Negative Advertising: Are we all… Sex-crazed???

I exercise often, and like to read as I do (helps take the mind off the pain). Lately, my literary companions have been various Internet magazines because I want to show the men with bulging muscles and tight tank tops just what a geek I am.

Anyway, I was on the recumbant bike this evening with a free copy of Internet World, a MecklerMedia publication that I’d scammed from their ad rep at COMDEX. The previous magazine I’d gone through was Internet Underground, which blows doors off of Wired.

The same did not hold for Internet World (IW as it is now and ever shall be), so after the industry news section in the front I turned my attention to the advertising.

I wish I hadn’t.

Long-standing Internet users be warned: According to Internet companies that advertise, your future infobahn carpoolers are sex-crazed.

The first ad that caught my eye was full page and printed on heavier cardstock. The advertiser was Prodigy, which I remember seeing when I was in fourth grade. A woman who wasn’t even born when I was in fourth grade is featured, wearing a denim jacket, tight jeans and a come-access-me-now pout. She is leaned over a purple convertible sportscar.

The copy is a quote set in 40 pt. Helvetica:

“Let’s just say I don’t hang out in the Knitting Forum.”

Below this, a burst tells us that “‘Loni’ got into Prodigy Pseudo Chat on Wednesday, 9:37 P.M. ”

(Men: Do you really think that women named “Loni” even exist? If so, I have a green card to sell you.)

It seems that this sexual advertising is getting worse before getting better. Other ads I’ve seen (in sources other than IW) have included a woman, backside to the camera in a Melissa Etheridge-bluejeans-and-nothing-else pose with two floppy disks in each back pocket. Another often-used image is “attractive woman as guide to the Internet” (which will be further discussed in part three: Coddling).

I know that there’s sex on the Internet. When I was in tech support, customers would ask me to add erotica newsgroups to our USENET feed. Some of the titles were hair-curlingly repulsive.

But do we really need to sell the Internet as sexy? Should the person who would be lured by Loni’s testimonial really be allowed to partake in the forum? Do they have anything to offer other than net.harrassment and “me too”‘s?

While I find all attempts of net.censorship reprehensible, and would happily give Senator Exon a blow to the head (though judging from his soundbites someone already has), I am concerned that online services or any service provider are resorting first to what should be the final resort!

If people aren’t turned on to information, they won’t offer much to the Internet community other than their own gratification. And I’m not interested in reading anything typed with only one hand.