Sunday, July 3, 2016

Naming Names

Naming things is an art; probably always has been, but never more so than now. Bad things are being foisted on us at an astounding rate, so the need to make them sound innocuous, and even beneficial, burns strong.

Previous posts have dealt (although not harshly enough) with “native” advertising, the practice of trying to deceive readers that a planted, paid-for commercial message is part of the editorial matter of the publication. That it’s objective, or at least neutral. It isn’t; it’s trying to sell you something. “Native” is supposed to make it sound like something good, like “natural” on your cereal box.      

Then there’s “cookie.”

Lured by some bit of propaganda for “content marketing” that I find particularly egregious, I will sometimes visit a site of one of its proponents. Often I will post a snarky comment. It will be ignored, and probably just as well. The one or two times it has resulted in actual dialog, no one’s mind was changed on anything.   
However, on one of these occasions I did run across something interesting that I didn’t find controversial. In a glossary defining current jargon for the digitally clueless, like myself, I found this explanation of what a “cookie” is:

An invisible JavaScript tag is placed in the footer of a website which leaves a ‘cookie’ in the browser of every visitor. That visitor will then be targeted with theoretically relevant adverts when they [sic] visit other sites
And I was transported in memory back to junior high school, where we thought it hilarious to attach a sign reading “kick me” to the back of someone’s jacket.
Because their cookies somehow attached themselves to my computer, I am repeatedly invited to sample the wares of a pricey restaurant in a distant city, and to “follow” a garage sale/antiques website. I am not interested in either. Granted, it’s not a lot of effort to delete things, but you have to wonder why you should need to.
The other aggravating use of the cookie is a technique called “retargeting.” You’ve started to look at something on a website but decided you aren’t really interested, so you’ve left it. Wrong. A cookie has taken a grip on your lapel. You will be importuned to go back to that site and do whatever it was you decided you didn’t want to do. You thought you left that sort of thing behind when your kids grew up.

The ultimate name game, of course, is “content marketing,” but I’ve gone on about that for so long and at such length that I’m sure no one needs to hear anything more about it from me. It has taken over the marketing world, and mine is a voice in the wilderness critical of it. It’s about that time in the cycle, however, to start wondering what the next marketing fad will be named. It doesn’t matter, because whatever the gimmick is, it can’t be as bad as what we have now.