Friday, December 30, 2011

A new trend in advertising?

Receiving a text message with season's greetings from an outfit whose products or services you have used is routine. That's why they're handing out these discount cards - to have your mobile phone number legally listed in their client base so that they can remind you of their existence before every holiday.

How about getting a text from a company you've never heard of, addressed to a person you never knew, but arriving at your mobile? I have received a couple this December, and so did some of my friends. 

It could be a genuine mistake of course. However, with modern media world, one is bound to get paranoid. What if this is deliberate? It is illegal in most countries to send texts to random people, people who never expressed their contempt to be treated in such a manner. But if the message appears to be misaddressed, it can be a way to get around this obstacle. In other words, can it be  a deliberate advertising attempt? 

Is there a way to check? Of course there is. In speech communication, form is unalienable from content. So, every hidden message or intent of the speaker will invariably be reflected in the text. It happens at times that the text is just too short for the message to show, but if it is there, it will certainly surface if you consider a number of similar texts. On this occasion, I might not have sufficient corpus to collect enough evidence for a serious article, but there's enough to satisfy my personal curiosity.

I've gone through the season's greetings texts on my mobile, and it appears that "real" congratulations, the ones that come from outfits whose discount or club cards can actually be found in my wallet, are just a bit different from the "misaddressed" ones. The former are just signed "NN Ltd", while the latter are not only signed, but also have additional contact information, like "" 

This is what I call "semantic overabundance" - presence of signs that add very little to the meaning of the message. It is one of the marks of persuasive communication, and the place to look for what the authors of the message want you to do. In this case, the "extra" message comes in the form of the source for additional information, the essential part of any advertising text. QED.  

So what they do is they effectively spam you, but can't be held responsible for spamming you. If you complain, they will probably claim that an error has occurred in their customer database, apologize, and offer a discount or a free service to compensate for the inconvenience. That can get you into their shop, which is exactly what advertising is about.