Truth in Advertising (The Good and the Bad)

I believe most people have a love/hate relationship with the ads that they are barraged with. Having an Ultimate TV device means I’m not always up on the latest in advertising. For the most part I now live my life in blissful ad free ignorance. It does mean that I miss out on the latest movie trailer or release date, but I’m willing to live with those side effects. Ads that do manage to infiltrate my life include those on local radio stations and those that catch my eye quickly while they are racing by. Below is one ad that rubbed me wrong and one that manages to inspire…

Local Radio versus the Satellites

I’ve heard these radio spots on a number of the local Seattle stations. Its mudslinging taken to a new low as desperate “local” radio stations throw bricks from inside their glass houses. The ads contain several “quotes” from ex satellite radio subscribers (actors). Most annoying is how they play up the good side of FCC censorship. “I was picking my kids up from soccer practice, forgot to turn the radio down, and the children heard songs with unedited and explicit lyrics!” They actually try to hit this a few times in the ad. FM radio, which brings us “shock-jock” disc jockeys all day long, should not complain about actual art that is unedited. If anything this makes me want to start paying for Satellite radio so I can hear Tom Petty actually say “joint” and not have my audio art distorted for my protection.

Next they attempt to tell me that I should be supporting my poor “hometown” radio stations. This from an industry where every radio station is owned by one of two big players and they all drown us with the same 20 song stream of mostly bland music.

The ad does hit on two, somewhat valid, points. 1. Price. True, there is a monthly charge for satellite radio, but that would theoretically be paid so that I wouldn’t have to listen to the ads that foot the bill for local stations. They also throw in a complaint about people having to buy equipment. Ok, you got me there. 2. The signal could be interrupted as you drive around in the city. You mean like when I go in a tunnel and my FM radio cuts out?

Finally they tell you that every month tens of thousands of people cancel their subscriptions. I’m sure those numbers are accurate. Too bad they don’t mean anything without knowing the actual subscriber growth and retention rates. I’ve ranted a little bit too long on this now, but I hate such gross misrepresentations that belittle my intelligence as a consumer.

The Linux Kid from IBM (Scroll to the Bottom of the linked page)

One ad critic gives them an A-. I first saw these ads at Linux World last year. The ads highlight a 9 year old boy who apparently skips school to learn lessons of life from the likes of Muhamed Ali, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, and the world around him. I love the spirit of the messages that these ads convey. They don’t attack Microsoft or any other IBM competition. Instead they stick to some of the positive truths about the community movement in software where Linux has made its greatest strides.

Be open to learning from anyone is a key message from these ads. When I bought VB 3.0 for school I learned its usage from my professors and the documentation (in book form) that came in the borg-cube-esq box. Those where pretty much my choices. Not a bad start, but if you want to learn C# now you have so many more options. There are legions of web sites dedicated to people sharing code and samples for you to build upon, you can subscribe to feeds and interact directly with the people that make the language, and you could still go the school/documentation route. The vibrant communities exist to give you more options and encourage you to give back as well, so others can push on even further.

Leverage the knowledge of the great ones that came before you is another theme that speaks to me. This is different than the first theme because it implies learning from the best. I would choose not to limit it to histories key influencers, but that’s not a bad start. If you know someone who happens to be an outstanding public speaker, find out what makes him or her great at what they do so you can improve yourself as well.

“The future is open.” IBM does not sell products that are as “open” as Linux nor is there a site but then again, the ad doesn’t attempt to define “open” other than suggesting that Linux is. I think Microsoft, and the rest of the industry is realizing there is a consumer appeal to companies being more open with their clientele. More open about security issues, open about bugs that could affect them, open about future plans, and open with people that reflect the core values of the company so there is a true sense that you know who you are buying from and working with.

It is amusing that IBM choose a nine year old to represent Linux. I’m sure it was to represent a point where someone really can be an information sponge, but it’s also an age where you aren’t trusted with much. As I pointed out before; not many IBM people at Linux World were seen trusting it for their business use. Overall though, it’s just good advertising with some great messages. That is, if you extract the Linux specific hype. :-)