Heckle and Jeckle

by jonl

Heckle and Jeckle

Magpie is troubling: “Allow us to embed our customers’ messages (aka spam?) in your Twitter timeline and earn money. Crass and inauthentic. Hoping anyone who signed up to have their Twitter feed hijacked by advertisers/spammers is thinking twice – Magpie will only work with adoption. I learned about this “service” from a post at ReadWriteWeb: “It’s so revolting and pitiful that it’s kind of sad.”

Should this really bother me? Well, yeah – I’ve invested much of the last two decades in my life online, and some significant percentage of that time evangelizing for an Internet that doesn’t go where commercial television, ultimately, went: ads interspersed with content. We’re not even sure that advertising works, certainly less so than before. At least with placement services like Google the ads have been subtle and generally out of the way. A redundant ad message popping up on every third tweet at Twitter would be rather completely unsubtle, potentially killing the goose.

In my life as a consultant, much of what I do is advise how to use the web to meet various business goals, and that’s often about making money, including sales, marketing, and advertising. If someone like Apple or Skype (users of the Magpie service) asked me about feeding canned ad messages into Twitter via Magpie, I would say “you’ll piss people off.” The weird and unfortunate thing about this kind of inauthentic brute force advertising is that, while it often does piss people off, it also somehow manages to increase sales. If statistics didn’t show that result, nobody would do it. All advertising would be tasteful and wonderful, authentic and well-placed. It’s a dilemma.

(In case you’re wondering about the title of this post, it’s a reference to the once-famous cartoon magpies.)

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Ed Ward April 11, 2009 at 9:48 am

On a tangent, I always thought of Heckle & Jeckle as crows, survivors of the old blackface skit (and insanely best-selling 78) Two Black Crows.


Jon Lebkowsky April 11, 2009 at 10:23 am

Wikipedia says they were magpies:

Of course, we all know that Wikipedia is more accurate than any other reference. *8^)

They do look more like crows to me, as in this image, clearly defined as a crow. If they lived in Austin, they would be grackles.


bee April 12, 2009 at 9:26 am

“We’re not even sure that advertising works…”
what a stupid statement. Of course advertising works.


Jon Lebkowsky April 12, 2009 at 9:49 am

“Of course,” it’s more complicated than advertising does or doesn’t work, but there’s a real question. Some advertising works some of the time, depending on your goals, but there’s a real question how well advertising works in a world of many evolving channels and increasingly fragmented mindshare. In this world, “of course” we’re not sure that advertising works, and many advertising and marketing people are scratching their heads, trying to understand how to get attention for messages and make them “stick.” A brute force campaign via Twitter, such as this one, is arguably no better than spam, and unlikely to be particularly effective. (Email spammers were apparently successful given high volume and low cost, but antispam measures may dry out that particular well.)

Google “advertising doesn’t work” – interesting range of opinion.


dustin July 17, 2010 at 12:52 pm

they are magpies there’s a cartoon that has them and it say there is no more persuasive smooth talking creature on this earth than the magpie..


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