Great Advertising (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Fri, 14 Nov 2008

Great Advertising

Usually I just delete spam after seeing the subject line. But I couldn't resist one that arrived this morning:
Subject: You'll be saying WOW every time with ShamWow

Wondering whether the seller was familiar with the meaning of the word "sham", I just had to take a look.

[ Funny shamWOW ad ] I couldn't tell anything from the text -- it was all just random verbiage to try to fool Baysian filters. But the mail also attached two images, img001.png and img002.png. The first was a big grey starburst thing; the second, at 348Kb, was the actual ad (click on it to get the full-sized version; the thumbnail here doesn't do it justice).

There are just so many things to love about this ad, starting with the name "ShamWow" itself. I love the mixture of fonts and bright colors, with the slightly lopsided hourglass shape of the ShamWow! logo. I love the "AS SEEN ON TV" bug -- a charming image that hasn't changed a whit since the 60's, maybe even the 50's. I love the unidentifiable grey and yellow flat things with unreadable text on them -- they look like file folders and folded papers, but they're probably two different colors and sizes of ShamWow -- covered with a square announcing "10 Year [unreadable]", which made me wonder if they were selling auto loans or securities. But if you magnify it you find that the third word is probably "Warranty". I love the presumption that you'll think that 20x the weight of a small cloth object is a lot of water (is it? I have no idea, let me grab a paper towel and a gram scale). I love the blurry red and white "CLICK FOR DETAILS" button.

But what I like best about this image is that it's a PNG but it's full of JPG artifacts. Now, I'm not very picky about jpeg artifacts. (You'd think I would be, as a de-facto GIMP expert, but I'm really not.) I shoot DSLR photos in jpeg rather than raw mode because most of the time the difference just isn't enough for me to care about. I use jpeg for most of the icons on my web site if they don't need transparency, and I lower the jpeg quality level to make them load faster. I'm not a PNG snob (actually, I'm more likely to use GIF than PNG for web icons). But really -- this ad image is a wonderful example of jpeg artifacts and why you can't just turn the quality down arbitrarily far.

I could even understand using extreme jpeg compression because they were sending out a hundred quotillion spam messages and wanted to reduce bandwidth. But they're not sending a jpeg -- they've converted the low-quality JPG back to a 348Kb PNG before sending the spam.

All I can figure is that someone designed the ad and saved it as JPG, making it really small. And then someone in the business saw lbrandy's great cartoon on JPG vs. PNG -- and said "Oh, no! We'd better use PNG instead! And loaded up the JPG and saved it as a PNG with default settings.

(For further reading on PNG vs. JPEG and image file size optimization, you can get an overview of formats at my Image Formats for the Web and some detailed tutorials at the Bandwidth Conservation Society; or chapters 2 and 8 in my GIMP book, soon to be out in its second edition.)

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[ 11:54 Nov 14, 2008    More humor | permalink to this entry | ]

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