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Time Harbinger
January 30, 2006 4:38 AM   Subscribe

Until recently solely targeting luddites thru the medium of nubile women with Matrix-style code flittering over their tits, AOL UK has changed tack with a batshit orgy of self-Godwinisation for their latest television advertisement. [partially Adobe Flash video]
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome (49 comments total)

 
I LOVE their new adverts.

(But still hate AOL)
posted by lemonfridge at 4:44 AM on January 30, 2006


oooooh.... "EDGY!!!!"

Stupid AOL.
posted by slater at 4:47 AM on January 30, 2006


And in the advert they have John Hurt talk about Orwell being right (the internets are bad) or wrong (the internets are good) depending on which version you see.

The interesting fact being that he played Winston Smith in a certain film version of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

I personally think that AOL makes the internet a bad thing.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:47 AM on January 30, 2006


What's the context, here? Is there some kind of big anti-Internet sentiment in the UK right now?
posted by lodurr at 4:47 AM on January 30, 2006


Nope.
posted by matthewr at 4:54 AM on January 30, 2006


There is always an anti-AOL sentiment for what it's worth.
posted by longbaugh at 4:56 AM on January 30, 2006


That's rather nuts. I saw it as a big advertisement saying 'come join AOL to exercise your darkest desires: steal someone's savings! spread evil! buy babies! get fucked-up porn and as much crazy shit as you can handle!'.

I like that %18 of people to see that page happily use the internet to vote that it is 'bad'.

Are these ads actually running on TV? Can anyone figure out the motivation for this insanity?
posted by MetaMonkey at 4:58 AM on January 30, 2006


And in the advert they have John Hurt talk about Orwell being right (the internets are bad) or wrong (the internets are good) depending on which version you see.

Or which version you want to see. The Author of Animal Farm lived in a beautiful home on Parliament Hill ten steps from Hampstead Heath, but all he could see was the bad.
posted by three blind mice at 4:58 AM on January 30, 2006


As an ad, I have to say this sucks, big time. I liked it; it was well made; but it's a terrible, terrible ad.

And in my context (white middle-American freethinking forty-something cultural observer type), it feels like an interesting projection of common fears. But I don't know the UK context. (Again, would be nice to have some UKers pitch in on that.)

But as an ad? No. Problems:
  1. Doesn't mention the client until the last three or four seconds
  2. Continually repeats the phrase "internet is a bad thing", which is liable to make people think the internet is, you know, a bad thing
  3. Doesn't seem to know its target audience. Consider: The call to action is to an AOL forum address, "/discuss". Only AOL customers can use it. So is this a retention campaign? If not, it fails in a critical area.
  4. Doesn't really ask people to do anything. "Discuss"? People don't go to the 'net with the goal of "discussing" (though I've no doubt that's what keeps [a lot of] them once they're there). I.e., it's not a strong call.
  5. Finally (at least for this list) it shows them no benefit. People come away from this with nothing they can do to assuage this "badness" they've been bathed in for te previous 30 seconds.
I'm always curious how an ad like this gets made. It just seems so frankly counter-productive.

Meta-monkey: That makes a dark kidn of sense, but I'm not quite that cynical yet. Anyway, AOL is so easy to hack it would be as though they were advertising themselves as a target.
posted by lodurr at 5:01 AM on January 30, 2006


batshit orgy of self-Godwinisation

I just wanted to hold that up and look at it again.

Shiny!
posted by eriko at 5:01 AM on January 30, 2006


Yes, the internet is a bad place. Don't worry, we'll hold the door closed while you go watch reality TV, or something.

Bye bye.
posted by NinjaPirate at 5:04 AM on January 30, 2006


... are you still here?
posted by NinjaPirate at 5:04 AM on January 30, 2006


.... but all he could see was the bad.

And he'd seen a lot of it. The point was to strip away the superficialities and try to expose the problems. Any society will paper over its problems, and in so doing (this is what I see as Orwell's view and I largely share it) they tend to willfully hide from themselves the things that will destroy their societies.

(Anyway, I was under the impression that he was never more than middle-class, income-wise.)
posted by lodurr at 5:05 AM on January 30, 2006


It's a great bunch of ads. They do actually get me and my S.O. to "discuss", especially the one about the Internet bridging cultures depicting a chador-clad lady.
posted by By The Grace of God at 5:12 AM on January 30, 2006


They ran the negative advert for a week or so, then started running a positive version with counter arguments about how good the internet is. I think they were trying to highlight some debate or something. "Join the discussion" or similar was the tagline.
posted by fire&wings at 5:14 AM on January 30, 2006


Seeing as a huge portion of the UK population use the internet every day, I thought the idea was to make people angrily think, "Hey, no, it's nothing like that, the internet is great" (hence the "Some people think..."). Then once you've made people decide they love the internet, they'll want to sign up for broadband. Or something like that.

For context, here's another UK internet ad that ran on heavy rotation a couple of months ago.
posted by cillit bang at 5:17 AM on January 30, 2006


I'm always curious how an ad like this gets made.

This is a stylistic difference between British and American ads. US ads go in for the hard sell. Get the brand in your face right at the start of the ad, and then yell, yell, yell it again until you're sick to death of it.

British ads tend to be much more oblique and many of them are extremely difficult to figure out what they are actually advertising at first. (Great examples are the classic Silk Cut and Benson and Hedges campaigns.

I think that the best British advertisers credit their audience with a little bit more intelligence, and the audience tend to appreciate not being condescended to and appreciate both the advertisement, and by extension, the product.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:18 AM on January 30, 2006


"I think that the best British advertisers credit their audience with a little bit more intelligence, and the audience tend to appreciate not being condescended to and appreciate both the advertisement, and by extension, the product."

Guinness
posted by NinjaPirate at 5:21 AM on January 30, 2006


Although also Stella Artois (embedded QT)
posted by NinjaPirate at 5:22 AM on January 30, 2006


eriko: "batshit orgy of self-Godwinisation

I just wanted to hold that up and look at it again.
"

I dislike it. "Batshit" can only be used to modify "insane", in much the same way that "Q" can only be followed by "U".
posted by Plutor at 5:29 AM on January 30, 2006


I think they're embarrassing. Somehow they manage to be faintly patronising and stupid at the same time; they're like being condescended to by someone who doesn't get it.
posted by rhymer at 5:31 AM on January 30, 2006


Guinness

(FYP)

From it's earliest beginnings, right up until today - though I do think that they hit their creative apex a couple of years ago, with ads like Fish on a Bicycle
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:32 AM on January 30, 2006


partially Adobe Flash...

Still not used to seeing that.
posted by bouncebounce at 5:32 AM on January 30, 2006


I don't like the adverts.

Peter McDermott is right that British ads are more oblique, but this feels completely like an adman's personal project, with the name of the sucker who bought it tacked on the end. The Times (UK) did a similar ad a few years ago, that had lots of pretty pictures and raised lots of deepish questions about life and humanity, and then said "Buy the Times". Bathos, or what?

(The Silk Cut and Bensons adverts were oblique at least in part because of restrictions on tobacco advertising at the time).

I liked the poster ads that the Church of England ran over Christmas: image.
posted by athenian at 6:04 AM on January 30, 2006


Does anyone have links to the stuff he was talking about? Or do we have to sign up for AOL to get them?
posted by fungible at 6:05 AM on January 30, 2006


This isn't an "Ad" for AOL. It's a teaser to get you to go to a website and get embroiled in discussions. It's meant to be viral / get you to start hanging out in a "community" sponsored by AOL.

We're talking about it here so I reckon it's sort of working.
posted by glenwood at 6:34 AM on January 30, 2006


athenian - from your link I just visited www.jesus.co.uk (pop-up warning) and found the awesome FAQ featuring "Was Jesus An Alien?"

The answer is fantastic "Well... I suppose people who believe a first-century carpenter was the Son of God haven't got any right to snigger."

I love the Church of England. Can you imagine a church in the USA saying anything like that?
posted by longbaugh at 6:41 AM on January 30, 2006


Plutor: Never been in/seen an orgy, have you? They can get pretty batshit, with or without the insane.

Another great turn of phrase from Protocols. Danke!
posted by jlkr at 6:43 AM on January 30, 2006


Glenwood, who in their right mind would want to get "embroiled in discussion" with an AOL user? Honestly.

Different variations of 'asl' does not intelligent discourse make...
posted by slimepuppy at 6:53 AM on January 30, 2006


Anyone like the title?
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 7:01 AM on January 30, 2006


Just noticed it, as opposed to 'warner,' lol indeed. You write well and should get a blog. :)
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:05 AM on January 30, 2006


no gyofb bich
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 7:10 AM on January 30, 2006


Whether this is in the public discourse or not, AOL likes the argument. Internet = Good will win out (yawn). But that's a qualified "Good" to some since it brings to mind viruses, porn, spyware or whatever the flavor threat of the day. As always, AOL seeks to further position itself as the safe on-ramp to this good thing.
posted by hal9k at 7:45 AM on January 30, 2006


longbaugh: or having a pub quiz in which you can compete against the Spanish Inquisition?
posted by patricio at 7:54 AM on January 30, 2006


I think you guys are missing the point of the ad.

AOL has always tried to position itself as a family-friendly alternative to the internet. That the internet is a scary, confusing place that you'll never understand and that is filled with monsters waiting to prey on your naivity.

But the more commonplace the internet becomes, the less people need AOL. There was a time when the internet was intimidating and unintuitive, but nowadays even your grandma understands the basic concepts of hyperlinks and email. People just aren't scared of the internet itself anymore. And AOL has in turn gone from global powerhouse to money sink.

The AOL brand is dead as an ISP. Their attempt to reposition themselves as a legitimate service was like Ford rereleasing the Pinto. Fear was their money maker, and they know it. And honestly, I think this is a hell of a business model. Terror sells, and cable news loves the internet boogeyman. AOL needs to reembrace their status as Internet Lite and actively market to the duct tape buying, rap fearing, Osama Bin Is Going To Bomb My House If The Democrats Win crowd.
posted by Simon! at 7:57 AM on January 30, 2006


On the other hand Simon!, there's no chance in hell this advert or anything similar will be broadcast in America, where most of those people live.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 8:15 AM on January 30, 2006


Simon, I didn't miss that point; I didn't want to belabour it. I understand that AOL thinks discussion about the evils of teh Internet will leave them in a good cross-sell position; but I don't really see this ad accomplishing that. It might be that it could be adjusted to do that with minor tweaks; I'm not so sure. I think the whole concept isn't very high-margin.

IOW, I still think it's a bad ad, judged on the heuristics that I favor. But then, I'm of teh opinion that most really creative and interesting advertising is actually bad when judged in functional terms. "Generating interest" is not an unqualified good. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. If you build a solid marketing strategy to back up your wildly creative ads, you've got a better shot at making them work. But AFAICS, that's the exception, rather than the rule.

That ad people continue to be able to sell these highly creative campaigns strikes me as an example of gambler's mentality in the client's marketing and product management suites.
posted by lodurr at 8:23 AM on January 30, 2006


... all that said, Simon!, you may be on to something -- not for AOL (I have no confidence tey could pull it off), but for some fast-moving competitor, like PeoplePC, NetZero/Juno, or Earthlink. As it's been explained to me, AOL's broadband offerings are basically a VPN. It strikes me that somebody could refine that concept, base it on open tech, and deliver a faster and cheaper version of the same thign that had at least as much benefit. (Maybe they're already doing it.)
posted by lodurr at 8:26 AM on January 30, 2006


MetaFilter: a batshit orgy of self-Godwinisation
posted by Foosnark at 9:28 AM on January 30, 2006


What confuses me about the adverts is the CCTV stuff, with accompanying drivel about 1984. What does CCTV have to do with the internet?
posted by influx at 9:34 AM on January 30, 2006


Remember, lodurr, you're not the target market. People who are already on the net, by and large, think it's a pretty good thing.

These ads are probably targeted at the people who aren't yet connected. It's not a huge population, but they do exist. Most likely, AOL did research to find out why they're not online, and these ads are trying to talk to them. And I'm not at all sure we're well-equipped to judge whether or not they're succeeding.
posted by Malor at 10:11 AM on January 30, 2006


Well, the internet was doing just fine until AOL came along and opened the gates of zombie crapflooding hell.

Thanks AOL! May you be forever violated by B1FF's angry bee filled appendage!
posted by loquacious at 10:36 AM on January 30, 2006


I'm betting that most of those who voted that the internet was a bad thing were AOL subscribers...
posted by insomnia_lj at 11:04 AM on January 30, 2006


I THINK THE INTERNET IS GROOD!

i mean great.

great and good.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:11 AM on January 30, 2006


Malor, I don't doubt that they've got a strategy document that would sink a rowboat. I'm just saying that the initial play doesn't make sense. If their call to action takes people to a website on the AOL network, how do people take action? Unless the call to action is just window dressing, in which case, I still think that the negative semiotics are more likely to discourage than encourage.

There could even be some high-concept thinking about luring people in via appeal to thanatos or something like that. And it might even work. I just don't believe that the net result will be what they're gambling on it being.

Whatever. It's their money.
posted by lodurr at 11:36 AM on January 30, 2006


Fungible: did a 'spit-take' watching these on Channel 4 last week - especially at the near subliminal shot of the scary/creepy Osama Bin Laden. It was on the PVR so recorded with digital cam and uploaded it to Google Video (ignore my pitch at the end - i just had to do something as the ad killed me).

google video link
posted by jettloe at 11:57 AM on January 30, 2006


Influx:

I haven't seen the ad (at work), but CCTV ties in to the 1984 theme. Winston Smith was at one point doing his exercises in front of a TV, and the woman leading the exercises at one point admonishes him to pay attention or something, because it's a two way system. BB is watching.
posted by Sparx at 12:24 PM on January 30, 2006


The interesting fact being that he played Winston Smith in a certain film version of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Curiously enough, if I remember right, Hurt also played Orwell himself in a BBC dramatization of the author's final days while writing 1984 in Scotland. It was a long time ago, so my memory might be flaky.
posted by normy at 12:37 PM on January 30, 2006


I like that %18 of people to see that page happily use the internet to vote that it is 'bad'.

that's probably a bad thing.
posted by 3.2.3 at 3:38 PM on January 30, 2006


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