Invasion of the Ad-Bots: Select an Experience at Your Peril

I am a media consumer; not so much a product consumer though. Most of my clothes come from Goodwill and/or garage sales and I use hand soap to wash my hair (because I’m classy like that and my hair is a quarter of an inch long) so when I see ads for products and services while watching media, I usually just furrow my brow in mock-confusion. Silly Google+, YouTube, and Hulu: They all want to tailor my ad experience. They ask me questions like “Which ad experience would you prefer?” and “Is this ad relevant to you?” or “Which of these products/services/companies have you heard of?” I never answer any of those “concerned” questions. I don’t want my ad “experience” tailored to me. I don’t have an ad “preference.” Please don't make ads more relevant to me. I want to see all the splendid ridiculousness of commercial media. I don’t want to be limited to whatever products and services Madison Avenue’s internet robots think are interesting to me. I need to see all the ads: this blog needs all the fodder it can get. And, yes, I know that’s not where ads come from anymore. Madison Avenue is only alive and well on reruns of Bewitched. I am still waiting to see the episode where McMann and Tate accidently create an ad campaign for confederate flags and Samantha has to erase everyone’s memory of history. Hilarity ensues.

Calling the watching of commercials an “ad experience” is a clunky euphemism at best. While I do “experience” watching commercials as a thing that happens in my life, I would not categorize them as memorable enough to classify as experiences in the typically understood sense. The passive viewing of video media itself is barely an experience, even when I have voluntarily placed myself in a position to do so. My watching of the final Harry Potter film in an IMAX theatre is the closest I’ve ever gotten to calling media consumption an “experience” and that’s mostly because the movie made me queasy and want to barf. (The seasick-inducing dome of the IMAX rather than the JK Rowling story was the source of my feelings of puking. I call IMAX theatres “vomitoriums.” No offense to Jo—Hermione is my patronus.)

Back in the olden days of network television, you watched whatever advertisers had to show you. Commercials that ran during your favorite shows (or your not-so-favorite shows running on “Must-See TV”) were whatever the network had in their sponsored-by hopper. They did their best to tailor these ads to who they thought the audience for the show was. That’s why there were G.I. Joe action figure commercials during Saturday morning cartoons and ads for sexy times 900 numbers during late night Star Trek reruns. Network television commercials were nature’s way of saying “time to go to the bathroom.”

Tailoring my ad experience means I miss out on whatever weirdness is taking place in the media. For example, I am most definitely not the target audience for Axe Body Spray but I love me a good opportunity to explore the notion of aerosol-based teen angst.  Where else will I find curriculum materials for my pop culture analysis course? What would my personal ad experience even look like? I’m imagining a sequence which starts with a variety of Buffy the Vampire Slayer t-shirts, followed by an ad for men’s shoes that come in women’s sizes, and concluding with a smart 60-second blip about Amish free-range chicken eggs. Goldmine.

Of course, none of those things exist so I would rather just be baffled by a series of commercials that actually do exist, including a baby skin care line with a nonsensical tagline about the baby smiling and that’s why she needs baby lotion, followed by a lesser-known rapper peddling gigantic throwback headphones, and concluding with a dopey looking Matthew McConaughey driving around in a Lincoln Town Car. None of these are remotely relevant to me. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to see them in all their baffling glory. Also, some voiceover narration from Martin Sheen classes up pretty much everything.

In summation, my dear Madison Avenue Bots, please stop trying to tailor an ad experience to me personally. You have nothing that I want to spend my money on. Instead, just show me the crap that you do have and I will laugh and/or scoff accordingly.