the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘advertising

Advertising told through Science Fiction?


I was smart, and downloaded WAY more hours of podcasts than I’d need to get myself to Maryland and back,  so now I’m working my way through the thumb drive to see what’s good and what will get deleted.


I like science-y podcasts.  I don’t need Great Courses Astrophysics,  pop-science is more than adequate for my commute.


Today’s commute included an episode of NPR’s Hidden Brain, titled “This is Your Brain on Ads”.  the podcast included a short history of advertising, like radio jingles,  fun mascots for sugary kid’s cereals, product placement in TV shows and radio,  superbowl ads, all the way to instagram influencers. There was mention that children grow out of being easily influenced by about age 13, and younger than that and they really are convinced that Lucky Charms is part of a balanced breakfast.  There was mention that the Superbowl can charge so much for ads because sports fans are the most loyal group of consumers.


There was an aside about MTV’s The Real World. Remember that show? It birthed the reality tv show phenomenon.  MTV had zero budget, and needed a TV show (otherwise they were going to have to show sportsball), so they got a bunch of regular people who were willing to work for a whole lotta attention/fame/exposure, and not a lot of money.  All the advertising that MTV sold that ran during that show was pure profit, because it cost them hardly anything to make the show.


There was a discussion of how our attention has value, and that our attention can be monetized.


And often we have zero control over how we respond to advertising.  It has nothing to do with willpower (ok, maybe a little), but the advertising companies have figured out through trial, error, and studies, what exactly will make you keep watching that stupid infomercial.


And that got me thinking.


Science fiction is really good at taking relatively normal near-future things – genetically modified pets, using robots as caregivers for people with dementia, inescapable closed circuit tv,  the dark side of social media and making your living as an instagram influencer, catching criminals, first contact with aliens, getting back to the Moon, the list is endless, because science fiction knows no bounds.


So what does a science fiction story that deals with the monetization of your attention look like?  What might it look like from the person who is buying or brokering your attention, what might it look like from the person whose attention is being purchased and monetized?  what will the future of advertising look like, through a science fiction lens?


Advertising + science fiction = ??


A title that comes to mind right away is Robert Jackson Bennett’s Vigilance, and 2007’s Grey by Jon Armstrong (which I feel would read as horribly dated now?).


What titles come to mind for you?


What might a science fiction author do with the prompt “what would advertising and monetization of consumer’s attention in the future look like?”


Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett

published Jan 31 2019

where I got it: purchased new












My reaction to this book was not subtle.



Like most of his recent work, Vigilance isn’t about what it’s about.  This is not a story about a waitress with a bar full of privileged idiots.  This is not a story about a reality TV executive producer who isn’t as smart as he thinks he is.  This is not a story about guns. The story and the characters are just the oil glistening on the surface.


Although never explicitly mentioned, This is a story about the psychology of fear, and how easy it would be for a media company to make a killing by monetizing fear. This is a story about info-tainment, and how media and advertisers view consumers.


Remember when the pharma companies literally came in their pants with how much money they made off of Viagra? (and in related news)   In Vigilance, it’s the media and marketing companies that are making a fortune off keeping the viewing public in a constant state of flight or flight, a constant state of heightened anxiety, a peak moment when we are least likely to make rational decisions.  And speaking of Viagra, there is the whole “ideal customer” aspect of the book, which either shouldn’t be funny but is, or should be laugh out loud but isn’t. . .  i’m still not sure which.


Ever been to a reality TV show watching party?  It’s fun to watch Survivor with your friends, it’s fun to watch The Bachelor with your friends, it’s fun to watch the Oscar’s Red Carpet show with your friends. We do it because it’s fun. We do it beause we want to see who gets voted off the island, who does or says something idiotic, we do it because we want to talk to our friends about what everyone is wearing. It’s fun to check the feeds online while watching, so that you can feel like the whole world is at your watching party.  It’s fun, right?


We enjoy unscripted reality tv because it’s unscripted. We don’t know what’s going to happen next. And deep down, we’d love to be on that show. Reality TV can be a safe place to be the hero of  your own story, to get positive attention, to have people clap for you.


(there’s a Come on Down! You’re the next contestant on! Joke in here somewhere, right?)


Vigilance is America’s new favorite reality TV show.  Episodes only run every few months, the contestants and the location is kept a secret until the moment the episode begins.  As soon as the online rumors begin of an imminent episode of Vigilance, the social media streams can’t seem to talk about anything but the possible locations for the upcoming episode.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.