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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Sun 16
Oct
2005

They Want You

What Max Reckons Random Ad WomanHere’s something to try: spend the next day actually noticing every ad that features a photo of someone looking at you. Magazine ads, bus station posters, billboards: all these. Now think about what kind of situation you’d have to be in for this person to be looking at you like that in real life.

If where you live is anything like where I live, you’ll find that for a very high number of these, the situation would have to be one of:

  1. They want to have sex with you
  2. You just told them the funniest joke in the world ever
  3. You just told them the funniest joke in the world ever and now they want to have sex with you

This is an entertaining exercise not just because it’s amusing to think about Kate Moss wanting your body, but also because it reminds you how far the arms race between advertising agencies and your brain’s perceptual filters has advanced. The more ads there are, and the more they try to get our attention, the better we get at not noticing them, so marketers have to continually up the ante. Apparently we’re now in a state where most ads are full of people looking at us in a way that would heat us up down to our toes if it happened in real life, and we don’t think anything of it.

Comments

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Greg Karber (#1568)

Location: gregkarber.com
Posted: 3330 days ago

It's like curse words in movies. I can't recommend movies to priests, children, etc., because I can no longer accurately guage how vulgar the film is. "Pulp Fiction? Well, no, there's a few gunfights, but no language or anything."

I think advertising like this has got to unconsciously raise our self-esteem. I mean, every day, I see hundreds of people who both want to have sex with me and simultaneously really want me to drink their brand of cola. So not only do they want to sleep with me, they want us to have something in common so we can talk while we cuddle.

James W. G. Ford (#1437)

Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Quote: "Never allow yourself to be limited by tradition. If we all did that, we'd still live in caves."
Posted: 3329 days ago

It is creepy at times, but I really love it when the Olsen Twins lust.. er, look at me. I'd be curious to know what the new "hook" will be once the marketers realize we are no longer attracted to lusty looks.

Jae Ford
www.JaeFord.com

Anonunit (#1405)

Location: Apparently too long to put down here.
Quote: "Carbon stars with ancient satellites colonized by sentient fungi. Gas giants inhabited by vast meteorological intelligences. Worlds stretched thin across the membranes where dimensions intersect."
Posted: 3329 days ago

Whoa. Third comment here! How do you people post so quickly?

Man, it's a good thing I was around to see this early enough.

Zoomy (#1546)

Location: Outside Glasgow
Posted: 3329 days ago

The man speaks truth as per bloody usual.

Melissa Graf (#1161)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "'Baise mon cul.' Said the fly to the spider."
Posted: 3329 days ago

Scary thing is, it's not just big brand names that are using the eye-sex angle... I mean, what about all those ads for road safety? The ones where that square-jawed policeman glares out at you.

What, he wants to have sex with us too? ;)

Charles J. Brokaw (#1303)

Location: USA, Ohio
Quote: ""America now had one voice. A voice that spoke loud. A voice that spoke for all. A voice that could set free or condemn any. The USA. The United Services Agency. "-Charles J. Brokaw"
Posted: 3329 days ago

I have a feeling that pretty soon all ads will be replaced with live actors. Think about it. If s smoking hot person walked up to you and handed you a sample product or even just leaned in and whispered "Taste The Rainbow." I bet that slogan wouldnt leave your mind anytime soon.
-Charlie

Gregor (#1182)

Location: Toronto
Quote: "The righteous man is beset on all sides by the tyrannies of evil men."
Posted: 3329 days ago

Max,
You are a genius on so little sleep!

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 3329 days ago

Of course Kate Moss wants your body. She hasn't one of her own.

But aside from that, it's true. Americans are notorious prudes in terms of TV advertising: there're lots of countries where a bit of nudity in a commercial is acceptable, but not here. Here, they must practice the strip-teaser's art.

Still, I figure we're less than a decade away from beer commercials that feature not only surgically enhanced women of unnatural beauty but full-penetration XXX sex scenes.

Tony Quin (#1310)

Location: Plymouth -urgh
Quote: "Yoga is NAILS"
Posted: 3329 days ago

We should start a campaign of intimidation to turn the tables on them - return those lusty looks until they take the posters down!

Jason (#1193)

Location: Indianapolis, IN
Quote: "The bulwark of the suggestion box has failed."
Posted: 3329 days ago

James Ford: "I'd be curious to know what the new "hook" will be once the marketers realize we are no longer attracted to lusty looks."

My guess? thinly veiled disgust and derision. Things will bounce back the opposite way to the point where hatred and loathing are used to sell products. The company that openly hates you the most is the company that wants you to buy their crap and shut the hell up about it the most.

Coca-Cola ass kickings (unemployed toughs paid by the company to kick your ass for not drinking their brand and make you feel bad about it). A Microsoft Mockery Campaign, where you are openly mocked and ridiculed for not using Windows. Pfizer out right saying you have a small dick and making fun of you for it to get you to buy Viagra. Financial planners calling Mr. Poory McShopsatgoodwill unless you invest with them - individualizing junk mail fliers with your face digitized onto a picture of a homeless man.

The potential is limitless.

(Max, feel free to use this idea. Just let me have a free signed copy of the book ;) )

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 3329 days ago

I've always thought adverts were more about making people want to emulate the person in the picture. So, they show happy/smiling/pretty people in the hope you'll assume that if you buy their product you'll become a happy/smiling/pretty person too.
Surely if the purpose of these adverts was to flatter you into thinking that Kate Moss wants to have sex with you, that would make your self esteem so high would you no longer feel any need to buy their product?
Or maybe it works because people associate the pleasant feeling of being lusted after by Kate Moss with, say, a particular brand of sunglasses.
I think however their whole 'smiling model' strategy is supposed to work, I'm just happy that the streets are filled with pictures of lusty, happy looking models.

Holangisus (#1628)

Posted: 3329 days ago

http://tinyurl.com/cnz57

I'm not so sure... Sexy or about to vomit? Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster we have real supermodels.

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 3329 days ago

Mon. 10/??/2005

I'M NOT GOING TO CHECK THE DATE...BECAUSE I AM TOO LAZY.

Billboards? I do not see too many of them in the land of Morristown...where my home is. Small-town, Indiana, is not a highly marketable place. It's a town with a population under 1,500 people. There are not too many bus station posters or billboards. Still, I think I will pretend to understand what Max Barry is talking about so that I can fit in. It's all I want in life...but that's another story.

I have a question. When exactly does Company come out? I need an exact date. I need to leave make plans to have a few days free to buy and read the book.
Also, after the book comes out, will Max Barry be making a United States book tour? I would like to meet him sometime.

Just so you know, nothing interesting is going on in my life...like you care anyway.

Adam

Courtney (#1629)

Posted: 3328 days ago

Just wait till the ads can really come on to you:
http://media.guardian.co.uk/site/story/0,14173,1591602,00.html

Yenzo (#829)

Location: Secret underwater pyramid base in the Pacific
Quote: "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe (Carl Sagan)"
Posted: 3327 days ago

I see this topic as a part of that whole desensitizing-information-overflow-"we gonna blast the stimuli right into your face"-game that's been going on for the last few decades. Violence, curse words, pornography, and info in general... we're used to a LOT of that stuff nowadays. Our ears have to deal with 200 times more noise than they had a hundred years ago, to name a physiological example - but the same thing's going on with our minds. Where that will lead us? I have no idea. Maybe our brains will adapt and we're going to be able to deal with a lot more info at the same time. Kinda like Japanese people have an above-average short-term memory, because they're talking so goddamn fast, compared to most western languages. That would be kinda cool.
On the other hand, maybe we're gonna be seriously sick and tired about it and blast ourselves back in to the calm, comfy stone age. Fine with me, too. We'll see.

Kalle (#1278)

Quote: "Sex is herital. If your parents never had it, chanses are you'll never have it either."
Posted: 3326 days ago

Read "Sales Pitch" by Phillip K Dick. It says it all.
All the way from Jupiter to Earth, he has to lsiten to tons of advertisement, and it's horrifying for him. It's pcitures, movies, sounds and a VR woman wanting to have sex with him if he buys the anti-flatulence surgery. Good story, very prophetic.

Andrew (#899)

Location: England - 7th State of the EU
Quote: "History never repeats itself; at best it sometimes rhymes - Mark Twain"
Posted: 3324 days ago

Maybe it will be like Minority report, everytime you walk past a billboard it personally talks to you and attempts to get you to buy the company's product.

Elias (#1639)

Location: Abbaland
Posted: 3320 days ago

(Minority Report was also written by Phillip K. Dick.)

Good point, Mr Barry! I was recently presented with the opportunity of laughing at a banner. It featured a woman in bikini whom many no doubt would find attractive (me, I was just numb), complete with an erect, Photoshopped nipple. The ad was by one of those companies who'll send ads to your email address in exchange for a very modest financial compensation.

I kept asking myself what the woman in the ad had to do with the arrangement - perhaps she'd visit me in my home if I signed up, or maybe she would send me more pictures of herself like all attractive women in their 20's do.

Needless to say I didn't find either of the two prospects very appealing. For all I know, she might have been a violent criminal.

Jennifer (#1643)

Posted: 3319 days ago

The flying spaghetti monster???? LOL.

Petter (#1644)

Location: Cphg
Posted: 3318 days ago

Nicely put in a song by english lo-fi band Hefner:
http://www.hefnet.com/breaking.htm

"I bet your eyes aren’t really that blue, I think they’ve been airbrushed in by an artist who doesn’t care.
And I bet your hair isn’t really that blonde, but isn’t it the way we wanted it to be.
And I bet you don’t usually smile that much, especially with some one like me.
And I bet you really sweat, but none of this is what I want to say to you.
I don’t want to be dancing with the wallflower, I want you cause you’ve got painted toenails.
My tired arms ache just to hold you now.
And god knows I really want to travel and god knows I really want to start anew, with you,"

And probably it is only a (insert random product name) away.

Michael (#1299)

Location: Northern California
Quote: "Chugachugachoochoo"
Posted: 3275 days ago

But... You mean they don't want to have sex with me?

Damn. That sucks.

I guess I shouldnt have purchased all those shower curtain rings after-all.

David (#1848)

Location: Texas
Quote: "Delighted!"
Posted: 3273 days ago

Isn't it amazing how much trouble we humans go to just to be simplistic creatures? It's like a Rube Goldberg replacement for instinct. Love it!

Chanin Lloyd (#2090)

Location: UK
Quote: "Er..."
Posted: 3236 days ago

Ah, that is very true...

Michael Ricksand (#2212)

Location: Terra
Quote: "You do not have a right to be stupid."
Posted: 3214 days ago

This does remind me of all those ad photos where´a man and a woman is featured. Both of them are good-looking. The man smiles and looks confident. The woman looks like she's going to say "**** me, baby! **** me hard!"

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