Notes from the post-print transition, 1: the advertising moonshot of Google’s Larry Page and Private Eye’s meerkat phobia

Meerkat to the Eye: ‘You surely don't mean, me?’ - postgutenberg [at]

Meerkat to the Eye: ‘You surely don’t mean, me?’
– postgutenberg [at]

Anyone sensible who, for decades, has bought nothing expensive without consulting Britain’s Which? (owned by the Consumers’ Association) or Consumer Reports in the U.S. (owned by Consumers Union) can understand Larry Page’s apparent belief, over a decade ago, that conventional advertising would soon be obsolete.

Advertising equals lifeblood in the traditional economic model for newspapers and magazines – the scheme that will soon look pre-historic. In a splendid Business Insider profile, in a section about the early years of the company Page co-founded with Sergey Brin, a far-out idea – known as a moonshot, at the search engine colossus — is described:

… [A]fter Google had become the Internet’s most successful advertising business, Page decided the company should destroy the advertising agency industry. To his thinking, it was obviously a highly inefficient system that could be erased with the help of technology. Not only did the company opt not to take on this battle, but [other top Google executives] did their best to make sure none of Google’s many important ad-agency clients caught wind of Page’s ideas on the topic.

His seems like a straightforward, logical conclusion to anyone who believes – as we do at post-Gutenberg – that

… the perfect search engine would understand whatever your need is. It would understand everything in the world deeply [and] give you back kind of exactly what you need.

That is also a quotation of Page, in the same article.

Private Eye — writing more frankly than any other print publication about the hopelessness of trying to carry the advertising-dependent print model for economic survival into the digital future – has had riveting news in recent ‘Ad Nauseam’ columns, information we have seen nowhere else. … Essential reading, even if the last snippet seems proof of a bizarre phobia at the indispensable satirical magazine – or, possibly, a regrettable instance of inter-species prejudice:

– from Private Eye, No. 1367, 30 May – 12 June, 2014:

The latest digital advertising medium to have its efficacy questioned is video ads.

Recent research suggests that nearly 60 percent of them are never seen by a human being, which does rather post the question as to what media buyers are actually paid for.

– from Private Eye, No. 1369, 27 June -10 July 2014:

Facebook recently admitted what everyone in advertising had already twigged – that no one is reading anything brands put on Facebook any more.

The company posted a long explanation for this, protesting loudly against the idea that it could possibly have anything to do with selling more ads, suggesting instead that it was a problem of there simply being too much ‘branded content’ on the platform. This is all well and good, except a) that problem is entirely of Facebook’s making, given that it has spent seven years telling all brands they have to be on there (without adequately explaining why); and b) all its solutions for brands to get over this issue involve, er, buying more adverts.

– from Private Eye, No. 1367, 30 May – 12 June, 2014:

The latest terrifying vision of the future comes via Personal Neuro, a company which is working with Google Glass to produce wearable technology, which can monitor a wearer’s brainwaves, gauge their mood or state of mind – and feed adverts directly into their eyeballs based on that data!

Welcome to a future in which you will never be able to escape that bloody meerkat, however hard you try

If Personal Neuro is real, not just a vision that came swimming into editorial brains at the Eye after a lavish liquid lunch, why does a Google search turn up no information about this Canadian startup in any other well-known print organ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s