Before I kick off today's update which isn't nearly as funny as Something Awful was two years ago and I'm not funny anymore and Something Awful sure is "something awful," let's try a little fun and exciting activity. Turn off all your ad-stopping and popup-blocking software and visit a handful of random websites. Just cruise around and click links which you find interesting, making sure to not close any windows. Are you with me now? Have you done this? If so, you have undoubtedly noticed something startling:
Internet advertising has reached a critically annoying level and is about to explode like a fat man in a pie eating contest where all the pies have been replaced with dynamite.
I remember how it was a long, long time ago (two years) in a galaxy far away (my apartment). Webmasters could support their site by simply serving up gobs of banner ads in bulk. If the webmaster was slightly greedier, they could additionally put a sidebar advertisement or a text ad somewhere on their page. These ads supported their video card-buying addiction and insured that they'd have enough money to purchase a Gaia Blackhead Removal device, which is as seen on TV. These times of grapes and roses soon began to sour, as ad networks began introducing a new way to generate money from Internet sites: the popup ad.
Now when the popup ad first came out, webmasters were united against displaying them. Sure they'd make a lot more money by tossing up a few popups, but the sheer amount of flame email their readers would invariably send in would cause their inbox to explode like that guy's head in "Scanners." One popup ad a day was enough to cause readers to form virtual lynch mobs, and I'm fairly sure if there was a way to tar and feather somebody over the Internet, stock in the tar and feather industry would've gone up 400%. However, more and more sites began running popup ads because banner ads had been declared "dead" and no longer generated revenue for any of the parties involved. Naturally, the advertisers blamed this on people like you and me, idiots who failed to click on their enticing "Play the Maxi-Pad Challenge!" ad which directed you to a tampon site. It would be far too simple to claim that the Internet advertising failure was the result of 60-year old white ad executives who thought the Internet was simply a place to download their copy of AOL. No, the advertising executives are not to blame here, it's you and I who made the market collapse. Each time you didn't "click here for more information," you contributed to the great Internet advertising crash. We should all feel guilty and hang our heads in shame or perhaps commit suicide, whichever takes the least amount of effort.
Once the popup ad maggot had buried into nearly every website in existence, the advertisers soon began to realize a disconcerting new trend: nobody was clicking on the popup ads either. How could this be? I mean, I can understand how a banner ad reading "IF THIS BANNER IS FLASHING, YOU'VE WON A HOG" might not get the most clickthroughs, but a popup? Come on! For Christ's sake, the ad POPS UP! That concept alone is genius! Who could resist the charm of a new window appearing out of nowhere, taking up valuable desktop space, and forcing the user to close another window? It's the equivalent of having your television spew out a giant piece of posterboard with a company's ad plastered across it whenever you turn on reruns of "Matlock"! Although I frankly am too stupid to figure out how and why popup ads stopped being effective, I do know what happened next: pop UNDER ads!
The pop under ad was another stroke of brilliance that could only be invented by a MENSA member or perhaps Adolf Hitler. Instead of popping UP, the ad window now popped UNDER the current window! Can you imagine how revolutionary this was? It's like the time Albert Einstein invented the steam engine, which completely revolutionized the world of steam engine manufacturing. Now, instead of having to close a window that obscured the website's text, users had to minimize the website window, close the pop under ad, and then once again maximize the website window! I can't count the number of products and / or services I purchased thanks to seeing them prominently displayed UNDER a window. Also, I don't know how to count.
However, the pop under ad soon saw its popularity waning, possibly because everybody in the entire universe despised them and refused to click on the ads. The genius Internet advertising folks, who are all MENSA members or perhaps Adolf Hitler, naturally came to the conclusion that the lack of clickthroughs on pop under ads was once again directly our fault, and we were to blame for the failure of the Internet economy. Yup, once more you and I are to blame for the current state of the Internet. If we would've only clicked on the "WIN BIG PRIZES AT CYBER LOUIE'S CYBER GAME HUT" then the Internet would've been saved and we would all somehow be rich people who drive nice cars and have wives that don't complain about being locked in the closet for hours at a time. Unfortunately, we refused to pick up the slack and support eCyber-iCommerce.com.net, and the advertising industry had to get even more creative: spyware.
Spyware is a great and useful product that informs us as to which products we want to purchase, although we may not have been aware of it at the time. To aid us in our buying habits, spyware infects our computers and does such helpful things as:
Showing more ads
Replacing website ads with new and different ads
Showing even more ads
Tracking your every move and then sending the information back to spyware headquarters so some fat Linux nerd can put it all in a database and then use it to potentially blackmail you if you attempt to run for public office.
Showing an unbelievable amount of ads
This seemed like an incredible idea to Internet advertising executives because what could be more helpful than a program which infects a user's computer and then controls what content they see? In yet another bizarre stroke of unbelievably bad luck, people seemed a bit hesitant to download a program that monitored their computer and assaulted them with a barrage of advertisements. The amount of people willingly downloading "Cyber eVirtual Reality Shopper iHelper" and "Bonzi Buddy: the First Monkey Who is Able to Infuriate You Without Tossing His Shit at Your Head" began to mysteriously taper off. After minutes and minutes of brainstorming, the Internet advertising heroes came up with another surefire hit idea: why not bundle their spyware with legitimate software products from other companies? That way the user wouldn't have to be inconvenienced by the laborious process of going to a website, clicking the "download me" link, and installing the spyware. It's a win-win situation, right?
Ad Executive Lawrence Malortennance in a recent meeting.
Well once again, we, the users of the Internet, began ruining the economy by installing anti-spyware programs such as Ad-Aware and that program Steve Gibson made to monitor his bloated ego 24 hours a day. This made the last seven remaining advertising firms very angry, especially since they put so much time and effort into creating a program that takes over your computer and we were too selfish to willingly install it. The ad industry, disenfranchised by their repeated scorning from Internet users, decided that perhaps they made a mistake in creating banner ads that nobody would want to click, popup ads that are simply annoying, and PC-sabotaging programs. After a brief meeting in the Denny's men's room, these important business leaders agreed that the only way to rejuvenate the constantly failing ad market was to take the obnoxious and annoying motif one step further: integrate ads with Flash and embed them into a website so they cannot be avoided.
Now, thanks to the miracle of technology, we are finally able to experience the wondrous feeling of seeing products float randomly around our screen while creating shrill, horribly sampled sound effects which are loud enough to wake up the sleeping Bonzi Buddy on our computer. The ad industry know how we, the users, don't really go to websites to read content; we visit them to learn about the new and exciting products and services we can purchase through the miracle of the Internet. The embedded Flash advertisement addresses this critical issue and allows us to view the intended website while simultaneously watching brand name products fly around over the text, obscure nearly all the site's content, and make lovely honking noises for roughly 10 minutes. These colorful and carefully aimed advertisements have caught the attention of millions of Internet users, as proven by this fictional conversation I had last night with Emily:
ME: "I'd like to purchase a product and / or service, but I simply don't know what I want! Oh my, this is sure perplexing!"
EMILY: "Why don't you use the Internet?"
ME: "What a marvelous idea!" (I turn on the computer and load some random website which greets me with a hovering bottle of deodorant and an announcer's voice which explains to me, in depth, the many reasons why I need to buy this)
EMILY: "What did you find?"
ME: (Screaming) "I need Ban brand deodorant and I need it now!"
EMILY: "Let us purchase that product and / or service at once!"
ME: "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE!"
EMILY: "Who is talking to you on your computer?"
BONZI BUDDY: "Fuck off, broad!" (Informs me of the other 40 different deodorant products I would be interested in purchasing)
Unfortunately, I don't see this trend of advertising ever stopping. I can't even begin to image where these corporate whore companies will go next, but I am fairly confident that it won't be anywhere good. Although Internet advertising firms seem baffled as to why their ads fail and people aren't interested in clicking them, they don't realize that the key to selling a product lies within creating something somebody wants and then marketing to that demographic. When is the last time you've seen a giant ad network serve you an ad that you were genuinely interested in? We've been going downhill for years and the Internet is becoming increasingly obnoxious thanks to the efforts of ad networks who believe that the way to sell a product is by annoying people into submission until they eventually give up and buy it just so the ads may stop. If these companies don't hurry up and go broke, I'm afraid that the only way we'll be able to avoid their intrusive, mindless ads is by shutting off our computers and throwing them into an ocean. I have seen the future of the Internet and I have seen the past. If only Internet advertising companies could do the same, they'd realize that the optimal method of selling products is to not beat us in the face with them over and over while shoving them down our throats and simultaneously blaming us when they fail to sell. If I could ever remember a time when the Internet was full of common sense, I'd express my desire to return to those days.
This Is the Greatest Email I've Ever Received
I usually don't do features like these (in fact I've never done an entire feature like this), but I recently received the greatest email in the history of the universe or possibly longer. As you may remember, we posted a feature yesterday entitled, "'Lord of the Rings' Fans Lash Out and Attack Something Awful!" This article highlighted the various incoherent flame emails sent to our "Truth Media Reviews" section, a part of the website that writes completely false and obviously fake reviews of popular media so we can poke fun at the people who mindlessly worship companies and their products. We've never been able to understand how people can blindly devote such enormous portions of their lives to supporting a company that doesn't give a single shit about them. These people also have the unfortunate tendency to have absolutely no common sense but tons of free time, which allows us to take advantage and infuriate them with our completely bogus reviews.
Anyway, we posted the feature yesterday which highlighted some of the more hilariously pathetic flame messages sent in by clueless Lord of the Rings fans who couldn't spot common sense if it came out of their jumbo-sized bag of Doritos and stabbed them in the throat. We thought the fiasco and the idiocy was over... but then I got The Greatest Email I've Ever Received and my entire world shook with joy or perhaps tears. (PS: I've yet again included another image of what I imagine this person looks like)
From: Dug E. Fresh
Subject: Lord of the Rings Flames
I am writing in reference to the article, "Flames From Review of 'Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring,'" found at http://www.somethingawful.com/truthmedia.php?id=348
First of all, I find it to absolutely ironic that you would attempt to combat flamers by flaming back at them. I am not a Lord of the Rings fanatic. I did enjoy the movie. However, even I noticed the extreme discrepencies and seemingly complete lack of effort in Zack Geist's review.
You sound astonished by the fact that you have gotten so many flames in regards to your initial review of the movie. Yet, you have to admit that there are some very valid points that have been brought to your attention, and now to the attention of all. It has been made very apparent that Zack Geist put very little effort into his review. Given that this is merely a website, you can get away with publishing shoddy articles written by lazy "journalists." I use the term journalist very loosely. I understand your reasoning behind posting these flame e-mails, but perhaps there would have been a more effecient way to handle things, such as removing the review. I honestly hope that Zack Geist is merely a freelance writer for you. If he is not, then I suggest you fire him. If for some unforeseen reason you cannot fire him, I suggest that you actually copy edit his work from now on.
Dug E. Fresh
Okay, so let me sum this up for you: we write a fake review. Angry mindless drones swarm in and complain about the review because they're too dense to realize it's a joke. We admit it's a joke (even though it's also clearly stated on the main page) and make fun of these people. Then Dug E. Fresh writes to inform us that, in our article talking about our bogus review and laughing at the people who believed it, we made mistakes and factual errors in the bogus review. This is one of those moments where I hope, I pray, I beg to God that this person is either not real or will stop being real very soon. Being the webmaster of this site is like a tragic comedy; I want to laugh so hard that I commit suicide.
More Gold than in the Dreams of a Crazy Old West Prospecter!
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