In the eighties the Yellow Pages had a number of TV ads in the UK showing people finally finding some elusive item by using their book to find suitable shops and ringing them. One such ad featured the now famous but fictional author J. R. Hartley searching for a copy of the book he’d written called Fly Fishing. We were never told what had happened to leave him without a copy of his own book just that eventually he found one and was happy.
Today of course Yellow Pages is still with us but the same story could be used by at least three companies. In 2020 Mr Hartley, or his daughter from the ad, would sit down in the lounge with a computer and perhaps search for local bookshops on Yellow Pages itself, or Google, then visit their websites and browse their online catalogues of old books, then perhaps ring them instead.
Alternatively he might log on to Ebay or Amazon type his name or the books and see what appears. From personal experience he’d probably have to save a search on Ebay to get the book but would no doubt get one eventually, having trawled through numerous other books on fly fishing, or containing either of the words. He could, of course, get the Kindle edition but would probably feel that it’s not quite the same, not got that old book smell and tactile sensation. J. R. Hartley would want the real thing, his book.
Strangely though, as sometimes happens, fiction became fact and although J. R. Hartley remained fictional his book didn’t, emerging in the nineties, as people started trying to get hold of a copy – to see what it was all about, into real world bookstores and eventually onto Amazon itself, where I bought a second-hand copy, and where it also now exists as a Kindle edition so it has sort of gone full circle from an imaginary book to a book that exists virtually.
Horse And Cart (Photo credit: foilman)
To be honest I quite like the adverts for the UK’s EE phone network featuring the always-connected Kevin Bacon, even if I’m not a fan of the name “EE” – at least I can still say I’m on Orange if anyone asks. The latest ad dips into popular colloquialisms for its inspiration and shows Kev dragging a “shedload of data”.
My first thought was where they could go next with the idea:
“Why you lugging a cart of manure Kev?”
“That’s not manure, it’s data, it’s a metric shit-tonne of data.”
There you go EE, have this one on me.
English: QWERTY keyboard, on 2007 Sony Vaio laptop computer. Français : Le clavier QWERTY d’un ordinateur portable Sony Vaio de 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In magazines you see “features” which are in fact adverts, you can tell what they are because they will say “advertisement feature” somewhere, yet on the internet some advertisers seem to be able to get away with insidious tactics.
Download pages are often a minefield of big colourful buttons marked “download” only one of which will be the actual thing you want to download, the others being adverts for security scanners, toolbars and other such extraneous stuff that end up clogging up the computer at best and costing the unsuspecting user cash at worst. I have noticed that these stealth ads have leaked out onto other parts of the web, I saw one that was designed to look exactly like the placeholder box you see when a browser plug-in has crashed, complete with worrying words like “your computer needs an upgrade”. Being an old hand at this computing malarkey I recognised it for what it was and ignored it but someone less knowledgable might click on it and download the scanning tool or whatever it was, again often paying for it too – even if it was simply by it being ad-supported, thinking that it was essential.
This is the same tactic used by virus writers, using authentic looking error messages to panic un-knowledgable users into a download. This rarely works in the real world, if you saw in a magazine a box that said “your heating has failed, you need to upgrade it now or your house will explode” you’d know instantly it was absolute bull, the tactics in that world are to plant seeds of doubt “has your boiler been serviced recently? Could it be a potential killer? Bwah ha ha ha ha.” But the immediacy of computers and the internet, combined with the still mysterious nature of how they work to some people makes getting the sale that much simpler.
The message is clear; be careful what you click on. Unless ad-funded toolbars are your thing, of course.
Disclaimer – I know not what adverts appear below this post as I have no control over them but it would be supremely ironic if there’s a box down there, right now urging you to click it to fix errors with your pc…
We have two sites, a glassworks with trade counter and a plastic window factory. Outside the plastic window factory is a sign with our logo on it which contains the word “glass”. Nowhere does it say “glass sales” or “get your quality cut glass here, guvner.”
It does have a phone number on it.
A few weeks ago our chap at the factory rang me to warn me about an irate individual who was upset that he couldn’t get glass from our plastic window factory. “It says glass on the sign and you’re telling me I’ve got to go to the other side of town, it’s disgusting, your managing director needs to take that sign down immediately, it’s misleading!” He’d said, unnecessarily angrily.
When the man arrived at my counter I was in the middle of taking an order. I said “I’ll be with you in a moment” but it seems he didn’t hear me because when I turned my attention to him he began to shout “Don’t bother, I’m not being treat with such ignorance by you, all the staff of this company are rude and arrogant, obviously you don’t have any customer care training.” I told him I had and he demanded to see my certificate, which is at home, I don’t tend to carry it around in my wallet. This exchange continued for a while, he’d clearly arrived looking for a confrontation as he felt he’d been wronged by our sign. He wrote a letter to complain about the sign. He didn’t get his glass.
About half an hour later a woman rang asking for an appointment for a quote, she lived quite a way out-of-town but had been to the main post office and seen the sign for our company on the building next door, and as she hadn’t been aware of our existence up until that point she thought she’d get a price from us for her windows as well as the other firms she’d asked.
Can you guess where she’d seen the sign?
Típica cabina roja de Londres – Red telephone box – London (Photo credit: Arabarra)
In my work I’m regularly put on hold as suppliers find out whether they’ve got something, when I can have something or why I haven’t received something. Most of the time the hold music is cheesy, generic and bland but mostly irritating which I suspect is to encourage you to hang up and go get a coffee instead. Some companies have even started replacing the music with constant ads for their products, one of my suppliers never really changes the product range and I’ve found myself saying, without thinking, “I know about that, we buy it already”.
Which reminds me; always bear in mind that when you’re on hold the person on the other end can often hear you even if you can’t hear them so don’t be impolite unless you want them to know you’re pissed off.
New research by TalkTo and ResearchNow has found that people spend on average 10-20 minutes per week on hold, which equates to 43 hours in a lifetime.
Only twice in twelve years have I been impressed by being on hold. Once was with a company which used “I Need a Little Time” by The Beautiful South. The other was a firm who always had a good variety of good, modern, well-known songs to listen to while you waited, you felt slightly disappointed when it ended. There was one song they played I hadn’t heard since I was clubbing years before and, I’m not embarrassed to say, I did dance to it behind my counter. Which is one way to spend those 43 hours of your life you’ll never get back.