“Her” Lack of Ads

Photo: Warner Bros.

Photo: Warner Bros.

Had the pleasure of watching Spike Jonze’s Her this weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed it. One thing that struck me though was the complete lack of ads in the interactions between Theo and Samantha. I guess I’m just so used to the presence of ads often getting in the way  of our interaction with technology nowadays that it was a refreshing notion.

When asked what her name was, imagine if Samantha instead answered, “I’d like to get a couple of things out of the way first – would you like me to install the ask.com toolbar? It enables quick access to ask.com’s wealth of answers from any page in your browser. I will start the installation unless you tell me not to within the next 3 seconds” (in a completely unnatural voice since she’s reading from a script, and as an AI she knows it’s usually not in the user’s best interest to install it), at which point Theo will proceed to say “No, no, please don’t!”

Or if she started spewing out deal after vacation deal once she found out Theo wanted to take her on a surprise vacation.

If any part of Samantha’s services were to be subsidized by ads, I would think it a much better experience if the user were unaware of them. For example, when Samantha was picking out the pink dress for Theo’s niece, she could give a slight edge to one of her sponsors’ stores, along with taking into account the item preferences Theo told her. (Of course this wouldn’t work so well in non-affiliate situations, not to mention the privacy implications)

This thought exercise really goes to show that straight-up audio and video ads (along with full-page obstructive visual ads) are the worst kind because the entire interaction is halted to make way for the ad. The pre-video Youtube ads and the jarring Pandora ads between songs are the bane of the universe and nobody likes them. It would be all the more worse if they “popped-up” in an otherwise completely human conversation.

Either ways, I await how the worlds of advertising, pervasive conversational tech, and AI will mingle when such a combination becomes reality. I sincerely hope we’ll have come up with better ways for getting ahold of our eyeballs and ears then.

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014, 7:54 pm

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