The art of display advertisement

“Trust me I’m lying”, by Ryan Holiday, is an overview of the (display) advertisement ecosystem. It explains the trickery used to catch the attention of the viewer-buyer. The author himself writes to be a master of these tricks. He has used them also to catch the attention of large groups of people. The book lays down a simple equation: the writers write, photographers publish pictures and media outlets publish to buy your attention and sell it to advertisers.

“The ways of seeing”, by John Berger, is a different description. It describes the relationship between display advertisement and painting. It characterizes the paintings on which display advertisement takes pictorial and symbolical inspiration.

Similarities between painting and display ads. (1/2) "Ways of seeing" J. Berger
Similarities between painting and display ads. (1/2) “Ways of seeing” J. Berger
Similarities between painting and display ads. (2/2) "Ways of seeing" J. Berger
Similarities between painting and display ads. (2/2) “Ways of seeing” J. Berger

Why is advertisement credible and successful? John Berger says:

Publicity speaks in the future tense and yet the achievement of this future is endlessly deferred. How then does publicity remain  credible – or credible enough to exert the influence it does? It remains credible because the truthfulness of publicity is judged, not by the real fulfillment of its promises, but by the relevance of its fantasies to those of the spectator-buyer. Its essential  application is not to reality but to day-dreams.

and

The gap between what publicity actually offers and the future it promises, corresponds with the gap between what the spectator-buyer feels himself to be and what he would like to be. The two gaps become one; and instead of the single gap being bridged by action or lived experience, it is filled with glamorous day-dreams.

all this flourishes in the current social and political environment

The industrial society which has moved towards democracy and  then stopped half way is the ideal society for generating such an emotion. The pursuit of  individual happiness  has been acknowledged as a universal right. Yet the existing social conditions make the individual feel powerless. He lives in the contradiction between what he is and what he would like to be. Either he then becomes fully conscious of the contradiction and its causes, and so joins the political struggle for a full democracy which entails, amongst other things, the overthrow of capitalism; or else he lives, continually subject to an envy which, compounded with his sense of powerlessness, dissolves into recurrent day-dreams.

Letter 5 (excerpt)

“In addition, Rome (if one has not yet been acquainted with it) makes one feel stifled with sadness for the first few days: through the gloomy and lifeless museum-atmosphere that it exhales, through the abundance of its pasts, which are brought forth and laboriously held up (pasts on which a tiny present subsists), through the terrible overvaluing, sustained by scholars and philologists and imitated by the ordinary tourist in Italy, of all these disfigured and decaying Things, which, after all, are essentially nothing more than than accidental remains from another time and from another life that is not and should not be ours. Finally, after weeks of daily resistance, one finds oneself somewhat composed again, even though still a bit confused, and one says to oneself: No, there is not more beauty here than in other places, and all these objects that have been marveled at by  generation after generation, mended and restored by the hands of workmen, mean nothing, are nothing, and have no heart and no value; — but there is much beauty here, because everywhere there is much beauty. Waters infinitely full of life move along the ancient aqueducts into the great city and dance in the many city squares over white basins of stone and spread out in large, spacious pools and murmur by day and lift up the murmuring to the night, which is vast here and starry and soft with winds. And there are gardens here, unforgettable boulevards, and staircases designed by Michelangelo, staircases constructed on the pattern of downward-gliding waters and, as they descend, widely giving birth to step out of step as if it were wave out of wave. Through such impressions one gathers oneself, wins oneself back from the exacting multiplicity, which speaks and chatters there (and how talkative it is!), and one slowly learns to recognize very few Things in which something eternal endures that one can love and something solitary that one can gently take part in.”

R. M. R. “Letters to a young poet”. Random house NY. 1984.

What is in the terms of service (TOS)?

I want to report one possible way of reading certain contracts. Borrowing from the way these contracts are written, I will start from the end. The contract quoted from the TOS of a company some time ago is interpreted as:

We will use your personal information for commercialization with third parties, internal use, and other things.

The way to read this interpretation is the following: If what is stated above were to happen, it seems to me that the terms of the contract below are not infringed.

Interpretation process

Excerpt of TOA

Definition: “R&D” means research and development activities performed by on user data. These activities may include, among other things, improving our Services and/or offering new products or services to you; performing quality control activities; conducting data analysis that may lead to and/or include commercialization with a third party.

We may disclose to third parties, and/or use in our Services, “Aggregated Genetic and Self-Reported Information”, which is Genetic and Self-Reported Information that has been stripped of Registration Information and combined with data from a number of other users sufficient to minimize the possibility of exposing individual-level information while still providing scientific evidence. If you have given consent for your Genetic and Self-Reported Information to be used in 23andWe Research as described in the applicable Consent Document, we may include such information in Aggregated Genetic and Self-Reported Information intended to be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. If you have given consent to participate in 23andWe Research, we may also allow research contractors to access your individual-level Genetic and/or Self-Reported Information onsite at 23andMe’s offices for the purpose of conducting scientific research, provided that all such research contractors will be supervised by 23andMe and subject to 23andMe’s access rules and guidelines. Similarly, if you have consented to use of your individual-level data in the Research Portal feature, qualified researchers (who must comply with certain requirements) may access your individual-level Genetic and/or Self-Reported Information for the purpose of scientific research, which could lead to commercial use. If you do not give consent for your Genetic and Self-Reported Information to be used in 23andWe Research or your individual-level Genetic and Self-Reported Information to be used in the Research Portal, we may still use your Genetic and/or Self-Reported Information for R&D purposes as described above, which may include disclosure of Aggregated Genetic and Self-Reported Information to third-party non-profit and/or commercial research partners who will not publish that information in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Paraphrasing rules

While it is hard write down rules about how one takes in information from such a text, here are some paraphrase rules that I have applied when a more efficient text (same message, less words) could be obtained:

  • may: delete or replace with “can” or “will”
  • and/or: replace with and
  • remove redundant phrases. E.g.: “If you have given consent for your Genetic and Self-Reported Information to be used in 23andWe Research as described in the applicable Consent Document, we may include such information in Aggregated Genetic and Self-Reported Information intended to be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.”
  • change order of statements
  • add comments in square brackets
  • If terms a latter part of text includes former terms, I include the former. In an example, :
    • I will share your personal information to non-profits, noble scientific causes in an aggregated and completely un-identifiable (impossible, by the way) form
    • I will sell your personal information

    clearly the second case includes the first, so an efficient piece of text would contain only the second item. A confusing one would not.

Interpreted version

Thus, the original contract above first becomes:

Definition

“R&D”: activities performed on user data which we do not disclose and activities which we do disclose and which are:

  • commercialization with a third party
  • internal use

Paragraph

[Regardless of what you do or do not do] We will use your Genetic and/or Self-Reported Information to for R&D, hence

  • for [any?]things which we do not disclose
  • commercialization with a third party
  • internal use

[by definition of R&D] and

  • third-party non-profit
  • commercial research partners [who can do anything with it but] publish that information in a peer-reviewed scientific journal

[you could very well stop here, but carry on; follows what can you consent to have your information used for]
We disclose to third parties Genetic and Self-Reported Information that has been stripped of Registration Information to reduce exposing individual-level information.

We will use your Genetic and/or Self-Reported Information for R&D purposes as described above, including disclosure of Aggregated Genetic and Self-Reported Information for:

  • third-party non-profit
  • commercial research partners who will not publish that information in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

If you have given consent we will:

  • include Genetic & self reported information in peer-reviewed scientific journals
  • allow research contractors to access your individual-level Genetic and Self-Reported Information onsite under our supervision & guidelines research
  • qualified researchers (who must comply with certain requirements [like have a proper scientist beard] ) will access your individual-level Genetic and Self-Reported Information for the purpose of commercial use

1, 0, 100 000

Yet another excerpt from Pirandello. This is from his “uno, nessuno e centomila”

Mi guardai allo specchio dell’armadio con irresistibile confidenza, fino a strizzare un occhio per significare a quel Moscarda là che noi due intanto c’intendevamo a meraviglia. E anche lui, per dire la verità, subito mi struzzo l’occhio, a confermare l’intesa. (Voi dirette, lo so, che questo dipendeva perché quel Moscarda là nello specchio ero io; e ancora una volta dimostrerete di non aver capito niente. Non ero io, ve lo posso assicurare. Tant’è vero che un istante dopo, prima d’uscire, appena voltai un po’ la testa per riguardarlo in quello specchio, era già un altro, anche per me, con un sorriso diabolico negli occhi azzurri e lucidissimi. Voi ve ne sareste spaventati; io no; perché già lo sapevo; e lo salutai con la mano. Mi saluto con la mano anche lui, per dire la verità.)

Existentialism

I had encountered definitions of the term before, but none I could remember. Here is one from W. Kaufmann’s “Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre.”

“The refusal to belong to any school of thought, the repudiation of the adequacy of any body of beliefs whatever, and especially of systems, and a marked dissatisfaction with traditional philosophy as superficial, academic, and remote from life — that is at the heart of existentialism.”