As a regular columnist for The Onion and a respected analyst and surveyor of the advertising scene, it has been my distinct honor to pen this weekly editorial detailing the changing landscape of the American ad industry. However, if I may, I wish to devote today's column to a somewhat different thesis. Yes, today I come to you not as a cultural critic, nor even as an objective journalist, but instead as a man who is imploring you to stop reading this column immediately and to click on the wide assortment of banner ads currently adorning TheOnion.com.
Yes, the ones lining either side of your field of view at this very moment. Do you see them? Good. Please click on them now.
Look, I know this may all seem somewhat untoward, and we can go through a whole dog-and-pony show here where I pretend that this column exists as a forum for ideas, and that I act as an independent voice who isn't beholden to advertisers, and the power of the First Amendment, and blah blah, etc. etc. But let's get real for a second here, okay? This column—nay, this entire website, this entire industry we call journalism—exists for one purpose and one purpose only: to sell ads. Lots of ads. Big, stupid ads. Ads with loud videos that play when you run your mouse cursor over them. Ads with pictures of supermodels and bacon cheeseburgers and beer bottles dripping with condensation. Ads with huge fricking graphics of SUVs that "drive" across your screen as though you were living in some sort of damned nightmare world. In short, ads that will make poor, honest working saps like you—yes, you, reader—click on them so that The Onion can continue stocking the coffers and I can continue to send my kid through four years of Cornell's hotel management school.
Oh, I'm sorry. Did you think The Onion actually cared about the integrity of its brand? Or that we paid even one single thought to the expectations of our readers? Or that the enduring quality of The Onion's content mattered even in the slightest? Ha! That's rich. No, none of that stuff matters at all. I mean, don't get me wrong, we want tons of people to go to our website and click on our news stories, for sure. But the only reason we want this to happen is so that their eyes might, by chance, wander over, like little lost children, to a nearby ad. You think the New York Times is any different? Don't kid yourself. What you are taking part in here is not a free exchange of information provided by The Onion as some sort of noble act of public service. Lord, no. What you are taking part in here is, essentially, a scam. A scam in which we trick you in to visiting our website and looking at ads so that some large, omnipotent corporation will give us a big stack of cash. Or a small stack of cash. Or, really, any amount of cash at all, preferably arranged in stacks.
By the way, what I just described above is the sole aim of every website on the Internet. Literally, every one of them. It is also the sole aim of every newspaper, every magazine, and every television program. And you—you clueless, literate shmuck—are but a pawn in this game. So just let go. Just accept the fact that you are reading this column right now simply because we can count you as a number on a spreadsheet. You are a pageview, my friend. You are a "monthly unique visitor." One of millions. Nothing more, nothing less.
I say this not to make you feel meaningless and small, but to reassure you that you are merely part of a grand commercial enterprise that has existed, in one form or another, since long before you were born and that will continue to exist long after you are dead. There is nothing, truly nothing, you can do to stop this machine from charging forward, blindly trampling everything in its path, so my advice is to just hop on board and hold on tight. Trust me, you'll be better off.
So do me a solid here and just click on an ad. Now. I mean RIGHT NOW. Move your mouse two measly inches over to the edge of the screen, extend one of your five opposable digits, and lightly press down on the left-hand corner button. Takes about two seconds, if that. A child could do it. And not even a smart child, either. One of the dumb ones.
Here, I will make it even easier for you. I'm going to post a link to an ad right here in the body of this editorial. The video is intended to make you laugh, which will then ostensibly entice you to buy the product that is being advertised. Here is the link to this video advertisement. Click on it now. Feel free to take a few practice clicks, if you like, in the space right after this colon:
Anyway, I'm glad we were able to have this talk. I sincerely hope I didn't ruin the entire world for you. Oh, well. No matter. Sweet dreams, loyal reader.