The AOL Instant Messenger has been a part of my daily life for quite a few years. It has been a very effective tool for communicating with family members, friends, and colleagues around the world. This past weekend it was necessary to install the latest version of AIM as I migrated to a new ThinkPad T60p. I quickly became aware of the customization of AIM that I had done previously and now had to do again. Although extremely useful for instant messaging, the initial installation of AIM bombards you with advertising. Since AIM is “free” they have a right to advertise but in my opinion, as I said in “The Future of Advertising“, users should get a choice. Some would rather pay a modest monthly fee than be hammered with ads.
The most insidious part of the AIM advertising relies on software from Viewpoint. The Viewpoint software gets installed on your system as a “by-product” of installing AIM. You don’t get asked if you want it and you don’t get told you have it, but when you start AIM you may see and hear rap music blaring from your system. It comes from Viewpoint. The company says they have “highly integrated online marketing solutions” which “extend a message across the web quickly, easily and with results that speak for themselves”. Viewpoint says their “Internet Marketing Technology (IMT)” is “an amazing platform” that brings together Viewpoint’s technologies to deliver “the most visually powerful, immersive and engaging rich media applications on the web”. In fact it is so “amazing” that it is hard to get rid of. I tried to uninstall it and it required a lot of steps and re-boots to do the job. Viewpoint is so embedded that it took awhile to figure out what it was and where it was. I would call it spam.
Marketers are becoming desperate. They will chisel into your system, install things without asking you, and then use it to blast you with things you don’t want. The Internet is about choice. Web sites such as Google, Amazon, eBay, and countless others take that seriously. It is often the “old media” companies such as Time Warner and Forbes that seem to put their goals for advertising in front of their goals to deliver what consumers want. In the long run that is a losing strategy.