Murphy’s Law – NUads, a new way to force commercials down your throat

Joel Murphy

Joel Murphy

The New York Times ran an article yesterday about Xbox’s plans to use the Kinect to offer advertisers new and exciting ways to sell their products to gamers.

According to the article: “Users of Microsoft’s popular Xbox Kinect gaming console will soon be able to use voice and motion commands to interact with advertisements while they are playing their favorite game or watching a video.”

The article goes on to explain that these “NUads,” which is apparently short for “natural user-interface ads” will have the following benefits:

Using voice commands, gamers will be able to send messages about an ad to a social networking site like Twitter by saying “Xbox Tweet.” Advertisers who want to send more information about a product or promotion associated with a campaign can prompt Xbox users to say “Xbox More,” which will send users an e-mail with the information they wanted.

    For advertising tied to events like television shows, advertisers can prompt a user to say “Xbox Schedule” and the system will send a text message reminder to the user’s mobile phone. Similarly, advertisers can prompt users to say “Xbox Near Me” and a map to the nearest retailer will be sent to their mobile phone. Finally, advertisers can prompt users to vote on a topic by asking the user to wave their hand in front of the console and select their favorite pizza topping, superhero or clothing brand.

It’s a rather comprehensive article extolling the many virtues of this new technology. It makes it very clear why this is such a cutting edge new option for advertisers. Yet amazingly, the article fails to address one major problem with this story – namely, why the hell should gamers care?

Look, I realize how tough it is to be an advertiser these days. For years, television was the bread and butter of the advertising game. The reason network television existed was to sell you ridiculous shit you don’t need. Watching 40-plus minutes of entertainment an hour has always just been a cheap excuse to get you to watch the various ads that fill the rest of that air time.

But with DVRs, DVDs, iTunes downloads and Internet piracy, getting consumers to sit through ads is harder than ever. And I get that. The future of television advertising is quite precarious. Finding ways to get the message out to consumers is harder than ever.

Sure, web advertising continues to expand, but even that is a tough sell. Advertisers either risk running non-evasive ads on the edges of web pages that are so subtle that people have learned to simply tune them out (seriously, how many of you are even aware there are ads on this page?) or creating pop up ads so invasive and annoying that they take over the entire screen, pissing people off rather than convincing them to buy their wares. Even the 30-second ads that run during Hulu commercial breaks end up feeling tedious and repetitive and I feel they ultimately do more harm than good. (Especially the creepy Ford Focus ad that involves the sock puppet who wants to smell that woman’s fingers – seriously, what the hell is going on there?)

But all that being said, forcing gamers to watch ads is not the solution. In fact, it is a dick move. A huge dick move, in fact. The dickiest.

I’m tired of being forced to sit through ads on things I’ve paid money to enjoy. There is nothing worse than going to a movie (being forced to pay jacked up 3D prices, no less, even though I fucking hate 3D) and having to sit through 10 minutes of commercials at the start of the show. That is in addition to the 10 minutes of trailers, which are really just glorified commercials for movies, anyway. And that’s not even taking into account the movies themselves, which more and more feature copious amounts of product placements, often feeling like commercials themselves.

And that’s just $15 movie tickets. This latest news is basically saying that Xbox wants to do the same thing with video games that cost $60 apiece (using Kinect, a piece of technology that cost $100 to add on to your Xbox 360). If I pay that much of my hard-earned money for a game, why should I have to sit through annoying ads just to play it? How is that fair?

TV and Internet content is generally free, so advertising through those mediums is fair game. But I think it is complete bullshit to jam ads into things you expect me to pay for. Why am I paying money to have you sell me things?

And while I’m at it, stop tacking ads onto the beginning of movie trailers online. Again, I’m watching those trailers because I’m considering spending my money on seeing those movies in the theater. Don’t give me an extra poke in the eyes by expecting me to sit through an ad for the “privilege” of watching a glorified commercial for a movie that is nothing more than a heartless remake conceived in order to cash in on my 80s nostalgia. You are already fucking me. You don’t have to be so callous about it.

I have nothing against advertising. Done right, it’s awesome. Old Spice ads and Skittles commercials tend to amuse me to no end. But as TV advertising dries up and it gets harder to find outlets for your commercials, don’t force ads into things I’m already paying for. It’s just tacky and uncalled for.

So keep your NUads far away from my Xbox. Unless, of course, there’s a way I can use my Kinect to virtually flick you off.

Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at murphyslaw@hobotrashcan.com.

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