The Advertising Industry Is Running Itself Into the Ground

Pretend for a moment you are an advertising industry executive. You own a bunch of real estate in the form of billboards and poster frames, and you are getting the feeling that people are not paying as much attention to ads as they used to. One reason for this is COVID; another could be how greedy your industry has become. Not only are ads present on every physical surface you can imagine, they are also on every digital surface. Websites have ads, the most popular apps in the world are made by advertising companies, and many of the accounts people follow are walking billboards. You could find ways of convincing your advertiser clients to produce things which are aesthetically pleasing, or funny, or clever, or original. But what if people refuse to look up?

What if — and hear me out here — you just tricked them?

Willa Glickman, Hell Gate:

If you’ve taken the subway recently, you may have noticed there’s a new food trend in town: clickbait cuisine. Recipe videos for “brieghetti pie,” an engorged egg-in-a-hole “baked brunch boat,” and an omelet cooked in a plastic bag are just some of the offerings being beamed out to the MTA’s millions of daily subway riders on nearly 10,000 digital advertising screens throughout the system.


The recipe videos aren’t ads, per se, but are “engaging content” designed to drive “eyeballs,” as Outfront charmingly likes to refer to us humans, so that when we are served advertisements for things that are actually being sold, we can’t look away. Outfront sources these videos from a company called First Media, which creates them as part of a cooking brand called So Yummy. (First Media did not respond to our requests for comment.) First Media also owns Blossom, a DIY craft and “life hack” channel, whose videos also play on Outfront’s screens. For anyone who has ever wondered if you might be able to glue pistachio shells together into a small flower to liven up a terrarium or chop up pool noodles to protect your picture frames — you can!

Everybody is so creative!

Kudos to Glickman for pointing to Ann Reardon’s long-running series of debunking these kinds of ridiculous how-to videos.

See Also: Ryan Broderick yesterday on outrage bait short-form videos.