Friday, March 10, 2006

Advertising does sometimes work

not that I'd admit that I was ever susceptible. No sirree bob, not this little black duck.

A couple of years ago when we had just the three computers in the house (one for me, one for my wife and one shared between Morgan and Andrew) I'd be watching late night TV when Morgan was chatting online with her friends. Every so often she noticed that I'd take off the headphones; this made her very paranoid. Was I watching her chat? In the light of subsequent events perhaps I should have been; but I wasn't. It's just that the ads were on and I don't watch ads.

I used, when I didn't need reading glasses, to have a book beside me when watching TV. Whenever the ads came on I'd pick up the book and read a page or three. The way that US TV abuses ad time I reckon I'd get through an entire chapter per ad break! My new Home Theatre PC is a godsend in that regard; when I'm home I never watch live TV; I let it record and watch it, maybe 2 minutes after the show ended; maybe 2 weeks after. Doesn't matter; on comes the ad and I hit the fast forward button.

It's interesting to notice the differing patterns. I record Becker on Channel 6 and Channel 18. Channel 6 runs exactly 5 minutes and then we get precisely 1 minute of ads. Channel 18 runs about 8 minutes and then abuses the privilege by running 4 and a half minutes of ads.

Yeah, I understand the rationale but since I've never ever been invited to be one of those surveyed to provide the basis of ad pricing I don't feel bound to live by the results. Invite me and maybe it'll be different. I doubt it.

That said, I do find ads in the US fascinatingly different. I've started listening to Paul Harvey. His 'goodday Americans' is suspiciously close to the Australian g'day. Paul Harvey usually does an interesting foray into the non obvious. A couple of weeks ago he talked about a medical malpractice suit intertwined with a murder case. The argument was that the bullet didn't kill the victim; it was the medical practioners treatment of the resulting wound that killed the patient. When it turned out that the case he was talking about was Charles Guiteau's shooting of US President Garfield in 1889 it was quite the surprise.

Then, without a change in voice, Paul Harvey is advertising sleep number beds. He does have the good grace to say 'page 2' before launching into the ad. Most of the announcers I've heard in Phoenix don't have such grace. It took a while to realise that the line between editorial matter and advertising is so ill defined! Whenever Paul says 'Page 2' I turn off my ears.

Again, I understand the rationale. I'd just be happier if the voices changed so I could tell where the editorial ended and the ad began. I'm getting better at distinguishing! If my American readers are wondering; I've almost never listened to commercial radio for the last 30 years; I preferred the non-profit stations paid for by government grant. In the US I have no such choice. And no, NPR (National Public Radio) isn't to my taste either. It's been a learning experience.

Nonetheless, advertising does sometimes work. I was already susceptible though. I wrote a few days ago[^] about ripping my entire CD collection to the computer. The CD, whilst an admirable invention, is a pain in the bum if you've moved to a new country and were so cheap a bastard as to ship em on spindles. I also wrote about Andrews iPod[^].

Combine the two ideas and you have it in one; I wanted something similar to an iPod. Not necessarily an iPod; I'm not over much enamoured of the Apple marketing machine. Incidentally, I recall reading, years ago, about a licensing agreement between the Beatles estate and Apple computer that restricted Apple from marketing music and related products. I read the industry news on a regular basis; how is it I've managed to miss the news of a change in that agreement?

This week I recieved yet another email from United Airlines. They are one of two airlines granted permission by the Australian Government to fly directly between the US and Australia. The other is Qantas. I fly United (shame on me an Australian for that) because they are part of Star Alliance. So is Singapore Airlines and I fly them much more frequently to The Philippines than I go to Australia. Not by choice you understand! Nope, it's sheer naked greed; three trips to The Philippines paid for by someone else equals one free trip back to Australia.

All well and good, I have lots of frequent flyer points. Hundreds of thousands of the buggers. But do I have the time to use them to go to Australia or anywhere else for that matter? Nope. I get a measly two weeks annual leave in the US, which is hardly enough time for a long haul flight.

So United Airlines are offering another use for frequent flyer points. When I use that term in the US I get puzzled looks; there they are called frequent flyer miles. But Australia doesn't, anymore, measure distance in miles. So we call em points. Same thing, different name. I now, as a 1K member (the highest level), have the option to purchase other goods with my miles points.

An idle exploration turned up the fact that for 50000 miles I can have a Toshiba Gigabeat 60 Gig MP3 player. That's about 3 times the space I need for my entire music collection (and that includes the entire 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' - 15 cd's). A quick calculation. For 60000 miles I can get a return ticket to Australia, worth about US$1500. For 50000 miles I can get an MP3 player with space beyond the dreams of avarice, about US$350. In cold hard economic terms not much of a bargain but, on the other hand, to get the player I want I have to spend real bucks. I don't pay for my travel so it's essentially a free player. I searched for reviews; mostly good and it does have the Windows MCE interface I'm familiar with; so I ordered one yesterday.

They have another tempting offer; a 6.1 Megapixel Digital SLR camera with a gig of memory, zoom lens and all the other goodies for 99500 points. I'll see whether the MP3 player pans out before giving in to that temptation. Heino? That doesn't mean I've given up on the idea of having you come to Phoenix; I have enough points for both!

Of course, it's on three to four weeks delivery. Anyone wanna bet that I'll be out of town when it arrives? You have to bet that I will be at home! I certainly won't! :-)

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