Written Words – Ads

If “give them what they want” is advertising’s greatest commandment, Gmail is its saint.

After all, the e-mail service brought web ads to a whole new (albeit creepy) level by personalizing them. Basically (and pardon the explanation, coming from a non-computer geek as it is), Gmail scans my e-mails, pulls out words that match some ad in its database, and displays the ad it thinks I need to see.

Big Brother is watching, and he’s got cookies. Or at least he knows where I can find them.

There’s not much that I can do about it short of cutting off my Gmail account and switching entirely to Outlook (and don’t even get me started on Microsoft’s continual error reporting messages), so I tend to ignore the ever-more-pointed ads (does anyone really want to be told to lose weight via an ad?) and type away.  If you can’t defeat the beast, at least let it sleep.

Until now.

As of last Saturday, there is hope. Hope that we can break free of pointed criticisms masked as services. Hope that we can make our own choices without sponsored links. Hope that we can so confuse Google ads that they will never recover.

Last Saturday, I got an e-mail from my older brother.

To describe the e-mail’s contents would be an exercise in confusion. Let’s just say it included life advice, inside jokes, catch phrases, news flashes, and a suggested soundtrack (I kid you not) in the form of bracketed names of songs along with their respective bands. The e-mail itself was fun, but the ads running down the right side of the page really caught my eye:

“Dr. Oz’s Free Test: What’s your RealAge?”
“Get Jack Russell Dog Tips”
“Jack Johnson’s Quiz”
“Tournament Tickets”
“Is the Stimulus Too Much?”
“American Wildlife Art”
“The Ultimate Clown DVD”
“2008 Nissan Clearance”

Yup. We finally did it. We gave Gmail so much material that it simply couldn’t decide, overloaded, and spat out such a nonsensical list that no one in his right mind would ever feel his needs were being met.

Siblings: 1; Gmail: 0.

Game on.

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