Thursday, 3 November 2011

To Monetise Or Not To Monetise? Advertising, Youtube & Dinosaurs

"The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket."
[George Orwell, Keep The Aspidistra Flying]

I received a lovely little email from Youtube this morning. It asked me if I wanted to "monetize" my videos, by adding adverts to them and sharing in the profits from the fees that Youtube charges advertisers. I assume this is largely due to that there Dinosaurs video, which after reaching a peak of 500 views in a day earlier this year has now settled down to about 150 per day, which is better than a kick in the teeth.

I am glad for the invitation but I am not sure I want to.

I detest advertising. The sole purpose of advertising is to make money, and my generation has seen advertising at its ugliest, its worst, and most invasive. We are now more surrounded by advertising than we ever were, and it plays a particularly gross part in the lives of teenagers and children in trying to control their desires, their social lives, and their status. It's easy to say "just don't play the game" if you're not a teenager ostracised for not buying the right brands, and corporations spend billions of dollars every year around the world with exactly this damaging aim in mind.

Advertising is not creative. Ad agencies spend time and money believing they are creating "art", but at its core, advertising wants to sell the product no matter what the cost - the only limits on it are legal and moral. And the reason we only see ambiguous lies in advertising ("This man is wearing Deodorant Brand X and he has thousands of women crawling over him. Buy this and you will too!") instead of bare-faced ones is more down to legal reasons than the morality of companies involved.

Finally, what I also dislike about advertising is its management. Corporations and, in turn, billboard companies like ClearChannel pay vast sums of money to ensure their advertising in communities regardless of how meaningless or irrelevant the product is. No-one has a choice walking down a street what they have to look at and which massive ugly signs are placed where they live. But the same can hardly be said if a local band wants to advertise their gig, or an independent shop wants to promote itself. There is very often no space set aside for communities to advertise relevant products and services in their local area, by businesses which keep money in their local area.

However. Having said all that, I have come to accept some functional purposes of advertising, and we have seen changes in the way advertising is managed - primarily online, sadly, but still. Advertising now funds many of the free services on the internet that we take for granted, such as maps and search engines and social networking sites.

Also, while the topic of private information is a dicey one, we now have the ability to target advertising so that it is relevant to the viewer - for example, if you're a vegan you probably might appreciate not being shown adverts for Ye Greasy Dead Animal Fast Foode Chain. We're not quite at the optimal place with advertising as simply the honest notification of the right product to the right person that they might find enriches their lives, but it's a start.

The thing about Youtube is that this is entirely my call. Some sites have advertising regardless - many people have called their bluff, on the grounds it is user content which gives the advertisers a platform, meaning users deserve a cut or even majority of the advertising revenue - and in which case I would ask to be signed up immediately. But no, currently you can watch the Dinosaurs video on Youtube without any adverts on the side of the screen, and without any of those pop-up ads that we're now used to, and thankfully without any video clips, which run before your chosen video, which are becoming increasingly and uncomfortably more common. So it's definitely my choice if I have adverts on the video or not.

For now, I am going to leave it. I'm not sure of the going rate per impressions or clicks, but I have a feeling that for 150 views a day, I wouldn't be retiring to the Bahamas any time soon. If things were to pick up dramatically, I might come back and give it a go - thankfully it does appear you can turn it on and off, and I'd be happy to turn it off if I wasn't happy or couldn't control the way ads appeared. (While the pop-up transparent ads are not that intrusive, I definitely would not have the video clip ads.)

Having accepted a place and function for advertising in our economy and society, it's still up to us to decide how we control advertising and what its limits are. Personally I think the with proliferation and flexibility of online advertising, we should now be able to reduce or even remove altogether advertising from our streets and squares and public spaces. It's a dream, right?

Incidentally, I highly recommend reading or watching "99 Francs" (also known under different currencies e.g. "£6.99"). It offers scathing and hilarious insights into the global advertising industry by someone who saw it all. Of course, it's entirely fictional, but considering it revolves around an international yoghurt company called "Damione" who have a new yoghurt product called "Yoplite", it's only fictional if you've never heard of the real life references. I haven't seen the film but judging by the trailer, it expresses the story very well.
The final irony is that I had to watch an advert to see it.

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