Reading Time: ~5 minutes
I was in a bar in downtown Boston a few weeks ago when my friend said that he had gotten a Newcastle Brown Ale. The mere name brought up a roiling gut reaction of primal rage, mixed with a little bit of nausea. But I couldn’t remember why.
“Can I try a sip?” I asked him. He offered it, I took the careful, delicate sip of someone who doesn’t want to look like a mooch.
The beer was light, but not watery. It was a rich and smooth blend of everything I enjoyed in beer. Then, it hit me: The Daily Show. That’s why I didn’t drink Newcastle. I was on a permanent boycott, because of the way the company had brutalized my Daily Show viewing experience. I handed it back like it was a venomous snake.
The Daily Show is the one show I watch religiously. I watch it from my computer most often. I expect commercials. But do I expect to see this one-time-funny commercial about Sanjay two, three, four times between commercial breaks? NO.
I don’t consider myself weak-willed. I sat through these ads (or paced my room in a growing, maniacal rage) for months at a time. I must have seen Sanjay’s sad face when he was told he was adopted, I must have heard “Is that why your curry tastes so bad?” deadpanned more than a hundred times.
I grew to hate Newcastle Brown Ale, because it had so ruthlessly taken over something I loved, with commercials entangled throughout the website like some kind of one-liner octopus. The lighter side of dark, the lighter side of dark…
It was obvious I wasn’t the only one. TheDailyShow.com has a comments section (which is completely ignored by staff, web designers, and anyone else remotely invovled in the conception of the site) in which, for months, like-minded people pleaded for at least a little variety. One guy even wrote, “Please, if I promise to buy a six-pack of Newcastle, will they stop showing the same commercial?” Others swore they would never to buy the beer, ever.
Hence, the conundrum of internet marketing in this day and age – it’s much easier to be hated than loved. We’re a picky audience and we’re still growing accustomed to ads. So are the companies. These are inevitable growing pains.
But, really, there are news websites now that offer a 3 minute clip after a 1 minute advertisement. This does nothing more than summon the bile from the back of my throat. I’m certainly not going to look kindly on the people that made me wait to see something like “Xtreme snomobile accident!!”
The simple solution would be for companies to make shorter commericals. Five-second blips to remind people of their existence. Some kind of algorithm should at least calculate how long the clips themselves are. Sometimes, the commercials are longer than the content.
From the start of the internet, companies made people hate them. Pop-ads, flashing banner ads, bogus surveys, spam email… come on, why does this layer of anonymity suddenly make so many advertisers act like they’re shady, back-alley salesmen in trenchcoats peddling their illicit wares?
I tell this tale about Newcastle Brown Ale, because, recently, a company did something right about advertising on TheDailyShow.com. Some hip brand, you may assume. Something like Apple or Google or… or… no.
Minute Maid. The orange juice. Apparently, the oddly named beverage (I can only picture a maid popping out of a can) is trying to expand its demographic from “Moms” to “Men and Youth.”
And there’s no doubt that the latter groups lurk in droves on The Daily Show’s website.
Rather than assault viewers with a string of long-winded commercials, Minute Maid tried something else – it corrected the terrible, horrible, labrinthyne Guest Page of the website and created “The Ultimate Guestination Presented By Minute Maid.”
That’s right. A new feature. A good cause.
First, I wonder if they realized how many people hated the old guest page. I, for one, basically gave up looking for old interviews because of how much I despised digging through pages and pages of cumbersome guests on a format that looked as corny as Yahoo circa 2000.
Maybe their advertising agency, Doner, tried something revolutionay. Maybe it was Minute Maid. Maybe they did it by accident (some of the other tactics are framed a little… uh… strangely, but maybe addictive mini-games is the next frontier).
Either way, I think that there’s an important message, here. Companies have always known to sponsor good causes – even if they’re cynically doing it for the positive name association – so why shouldn’t they invest very little money for a big boost in reputation?
Gosh, what a novel idea. Minute Maid’s implementation of this Guestination page shows something very important: the possibility that companies can add to an internet user’s experience instead of detract from it.
Why is it taken for a given that commercials are going to be boring? Because television taught us that. But this is an entirely new medium that companies have mostly been treating as another TV. People are used to different things on the internet, and that means that it’s up to businesses to figure out a way to complement that experience, not destroy it and cause future, one-man Newcastle Brown Ale boycotts. It’s the lighter side of dark, if you will.