch stuff on Hulu because of it. We even signed up for Hulu Plus a couple of years ago to try to get rid of the ads but, as far as I could tell, the only benefit to paying $10 a month was that your wallet was a bit lighter. It didn’t seem to make any difference to the quantity of ads. No more Hulu for me.

About the only ads that I hear regularly these days are on public radio. It bothers me all the more that they try to pretend that they are not ads (‘This program was brought to you by sleepy time mattresses because, for a good nights sleep, choose sleepy time”) but they are not fooling anyone. Mercifully, the ads are over quickly. Commercial radio is just a non-starter for me. I stab at the controls in rage every time Greg Kihn tries to pretend that he is best friends with the local Volkswagon dealer.

I’m told that Facebook and Gmail have a lot of ads but I rarely even notice them…until this week when it seems that my Facebook feed has been infected by Bonobo and Verizon viruses. Every time I open FB, there is another ad pretending to be a status update. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have checked “Don’t ever show me another fake news item by Verizon again”. There’s an argument that I should be grateful for ads because they let me get services for free but it’s a crap argument because I’d rather pay to avoid the ads and they are not even giving that me that option.

This morning’s KQED Forum was about Facebook and their evil privacy policy changes. Most of the callers were pitchforking about how their secret cat pictures are being shared with Evil Corporations who use them to target them with cat food ads. I _wish_ the evil corporations were that smart. I wouldn’t mind so much if the occasional ad was relevant to me. But they are not. The last ad that I remember watching and saying “Oooh! I should get me one of those!” was Tony Blackburn in pitching “They’re Off!” – a horse-racing game that worked by your record player’s stylus falling into one of eight tracks by random so you could bet on whether Kiss Me Quick would beat Geordie Lad in the 3:30 at Newmarket from the comfort of your couch. It was a fantastic idea in 1976 and it’s still fun in 2012. The ads just got worse and worse since then.

About the time that I left England 20 years ago, there was a trend towards funny and intelligent commercials that were actually entertaining. I could tolerate that – probably – but that trend never caught in the States unfortunately. Most ads over here feature an annoying banker trying to get through all the small print in under eight seconds, a dopey housewife trying to sell me a rag on a stick for reaching those awkward corners or – worst of all – handsome twenty-somethings trying to trick me into drinking piss out of a beer can.

One of the callers-in to that Forum show suggested that Facebook should have an opt-out policy. Assume each Facebook user is worth about $25 per year in ad revenues then give us the option to pay $25 for no more ads. I happily pay Pandora $3 per month for ad-free music and I coughed up the extra $25 for the Kindle version that comes with self-respect. Why not let me opt out of Facebook ads too? Sadly, all of Krazny’s guests focussed on the fee-for-privacy aspect of the suggestion instead of the fee-for-no-ads part that I care more about. Honestly, I don’t even care that Facebook’s corporate customers get to see what I have for lunch. If it increases the quality of ramen noodles on Castro Street, I am all for it. I just don’t want to see any more ads for things I have no interest in buying.