March of the Marketeers

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Note: if you think this or any other post is opinionated and/or unreasonable, then say so and make your case – I don’t bite and I’m interested in what you have to say.

Until recently I’ve been getting my fix of DVDs from Amazon.  Amazon handled this very efficiently.  The DVD’s arrived in a functional envelope that said what it was and no more, could be used for returning the DVD when finished with while the outgoing address portion could be torn up and fed to the wormery.  They let me know when they had sent something off with a simple email in plain text that said what it needed to say and no more,  Thus:

Dear Rosalind Mitchell,

We’ve dispatched Boys Don’t Cry. You can expect to receive it in 1-2 business days. Please remember to save the envelope in which the DVD arrives–it doubles up as your pre-paid return envelope.

When you’ve finished with the DVD, put it in its plastic case and return it in the pre-paid return envelope. When we receive it, we’ll dispatch the next available DVD from your Rental List (up to your monthly limit).

Note: DVDs are fragile. To keep DVDs in top viewing condition, keep them in their plastic cases when not in use.

Note: this e-mail was sent from a notification-only e-mail address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. Please do not reply directly to this message.

Warmest regards,

Amazon.co.uk DVD Rental by Post

There – a model of simplicity.

But now, Amazon have “outsourced” their DVD operation to an outfit called “LOVEFiLM” <em>[sic]</em>.  This operation seems to assume that I am a semi-literate pubescent child, and appears to be run by semi-literate marketing types<sup>1</sup>.  The first thing that you notice is that the notification email is not in plain text – for some reason they assume that their dumbed-down recipients won’t understand it if it’s not glitzy.  So it arrives as gibberish, thus:

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN”
http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/REC-html401-19991224/loose.dtd”&gt;
<html>
<head>
<title>
Your next rentals are on the way
</title>
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html;charset=iso-8859-1″ />
</head>
<body>
<style type=”text/css”>
#lfemail a { text-decoration:none; }
#lfemail a:hover { text-decoration:underline; }
#lfemail table.nomargin td p {margin: 0 0}
</style>
<table width=”500″ cellpadding=”0″ cellspacing=”0″ border=”0″ align=”center” id=”lfemail”>
<tr>
<td><a href=”http://www.lovefilm.com&#8221; title=”Visit LOVEFiLM”><img src=”http://www.lovefilm.com/lovefilm/images/email/header.gif&#8221; width=”500″ height=”80″ border=”0″ alt=”LOVEFiLM”></a></td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>
<table width=”100%” cellpadding=”0″ cellspacing=”0″ border=”0″>
<tr>
<td height=”1″ width=”1″ bgcolor=”#C01403″><img src=”http://www.lovefilm.com/lovefilm/images/email/spacer.gif&#8221; width=”1″ height=”1″ alt=””></td>
<td style=”padding: 3px 7px; font-size: 11px; font-family: verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif;”>
<font face=”arial,helvetica,sans-serif” size=”2″>
<table width=”100%” cellpadding=”4″ cellspacing=”0″ border=”0″>
<tr>
<td valign=”top”>

<!– begin ad tag–>

<!– End ad tag –>

<br />
<p><strong>Dear Rosalind,</strong></p>
<p>Good news! We've just posted the following titles to you, so please look out for them.

And a lot more in similar vein.  Why? What purpose does it serve?

The envelope, when it comes, is glossy and so not suitable for the wormery.  It’s covered, inside and out, with the kind of busy graphics that pervade everything these days, but especially tabloid newspapers, gossip magazines and the tackier kind of supermarket.  Inside it’s full of tabloidese, demanding that I ‘rate’ the films (as if my review blogs weren’t enough.)  There’s a glossy booklet inside.  Its covere says “Prepare to be entertained…”  No, no, and thrice no!  I don’t <em>want</em> to be entertained.  Entertainment is spoon-feeding of the brain-dead with mindless pap to prevent them from thinking for themselves.  I want to watch films because (if they are any good anyway) they are stimulating, challenging, works of art that require some effort on my part. The content of the booklet does not seem to acknowledge the existence of films made more than three years ago, nor does it acknowledge anything by independent directors or those made outside the US.  (I will say in partial defence that they do use the proper word ‘film’ and not the wretched Merkinism ‘movie’)  They also want to flog me whole series of soap operas, and even computer games, for heaven’s sake!

What is the world coming to?  We don’t need this kind of thing.  What was wrong with simple and functional?

<sup>1</sup>  If you are a marketing type, you should regard this as a distinctive manner of speaking.  Please feel free to respond – I’d be very interested in hearing a marketing point of view on what I am complaining about, but please do so in words I can understand.

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2 Responses to “March of the Marketeers”

  1. Alex Foster Says:

    Hmm. My Lovefilm emails are plain text, so there is probably a setting somewhere you can toggle.

  2. tvor Says:

    Aaaghh! I think i’d just fold everything back up and stuff it in the return envelope and let them deal with it. I would suggest writing a nasty letter but it wouldn’t do any good i don’t suppose.


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