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Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here
Inside the 300 Billion Dollar Business Behind the Media You Constantly Consume
By David Verklin and Bernice Kanner
HC, 221 pgs. US$24.95
ISBN: 0-4700-5643-6

Tyler Durden's worst nightmare

By Steven Martinovich
web posted May 21, 2007

Watch This, Listen Up, Click HereIt is perhaps not a surprise that among the most downloaded additions to the Firefox browser is one that blocks advertising from appearing on web pages. Many of us record television programs on PVRs so we while we watch them later we can fast-forward through commercials. Sirius and XM satellite radio are popular with millions thanks to channels with little or no commercial advertising. We instinctively throw bulk mail away without even opening it. Some of us even show up late to movies to avoid the commercials that now play before the feature.

These developments have put fear in the hearts of advertising agencies. Their raison d'etre, after all, is to sell you something. If you don't even bother to look then chances are you won't be buying. Fear not, though, because these agencies are working overtime to make sure their vision of heaven comes to pass: A torrent of advertising everywhere you look and all of it designed especially for you. David Verklin and Bernice Kanner explain how that Seventh Level of Hell will come about in their entertaining, if scary, Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here: Inside the 300 Billion Dollar Business Behind the Media You Constantly Consume.

According to Verklin and Kanner, the traditional advertising models that we're all familiar with – television and print ads – are facing extinction from new technologies. The days of a sponsor funding a barrage of advertising to introduce the public to a new flavor of toothpaste will soon be over, replaced with finely targeted ads only going to those actually interested in the flavor of their toothpaste. You'll doubtless be happy to learn that these micro targeted advertisements will be everywhere, from your cell phone, the music you listen to, the books you read or the television you watch.

Advertising is also becoming more innovative, they report. The U.S. Army's best recruiting vehicle may be the immersive video game America's Army that anyone can download for free. Advertisers look to the porn industry – always on the leading edge when it comes to delivering content – to see future trends. If you own a PVR, chances are your viewing habits are being examined to see what sort of programming appeals to you.

While Verklin and Kanner seem pleased with this coming world – not surprising since he's vice president of a media buying firm and the late Kanner a marketing expert – it comes with a steep price. It relies on you, whether voluntarily or otherwise, giving up a part of your privacy. How else, after all, will advertisers know what to try and sell you if they don't know what you like? In order for a world of advertising to succeed it depends on your life being open for minute examination. It's enough to turn the most mild mannered of us into raging Tyler Durdens railing about not being the contents of our wallets.

In the end, Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here doesn't quite succeed in its goal of giving the reader an insider's view of the industry. Much of what Verklin and Kanner relate is hardly news, and their investigation of future trends won't exactly be a surprise to anyone living in the age of the internet. What's worse, rather than explore the subject in the hopes of illuminating the reader, Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here almost seems part of an advertising campaign to sell the industry itself.

Several times Verklin and Kanner make the incredible claim that far from despising advertising, most of us actually love consuming ads. It's true that the occasional ad has us discussing it the next day over the water cooler but given how hard many people work to ignore advertising, the authors may be guilty of drinking some of their own Kool-Aid. Whatever the truth may be, for those who hate advertising the coming years will be loud, annoying and impossible to escape. ESR

Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario.

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