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Posted on Thursday, January 10 2008 @ 08:49:41 Eastern

AOL, the infamous (and shitty) internet service provider has been going for a long time. Remember all those CDs you used to be swamped with every time you... well I don't actually know how we all came into possession of enough plastic to supplement Pamela Anderson but we did. Well anyway, it goes back further than that, back to 1989 when floppy discs roamed the earth. The eBay auction is unimportant by the way but I would like to say one thing regarding it; $4,995 for a floppy disc? He must be ****ing mad! Anyway, that just shows how long AOL has been going, and if our collective experience is anything to go by then the majority of that existence has been driven by copious amounts of shiny discs being thrown at us (not literally). So it surprised me today, when watching daytime TV like the student I am, I saw an advert from the Car Phone Warehouse (phone retailer in the UK) advertising a FREE laptop! With the purchase of an AOL broadband contract... damn. Now I'll be honest I haven't used AOL, I've never actually been with AOL myself but I have had friends who made the mistake and I have heard the horror stories. Are AOL still a bad choice? Well I don't know, but they're resorting to cheap tactics like giving away a 'free' laptop or PS3 (oh yeah, that's one of the offers) to flog their wares.

This all got me thinking of the new revolutionised advertising; you know the sort, though you've probably dismissed it as a pyramid scheme. I'm talking about those websites, sign up to something, tell a few friends, and get a free iPod/PS3/Xbox 360/iPhone/car/life. I'm not doubting that some of these are cons but many are actually giving what they're offering. They work by getting the companies you can sign up for to pay for the product. After seeing a breakdown of costs for popular methods of advertising I can say that paying for a 360 for getting at least one person and potentially up to around ten (friends of the first) to sign up for ones services is a small price to pay. Many of these companies are large, established businesses so why are they turning to this alternate form of advertising? Could it be because the consumers are getting more savvy? Well, that's why it is. The consumerist public have gotten used to adverts in their newspapers and magazines, between TV programs, on buildings, on buses, on road signs, on taxis and trains and even more on less orthodox platforms; we ignore them now. We have to be coerced into buying products not through a flashy advert but through the offer of a flashy piece of electronics. Does this herald a new age of cynicism? An evolution of advertising strategy? Well yes, but in this age of wanting something for nothing it'll have to be something pretty special to draw in the crowds.
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