July 30, 2001-- Newsletter #141

By Joe Burns


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

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July 30, 2001--Newsletter #141

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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

I received a piece of unsolicited mail today that made a statement that was so goofy it actually seemed smart. The first line of the email read:

"This is not SPAM, but rather a cold call to tell you about..."

Ah. It's a cold call, not SPAM. OK, then. I didn't "trash" it. I handled it as a waste management artisan.

Did you hear...

Have you seen the new Capital One banner ads? They shake. The image sits still for about five seconds and then it quickly moves to the right and then back. It was quick, non-invasive, and attention grabbing all without popping up a new window. Huh.

M-I-C-K-E-Y F-I-R-E-D. Disney has announced it will close up its Web portal, Go.com. Four hundred will be unemployed. If you own stock in the Disney Internet Group (DIG), your shares will be converted into regular Disney stock (DIS) at the rate of 0.19353% of Disney stock per DIG share.

It seems Ebay is being invaded by honest to goodness brick-and-mortar stores. According to a report I heard on a talk radio investment program, some major retailers are using Ebay to rid themselves of unwanted or out-of- fashion merchandise. The report stated that Bloomingdale's now has a staff of 12 whose only job is to take digital photographs, post to Ebay, and ship when sold. The retailer is said to make more than 1000 posts per day.

Now onto today's topic...

Three newsletters ago, I wrote a small blurb at the very top of the text that said I would buy an X10 camera if only the company would stop the blizzard of pop-up windows. It was quickly pointed out to me that the windows were not "pop-up" windows but rather, "pop- under" windows.

Uh-huh. That's much better.

I was joking at the time, but I think the words may have rung more true than I first thought. Among the emails that discussed "up" and "under" and agreement, I received one that I thought was a gag. The email told me that all I had to do was go to the company's Web site and I could allow them to set a cookie that would stop the windows, completely, for 30 days.

Really. Try it. The direct URL is: http://www.x10.com/x10ads.htm.

The page is also a great deal of interesting reading. The company takes the space to describe what kind of ads they are using and how the ads are "unique," "legal," and "100% safe."

The page reads more like a rebuttal then a Public Relations piece. It ends with the company explaining that people once disliked banner ads but became comfortable with them. I especially liked the line, "Please try to understand that this type of advertising is what keeps the Internet enjoyable as it pays for operational costs behind the sites you enjoy visiting for free."

I get the feeling that the X10 ads bothered people to the point where the company received panicked emails asking if a virus was being set or if what the company was doing might be illegal or just general emails filled with surfer discontent. Those can be pretty nasty. I know and I don't pop under any ads.

Now, many of you might now want to hurry up, finish this newsletter and race right over to the site and get that cookie. It's actually two cookies and it does stop the ads. As soon as I got the cookies and began surfing to a few of my favorite sites, sans X10, a question kept rolling over and over in my mind.

Why would X10 offer to do this?

I called the X10 company to discuss the matter and was not able to talk to a representative. I was only given an email address. My emailed question went unanswered so rather than speculate on why they did it, I'll explain my original question.

X10 is in the business of selling cameras. That's how they make a profit. That's how they stay in business. Advertising is the method by which the company lets possible consumers know about the product.

As one email asked me, "Why are they targeting me? I don't want a camera." Here's the short answer, they are not targeting you specifically. They are targeting visitors to certain sites. You just happen to be a visitor to that site.

It's the advertising way of the Web. People are bombarded with advertising that simply doesn't appeal to them. Because of the concepts of privacy on the Web, advertisers are simply not allowed to create enough of a profile of a person to provide advertisements for elements the user wants. Thus, mass advertising meets a huge group of people. Few buy while the majority does not.

Now, here's where I get into trouble. You may think that the ability to shut off the ads is a great thing. I don't. At least not the way it's being done now. X10 wants to sell cameras. I may not want a camera today - but I might tomorrow. That's why McDonalds runs ads all the time. I might not want a hamburger today, but I might tomorrow. Stopping the advertising without any input from the consumer, in my opinion, will create an "out of sight, out of mind" climate that X10 probably doesn't want.

Here's a better idea. Why not make it so that the when you buy a camera, you can have a cookie that turns off the ads permanently? Advertise it that way. Here's another idea. Why not have it so that if a user comes to the X10 site and watches a one-minute Flash-based presentation regarding the camera, he or she can have something that turns off the ads for good or for 30 days.

X10 succeeded with their pop-under ads. People were talking about them. If I were X10, that would make me happy even though the sheer number of ads was bothering people. Obviously that got back to X10, and a decision was made to offer the ability to stop the ads with no input from the possible consumer. I think that's a problem.

X10 is in business to sell cameras and the ads are making the camera something people are talking about. Yes, it's often bad talk, but it's talk nonetheless. That's good.

I say to X10, don't allow the ability to stop the ads without something being done on the user's part, and coming to the site is not enough. It must be an interactive something.

I say to surfers that this is the level of "in-your-face" that must be met to get people talking about a product. If you want ads that appeal to you, then tell the advertisers about you. Tell them what you like and what you do not like. I'm sure they would be more than pleased to tailor ads to your likes and dislikes.

If you refuse to give up any information, then get ready to close window after window because the X10, mass- marketing, shot-in-the-dark method is what's working. At least it's what's working now.

I don't see many other companies allowing you to shut off their ads and I would be surprised if X10 allows their own ads to be blocked for a very long time.


That's that. Thanks for reading. Don't go to the X10 site just yet. There's still the "And Remember" segment below.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And Remember: I'm going to turn this one around. I have a nice fact, but even I don't think it's true.

I spent last weekend in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Nice place. There were great walking trails in the Research Triangle Park. While there, I ate three dinners at three completely different restaurants. The food may have been different, but the free appetizers were the same...hush puppies. Don't get me wrong, they were great and I ate enough to not really want my meal. Now, here's what's bugging me. One of the servers took pride in explaining to me that the name "hush puppies" came from Confederate soldiers feeding pieces of fried dough to dogs to keep them quiet while food was cooking and/or being transported. Get it? Hush. Puppy.

That just sounds like a load of fried dough to me. I searched for the real origin of the word. I found the dog- feeding story attributed to soldiers, slaves, numerous chefs, and a few other people. It still just seems too goofy an origin to be true.

My one saving grace was a research book that offered up the suggestion that the term came from southern Louisiana. In the mid 1800s it seemed poor people would eat a type of salamander that was nicknamed, "mud puppy". The little critters weren't very tasty alone so they were killed, dipped in corn meal and deep-fried. The name just grew from there.

That just seem more plausible to me. I have a very hard time buying that troops would waste valuable food by giving it to dogs to shut them up.

I rant therefore I am.

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