Sherri Winans
Whatcom Community College
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Alan Wheeler
English 101
Essay 4: Web Site Analysis (In-class)
May 2007

I'm Not Ticklish

I go out of my way to avoid ads or commercials, fast forwarding through them if I can, going so far as to put my television on a random channel so I don’t have to watch one.   I try to put that same theory into practice while using the Internet, but it is much more difficult to get away from ads online.  Pop-up ads, spam in our mail boxes, and roll-over interactive ads are on virtually every page of the internet, all selling something I neither want nor need.  While writing a paper about personality for psychology, I came across Tickle.com, a web site that offers hundreds of tests; personality or handwriting tests, which celebrity are you tests, IQ and inkblot tests.  These kinds of tests are exactly what make the internet fun, and they all take between five and ten minutes to complete and ending with a small analysis or your test, providing a nice distraction from homework.

Unfortunately, the amount of advertisements on the Tickle website is extreme, every new page having at least two large, colorful, and often interactive ads.  In addition to the easily visible ads, at the end of every test is a question or two that seems out of place, its intent unclear.  At the end of my “which way does your compass point” test, I was asked if I wanted to learn secret psychology of attraction and the techniques used by the guys who get the girls.  I could choose no, and say that I am already successful with women, or hit yes to receive free information from DoubleDating.com that teaches me to be better with women and dating.  Upon finishing the test, I am  routed to a page that looks like it needs to be filled out before I can continue.  It shows several required fields, including an email address, birth date, and zip code.  In her article "Web of Deceit," Fran Chapman refers to tactics like this as a “chilling aspect of the marketing explosion on the web,” and that salespeople “lure you to their site, and while you’re there, they gather detailed information” (200).  That is certainly what it feels like as I put my information into those spaces, and hit the continue button only to move to yet another form, this one asking for my first and last name, mailing address, and what kinds of batteries I buy, and what items do I use them for.  I decide I don’t want to give Energizer my private information, and click the Skip button, only to move to another page, this one selling one thousand dollars worth of online coupons, also asking for my name and address.  I have to go through seven more ads like this before reaching the end, where my tests results are revealed.   

After checking my email only to find that I did receive messages from both Energizer and an online dating site, I returned to the Tickle homepage.  I want to try another test, and I see several labeled “Best Tests of the Web,” so I decide to see how I will change the world.  But that test too is an ad, this one for something called hungermovement.org, who also wants my email address, ostensibly so they can email me with the results of my test.  And yes, I already have two emails from hungerMovement.org waiting for me.  Aside from telling me that I’m an Optimist, they tell me I can put their banner up on my myspace page, or just give them some money. 

Tickle describes themselves as the “leading interpersonal media company, providing self-discovery, and social networking services to more than 14 million active members in its community worldwide” ("About Us").  They go on to say that over six billion questions have been answered since the site started, and detail how their tests are developed by PhDs.  They cite their demographics, with fifty seven percent of users under thirty four, seventy two percent being women.  Also in their About Us section lies a page for advertisers, telling potential clients that they can create any type of test desired in an effort to “expose your product to your target.  They immerse and engage your customers in a fun and unique experience that leaves them more informed and more in touch with your brand."  

I find myself agreeing with Chapman when she states “everywhere you go on the Web, you will find marketers lurking.  Some disguise their efforts as innocent entertainment sites.” Tickle can offer a fun, interesting way to spend time online, but the way they execute their idea may leave the user drowning in ads and spam.  This website feels like it exists solely to provide a place for advertisers to set up shop and wait for their victims.  Tickle’s predominant audience, females aged eighteen to thirty four, are obviously targeted with ads for People magazine, Maybelline foundation and feminine hygiene products sprinkled throughout the site.  If the operators of the website de-emphasized the constant and almost overwhelming ads, I and possibly others would be more inclined to spend time there.  

 

Works Cited

“About Us.”  Tickle.  1999-2007. 21 May 2007.  http://web.tickle.com/about/

 Chapman, Fran.  “Web of Deceit.”  Signs of Life in the USA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers.  Eds Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon.  3rd ed.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000.  194-201. 

“Company Backgrounder.”  Tickle.  1999-2007. 21 May 2007.  http://web.tickle.com/about/

 

Copyright 2007
Alan Wheeler

 

Funded through the U.S. Dept. of Education, Title III Grant PO31A980143
Sherri Winans, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA
1999-2015