Re: virus: advertising

John ''Actual Size'' Williams (
Sat, 09 Aug 1997 23:39:33 -0400

Tom dot Holz wrote:

>I've been letting this idea stew in my head for a few weeks, and now that
>it's hip to talk about advertising, I thought I'd bring it up.

And I've just been waiting for a new thread. Thanks!

>but I don't recall anyone noting add memes were not designed to
>reproduce. They have very specific purposes (ie cause subject to spend
>money on product), but they do not undergo the selection process which
>produced <Christianity>.

They are definately designed to reproduce and they are subject to natural
selection -- aided by ad designers.

>Now that most of us are lucky enought to live in
>this televised age, the TV can introduce a meme to thousands. This allows
>the meme to specialize on invading a memeset without wasting resources on a
>repoductive system.
>serial[1]: person1-> person2->person3->person4->person3's brother
>parallel: tv-> person1
> person2
> ...
> person1000000

Most effective memes work in parallel as well as serial. TV is certainly
not the first medium that can communicate a meme to many people at a time
-- writing has done an excellent job of that for thousands of years.
Indeed, this message itself is parallel transmission of memes since it's
going to who-knows-how-many people at once.

If one of you starts explaining my message to someone else, that'll then be
serial transmission of the meme.

That serial transmission is reproduction of the meme, as is a
retransmission of the meme from the original source.

Anywhere people talk about a meme, the reproductive system of that meme is
plenty healthy.

Here in the US, one coffee company ran a popular series of ads that was
sort of like a soap opera; that got a lot of attention. I frequently hear
people say: "Did you see that new commercial for product X? It's *so* funny."

Consider Tommy Hilfager shirts -- Tees that have just a large brand logo on
them for Tommy Hilfager. That's a meme that reproduces often -- but doesn't
mutate all that much.

Ad agencies do spend a lot of time looking for ways to get people to talk
about their ads -- spread the meme serially -- by being novel, being funny,
being impressive, being dramatic. I know people who watch the SuperBowl
*just* for the commercials, because those are so entertaining and lavish.
Then, they come to work and talk about the ones they like the best.

They do another sneaky thing: they start browser wars, cola wars, OS wars.

Mac vs Windows?
Pepsi vs Coke?
Democrat vs Republican?
MSIE vs Netscape?
Ford vs Chevy?

This gets people talking; thus, reinforcing the meme for practically free.
See, the ad infects only those who see it -- but if the person who saw the
ad can infect others, that ad can indirectly affect millions of people *who
never saw the original*. So a reproduction system is not only present, but
of great importance!

Example: I know (clothing brand) Tommy Hilfager is cool -- but I don't
remember ever seeing a Tommy Hilfager commercial. I learned this

Now: as for natural selection; when an ad does not do what it's supposed
to, it's quickly supplanted by a better one. Sure, it's planned -- but it
is *selection* and it is also natural: if people don't take to the ad, it's
pulled because it's too expensive to run something useless.

Mutations happen rarely because the original meme can be redelivered many
times, re-enforcing the "correct" structure. Also, ads have resorted to
identity/emotion memes that reproduce with amazing accuracy, as opposed to
factual/data memes that can be easily garbled or twisted by a competitior.

You can argue with "4 out of 5 doctors ---" but how can you argue with --or
miscommunicate -- "Surge!!!!!!! Feed the Rush!"?[1]

[1]Surge: a new drink here in the U.S.
John Williams            ICQ Address: 1213689
                 "See my loafers?  Former gophers!"
     Various Artists: Raising the Tide of Mediocrity for Two Years