Unrivalled consistency

Are you wondering, "Hey, in these belt-tightening times of international financial crises and slashed Internet advertising budgets, have those contextual-link-advertising companies that splattered so many stupid irrelevant ad-links over so much of the Web cleaned up their act, and started linking from stuff that actually has something to do with what they're advertising?"

Idiotic contextual-advertising link

Apparently not.

(From this page, about the Star Wars fan-film series that's just hit chapter two, a few years late.)

The company responsible promises "the most relevant contextual advertising links". I'm sure that's correct. They seem, at least, to be running equal first.

"Your situation is hopeless! Sell your house with us!"

We used to regularly receive junk mail from estate agents, which took the form of a folded piece of paper, held closed with a circular red sticker pretending to be sealing wax. The piece of paper offers the recipient - who, frequently, does not actually own the house they're living in - the exciting opportunity to receive a "free market appraisal" of our home.

Presumably, the idea of these things is to fool people into thinking that normally, if you ask a real-estate agent to come and see what they reckon your house is worth with an eye to selling it, they charge you $500 just for picking up the phone. You can, of course, actually receive such a "market appraisal" for free.

One local estate agent has really raised the bar recently. We've received two of these things now:

Goofy estate-agent certificate

That's a gold-embossed stamp in the bottom right corner of the "valuable Certificate" (it'd look better in a photo than this scan, but I can't be bothered). Note also the stock-certificate-esque border.

These "Certificates" remind me of the "surrender pass", a staple of the psychological-warfare business. Most air-dropped propaganda leaflets, along with saying that the dropping side had clearly already won, the drop-ees had been abandoned by their country, the Statue of Liberty is kaput, et cetera, also encouraged enemy soldiers to surrender and provided instructions on how to do so.

Some of the leaflets, however, went so far as to make one side into an actual "surrender coupon" or "safe conduct pass". Which kind of gave the impression that you weren't allowed to hang your undershirt on a stick and wave it at Allied soldiers unless you had the correct paperwork. Or that you could surrender without a pass, but might be in trouble afterwards if you lacked a This Man Not To Be Summarily Executed certificate.

(These things are of course still being printed; here's a big archive that extends to the first few years of the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This site has a lot of leaflets, too. There were also "black propaganda" leaflets, which pretend to be from someone other than the side that's actually dropping them. "Congratulations, comrades, on so courageously hurling yourselves upon the merciless bayonets of the enemy! By the time you are all dead, we will have conquered the world!")

A few propaganda leaflets had some sort of value. Some leaflets had valuable information on them, like for instance offering rewards to enemy soldiers who decided to help the other side. And a soldier who's trying to surrender may be a bit less likely to be shot if he's waving a yellow safe-conduct ticket in the air.

As far as any actual laws-of-war stuff goes, though, the standard air-dropped "surrender pass" was and is every bit as valuable as these junk-mail real-estate certificates.

I see you're reading about execution by stoning. Would you like to buy a bong?

In these days of belt-tightening and margin-cutting, have "contextual" ad companies like Kontera finally been forced to actually live up to their promise of delivering ads that're relevant to the text they link from?

Irrelevant contextual ad

That'll be a "no", then.


You'd think that contextual link-ad companies would be in a deadly downward spiral.

They can only deliver ads that're actually relevant if they've got tons of advertisers to choose from (like Google, who often deliver ads that contradict a page's content, but are at least talking about the same subject). But anybody with half a brain can see that, at the moment, actual relevant contextual ads seem to be very much in the minority.

So if you pay a contextual ad company to advertise your product, you can't expect anything better.

But then again, the big contextual ad companies have been in business for several years now, and most of them still haven't gone broke.

As I write this, RealTextAds (who contacted me in 2004) seem to be out of business, but Vibrant Media are more than eight years old and still going strong. So are Tribal Fusion, as mentioned in passing in 2005 and looked at specifically here; they're about as old as Vibrant. And Kontera, responsible for the ad in the picture above, is six years old. They run ads under their own name, and also as "ContentLink".

So somebody must still be paying for this crap.

Perhaps the ads actually do work - get clicks, and create sales. I'm sure plenty of people at least click on these weird little pop-ups, even if they're only trying to make the thing go away.

I can't see how the cost per conversion can be good, though.

It's not the size of the track, it's what you do with it

One of my readers was delighted to discover this Google ad on this very site:

Girl impressed by big thick masculine track.

I agree with him that it is completely awesome.

(I've linked the above image to the online store of "Radmeister", the people responsible. That's not a paid link, of course; you can click on it without costing Radmeister any money. If you happen to see the same image to the right of this page, then that'll be a real ad. Do tell me if something even better crops up.)

The ad was, no doubt, attracted by my recent series of posts about Lego tracks.

You wouldn't think the nice lady in the bikini would find Lego tracks very impressive. But quantity has a quality all its own, and after the last post I was as good as my word and did indeed buy yards of new-style tracks on BrickLink. The only reason why you haven't yet seen a picture of them lying there like Worf's spare baldric collection is that the BrickLink dealer accidentally sent me a mere 400 links instead of the 480 I paid for.

When the rest of them show up - giving a total length of 5.76 metres, versus the lousy 4.8 I've got now - I shall make them into a fly-curtain or something while I design a vehicle worthy of them.

Intersection area approaches epsilon

There is a post entitled Announcement: Alex Sells Out! on The Daily WTF which includes, in deference to the site's purpose, an announcement that ads will be appearing on the site almost four years after ads started appearing on the site.

But it also includes what may be the best Venn diagram ever drawn.

Hello? Hello? Hello?

Does your phone sometimes ring, and when you pick it up there's silence (not even heavy breathing), and then whoever called just hangs up on you after a few seconds?

No, it's not a burglar seeing if you're at home. Well, probably not, anyway.

It's a telemarketing company, using an autodialer.

The dialer works its way through its list of numbers, and when someone answers, it attempts to connect them to a human telemarketer. If all of those humans are already on another call, the autodialer just hangs up.

Some telemarketers say that this hang-up, or "abandon", rate is only about five per cent - the dialers are configurable, to dial more or less aggressively when almost all of the humans are busy. But I can tell you that I get a heck of a lot more than one hang-up for every nineteen who have someone available to waste my time in person.

Hang-up calls do, of course, tarnish the otherwise sterling reputation of the telemarketing industry. But, one, many people don't know that hang-up calls are from telemarketers. And, two, hang-ups tarnish the whole industry's reputation in general, while the slightly higher number of successful connections that a telemarketing company gets if they crank their autodialer up to maximum speed translates directly into more profit for that company.

That's right, kids; this is a Tragedy of the Commons. When an action X exists which is harmful yet profitable, and the harm is spread over a large group but the profit accrues only to whoever does X, it is in everybody's interest to do X, even if they know exactly why they shouldn't.

Here in Australia, it appears that telemarketers don't even have to use outgoing phone numbers that're visible on Caller ID, My hang-up calls are always from numbers that just come up as "PRIVATE".

And I can't, of course, ask the weasels responsible to take my number off their list, because I don't get to talk to them!

Yes, the phone number here is on the Australian Do Not Call Register. That doesn't seem to have helped a lot.

Getting an actual unlisted number genuinely does seem to work, but that ain't free, and apparently has to come along with the same "silent number" Caller ID un-listing that the telemarketer source numbers use. I don't want that.

To be fair, this is still not a major problem. The small Australian phone-sales market (our whole 775-million-hectare country has about 10% more people in it than 14-million-hectare New York State) just doesn't seem to support a very large number of professional telephone nuisances. So even though this household has made the horrible mistake of giving money to some charities that know what our phone number is, we only get, I don't know, maybe three telephone solicitations a week - versus the dozens per day that've historically been suffered by the worst-affected US households.

And I can't remember ever getting a recorded-message "robocall", though I know they do exist here.

To be perfectly honest, I prefer hang-up calls to the kind where an actual human says "Hello, is this Mr [surname of my girlfriend, to whom I am not married and whose surname I do not share]?"

I keep forgetting to tell those people to take me off their list. I can't resist the urge to tell them, using a few by-now-carefully-honed words, that their salutation has given them away, then hang up immediately.

Still and all, though, my vote stands ready to be cast in favour of the first politician whose Law And Order Crusade aims at People Who're Using Autodiallers For Anything Other Than Old-School Hard-Core Hacking, rather than the more traditional target of People Who'd Like To Be Happy.

Another contextual advertising masterpiece

On this page, I found the following:

Weird contextual ad

That's an ad from Kontera, the people with whom I had so much fun in this column.

I initially thought it was completely inexplicable that "Michael Jackson" and "financial ruin" were connected strings in Kontera's laughable "contextual" ad database, but it turns out that those two strings have been seen in the headlines of lots of news stories. Which is no doubt why Kontera's brainless ad server is linking them together.

You can really see why they get paid the big bucks, can't you?

Posted in Ads. 11 Comments »

Now I want chips, dammit

I presume that almost all of you dorks will, without my prompting, read the latest PA and its newspost.

For the benefit of the three of you who would not otherwise have done so (and who would therefore have missed out on the word "shitwizards", which I feel obliged to state at this juncture is not only an obviously marvellous name for a rock band but will, I suspect, now become at the very least a nerd sub-meme, you see if I'm wrong), I was startled to see Tycho's Doritos ad concepts.

I found them startling because they were advertisements which did not fill me with the urge to punch the face of the person responsible.

OK, the third one has a certain distasteful Nike-ish swagger, and the second one sounds too much like the work of Ray Smuckles to be considered on its own merits.

But the first one?

I'd seriously consider buying that chip.

Yes, I've been drinking.


You got a problem? You wanna fight about it?

OK, you guys go and fight about it, then. I'll stay here and maybe watch a Supreme Commander replay.