Jamie Grace wrote this article.
The journalist Pete Warren noted in an article for The Guardian (UK) earlier this month that Google have duly noted, anticipated and are working toward solving the major problem that exists in attempting to link mobile Internet technology, social networking and online advertising. Google have developed their Orkut social networking application specifically for mobile phones – and so hope to dominate the most powerful form of advertising yet commercially developed – and in future, perhaps the most invasive as well as the most lucrative.
Pete Warren notes:
The mobile phone industry has for years seen the potential for a
rich market to develop in location-based services if only it could get
its customers to agree.
Google, on the other hand, has decided to take advantage of that
market and it has sought to do so by appearing to be helpful. The
rationale is simple – offer a service for free and the customer will
not notice that they have given a company the right to know where they
are at any time.
This is clearly the reason for the inclusion of Orkut in the
package. If social networking can be united with mobile, and location
can be offered as a service so friends know when they are near each
other, then location-based marketing can be offered to clients.
The problem for consumers here is one of agency and automony – that
is, put simply, that consumers will only be able to utilise attractive
services – here, a new, superior social networking site – if they
‘co-opt’ themselves into a specific, truly bespoke marketing campaign.
Fine – you don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to. But good
marketers work on percentages – and they know a rough percentage of
individuals exposed to a certain type of marketing will buy, buy, buy.
Another commercial example is the mobile phone operator Blik – where
adverts are sent via text message to a hanset at an agreed rate in
return for free text messages available for use by the subscriber.
The principle here is agency. You have to make a single conscious
decision as a commercial ‘agent’ to join Orkut, or a service like it,
but you must then make a staggeringly huge series of negative decisions
to resist buying thiings marketed to you by the service itself and its
clientele. This is the invasive nature of the prospect. It seeks to
co-opt one of the few unqualified rights we have in our society – the
right to buy – and to co-opt that right on a scale never before
It is subliminal advertising by brute force – paraliminal marketing.
If you do not subject yourself to this paraliminal marketing, you
face social ostracisation to some degree because you cannot join in
with the co-opted service being offered to you for membership.
In a democratic society, our right to vote ensures a limit on
governmental intrusion until we or our government somehow remove that
right to vote – but through the right to buy we co-opt ourselves into a
commercial Panopticon that would perhaps have appalled Bentham himself.