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Get It Right (Before You Get It Out)

by Phillip Ross  |  
June 10, 2003

Spam was not invented on the Internet.

The Internet just helped give it a name. It's been around for a long time. Essentially spam is unwelcome advertising. The problem with the Internet is that you get a lot of it, and it's VERY LOUD and in-your-face. TV's not much different. Then there's junk mail. Very few people even read it. In an effort to get our attention, advertisers are using the two tools that seem to work best—loud and obnoxious.

Hey, they work, don't they? And whatever works must be okay because more and more people are willing to do whatever works to succeed. But does it really work? A successful bulk mail campaign may get a five percent return rate. But, say a campaign is wildly successful, and gets a fifteen percent return rate. That means that it has an eighty-five percent failure rate. Yet, they call it a success because someone can make money at it.

Problem is when everyone is trying to succeed by being loud and obnoxious, things get pretty loud and obnoxious. Then, loud and obnoxious doesn't work anymore because no one can hear anything. So, they get louder and even more obnoxious. People in an argument often assume (or at least act like they think) that being loud improves their position. And advertising follows suit.

Surely, there's a better way.

Shallow and Immature Self-Centeredness

The values of loud and obnoxious have to do with image and impression. Loud and obnoxious want to create an image, and make an impression. And they do! But what are the underlying values of the image and impression they make? What is really being communicated is shallow, immature self-centeredness. If you think that I'm suggesting that the values of the reigning advertising and marketing wisdom are shallow, immature and self-centered, you're right. Do you really want your business associated with such values? I don't.

Most advertising, marketing, and public relations efforts appeal to self-centered and shallow values. As a result, most people intentionally do everything they can to minimize the effectiveness of ads. We identify them with the inane. We learn to block them out. We don't even see them or hear them. That's why they have to get louder and more obnoxious. Advertising has become an engine of rudeness and crassness that grows ever louder and ruder. Too often financial success comes at the expense of increasing social and moral corruption. Advertising encourages people not to listen, not to pay attention. We have learned to tune in and tune out. Because when you do listen, you are inundated with a kind of shallow self-centeredness that encourages envy.

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Phillip A. Ross

Mr. Ross is the owner of Business Specialties, a Marietta, Ohio, promotional products and services company. Phil can be contacted at

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