Small Ads


Dushko Petrovich in n+1:

We are now surrounded on all sides by small ads. For the time being, we reassure ourselves not so much with their tininess, but with their inaccurate aim. My affection for Tottenham Hotspur—the English soccer team—means that omniscient Gmail sends me endless ads about bone spurs. On Facebook, I take some cheap shots at Sarah Palin and the multibillion-dollar, publicly traded behemoth decides I’d like to see . . . ads promoting Mitt Romney. Missed again, you corporate motherfuckers! says the little voice inside my head. Your marketing will never catch me! Of course, it eventually will. It already kind of does. A fleeting invitation to a gout study somehow snares me. Did I post something fatty?

Meanwhile, in the paper-bound world, a different kind of targeting is winding down its long tradition, offering unique pleasures which I am only just starting to savor—both because the internet has taught me things and because I fear these other, less-appreciated tiny ads will soon disappear forever.

So there you are, on a Sunday with your coffee readingHarper’s, or Bookforum, or the New Yorker, and after a series of carefully orchestrated, full-page ads that either flatter your interests (Why yes, I am curious about Bolaño!) or accede quietly to their evolution (Enough with the Žižek, already!)—you come across something altogether different. Their size congratulates your sense of discovery. At first you think these little rectangles are amusing because they offer monogrammed sweaters and self-publishing opportunities—things that are undoubtedly funny, in a sad, Skymall sort of way. But sometimes the funny sadness goes deeper than that, like the sadness of “unique diamond fish jewelry” for $15,000. And then sometimes you are plunged so deep into these ads, you wish there was a German word, or school of social thought, that could sufficiently describe the experience.