the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Advertising and Marketing

The Golden Era of Advertising


I didn’t read many blogs when I started Citizen of the Month in March, 2005.  My initial model for my blog was the late Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes.”  Every day I would write a short post based on some personal off-kilter observation such as, “Why do we still lick envelopes in the 20th Century?”  It’s a tried and true comedic technique.

Seven years ago this week, my father died.   I was blogging for a little over a year.  Sophia, my wife at the time, sent a message to my blog readers that I was called back to New York.  There was no Twitter or Facebook at the time, so I used my blog as my diary, writing about my emotional state at the time, detailing all the chaos, the sadness, and even the frequent bittersweet humor of dealing with a parent’s death.

My father’s passing completely transformed my view of blogging.  Writing a personal blog was not the same as writing a short story or a magazine article.  It certainly was not like Andy Rooney doing his shtick on “60 Minutes.”  For one thing, blogs had comments, and the feedback from others were frequently more interesting than the original post.  Readers also CARED about me in a way that I never cared about Andy Rooney.   And I CARED about my readers.  Blogging was something revolutionary — a hybrid of writing, community forum, therapy, and friendship.

Life continued on, as did my blog.  My writing changed in tone to reflect my experiences.    Sophia dealt with breast cancer.  Sophia’s mother passed away.  Sophia’s step-father passed away.  Sophia and I divorced.  I moved back and forth between Los Angeles and New York.  I flew to New Zealand to meet a new woman.  Life.

Last night, I put an advertisement onto the sidebar of my blog, or more accurately,  I installed a Javascript “advertising-tag” into the code which sends you creepy Big Brother-like advertisements tailored JUST for you, based on the cookies in your browser.    At first, I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong with the code, because the advertisements didn’t show up in my browser.  I realized that I was using the Chrome Extension, Ad Blocker, to hide YOUR advertisements, so I was blocking my own ads!  I turned off Ad Blocker, and BOOM, it appeared — a 160×600 banner ad for Buick.

I glanced over at my last few posts.  One was a mediation on happiness.   Another was a photo essay.  The third was a conversation with my cock.   I turned to the Flashy Buick ad and… I started to cry.  It wasn’t an unhappy cry.   It wasn’t a happy cry.   It was just an emotional release, of what I can’t tell you.

Placing this advertisement on my blog is a very big deal to me.  It scares me, but it also gives me a slight thrill, like I’m losing my virginity to a prostitute or going bungee jumping.  Will I keep the advertisement on my sidebar?   It depends on how much money I can earn by keeping it there.  If we are talking less than ten bucks a month, it’s not worth it.

I know my eight year obsession over putting advertising on my blog is crazy, and has annoyed the shit out of some of you.   I realize that most of you couldn’t care less what I do.  But I’m pretentious.   It’s one little secret that I try to keep to myself.  My blog is powerful… to me.  It is a reflection of my life, my manhood, my attitudes towards money and ambition, and an expression of sex and desire.   My blog is also about my father, the kind man who died seven years ago this week.   And my father would never put advertising on his blog.   So, it’s a big change.

Disclosure and Transparency

My blogging friend, Mocha Momma, was on NPR yesterday talking about the topic of the day (actually it has been a topic for five months now):  “Are Marketers Ruining the ‘Mommy Blogosphere?”

This “disclosure” issue seems to be embedded in the a rock, stuck without movement.  How can we keep the blogosphere “transparent?”   Is a blogging with integrity badge enough?   As I sat here pondering this, I thought of Shakespeare.   If he were writing a sponsored review of a product, how would he proceed?

As an English major, I am uniquely qualified to answer this question.   I can safely say that I know exactly what William Shakespeare would do in this situation.  Just look at the opening scene of Hamlet.   In that famous scene,  the Sentinels wait for the Ghost of the King.   We do not meet the main character, Hamlet, as of yet.  Instead, Shakespeare uses these secondary characters for exposition, setting up the scenario BEFORE we meet the star.

The same technique can be used in a sponsored review.  Rather than jumping right into the meat of the post with the review, jarring the audience with an overload of information, the blogger/reviewer could take his time, much like Shakespeare does, setting the stage and the atmosphere, and drawing his audience into the story with suspense and needed exposition.

Here is an example of an updated Shakespearean-type introduction for a sponsored review of Welch’s Grape Jelly, using the American English of today, that solves both the disclosure AND the transparency issues in one swoop.

“The following is a review of Welch’s New and Improved Grape Jelly.  The nice people at Welch’s sent me a case of their product, as well as invited me to their headquarters in Concord, Massachusetts, paying for my airfare and hotel, where I enjoyed a blogger get-together and lunch with the entertaining and gracious Mr. and Mrs. Welch.”

BOOM.  That’s it.  This “intro,” as we might call it nowadays, would “set the scene,” explaining to the audience the backstory.   If I was this writer’s friend, I will probably go, “Oh, how nice for you!  I’m curious to hear more!” And I will read your review, and I will believe what you say, because I have seen your integrity IN ACTION.  You have set up the story properly, right from the beginning.   Shakespeare would never put essential information at THE END, like so many of you do, because it makes for bad drama.   I don’t want to read about a product and learn at the END that the writer was paid to write it, or got some freebies!  That is like watching King Lear for three hours, being totally confused by the plot, and only finding out in the last act that he has three daughters!  That is poor playwriting!

So let’s thank Shakespeare for a simple and effective solution to our blogging woes.  Why don’t we just make this the standard, like the intermission at a Broadway show, so then we all are on the same page and there is no confusion?

Or as Hamlet told Horatio in his final moments, “If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, / Absent thee from felicity a while, / And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain / To tell my story of Welch’s Grape Jelly.”

A One Day Break From Arrogance

I miss Brenda, my friendly therapist in Los Angeles, the one with the nice legs. During our last meeting, I told her I was going to New York for a few month. I was embarrassed to tell her this, fearing that she would consider it a cop-out, that I was running away from my problems rather than solving it. Instead, she surprised me and said it showed great progress.

“You’re taking action. It doesn’t matter what action. It could be an action that backfires. But it is better than doing nothing.”

My last two posts have been all about action. The purpose? I have no idea! The concept of publicly announcing my blog as the greatest blog ever created was so outlandish to me — almost sinful — that I became tremendously horny after publishing it. I’ve always hated those obnoxious blatantly-promotional blog badges, so placing one my blog was the equivalent of bungie jumping off of of Mount Rushmore, and I felt the adrenaline rush in the most obvious of places.

That said, I am a little worried that I am boring you. I seem to be writing a lot about blogging rather than real life. But let me assure you, if you read between the lines, this has anything to do with blogging. It is just easier to take action in the virtual world before attempting the same in the real world.

So, I took some action. I said my blog was the best blog ever created. I didn’t die from my hubris. The world is not all black and white, where every decision is monumental and forever. Recently, I even mentioned the word “divorce” with Sophia. But I said it in a clever, loving way. I said, “What is the worst thing that can happen? If we wanted to get married again, we could! Didn’t Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton get married and divorced eleven times?!” By presenting it in this manner, it defused some of the tension. We haven’t done anything, and it isn’t on the agenda right now, but it felt good to take some “action.”

OK, enough with real life. Back to blogging. I never liked guest posts. Two months ago, I had some guest posters write on my blog, randomly picked. They were terrific and I survived giving up some control. I never wanted to write for another blog. I started writing for another blog, for money — one that is corporate sponsored. Two days ago, I displayed a badge for a blogging contest, even later adding the actual link, after a blogger called me out for being a wimp.

But my biggest online nemesis remains: yes, advertising. That is my dragon. For years. I’ve written so much about this issue that other bloggers have started to make fun of me, like Rattling the Kettle.

I told Jennifer from Thursday Drive my plan.

“What’s the big deal? I can try advertising for one month and if I don’t like it, I can dump it.”

“Sounds good.” she said.

“It’s no big deal. I used to be against it for symbolic reasons. Bloggers would say they “deserve” to get paid for entertaining their readers. That statement made me sick. We’re all entertaining each other, like a barter system. If anything, I should be paying YOU for coming here and enhancing my blog posts with your comments. But enough. I’m done with this hang-up. It is time to take some action!”

At that point, Jennifer fell asleep on the other end, tried of me always IM-ing her and talking endlessly about myself. But it didn’t matter. I was ready for Healthy Arrogance, Day 3: Advertising and Money!

But then my brain started playing games. I felt a pain in my side and I had to lie down. I felt dizzy. My arrogance was slipping away. I know it is ridiculous. I know this all my seem very silly to most decent citizens. Whatever I decide, I don’t want the fear — and psychological angst — to make the decision for me. I want to decide myself — and take action one way or another, like I want to do with other things in my life. New York or Los Angeles? Married or not? Crest or Colgate? Advertising or not? It’s time to make a stand and overcome this. And not be so wishy-washy about the reasons.

Uh, I’m not ready yet for this decision. I need one more day.

Blame it on the Sea Monkeys

I really wanted to get one of those cool mirrors that hang in the shower and don’t fog up.  What joy it would be — I could shave in the shower!   Yesterday, I was with Sophia in Big Lots.   They had one for $6.98.  Sophia said it was a piece of junk and that I should buy one from Sharper Image.   I didn’t listen.  How bad could it be?  The box said it was guaranteed.

After my first shower with the mirror, here’s the moral of the story.   It is a piece of junk.

I felt the need to console myself, to remind myself that I’m not usually a consumer of crappy products that don’t live up to their advertising.

This afternoon, I was browsing the web when I came to Steve Conley’s cool site, a “look at some of the best, most-memorable, and most-audacious ads from American comic books.”

I came face to face with my past, a part of my life that I have been trying to hide from.   Here, laughing at me from my Samsung screen was the product that forced me into this life of bad consumerism.   Yes, damn you, sea monkeys!

(via Steve Conley)

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