Do They Deserve Free Advertising?

November 30th, 2011

I remember buying my first new car, long long ago. On picking up the vehicle, I noticed that the dealer’s name and city were displayed in a small decal affixed to the bottom of the trunk lid, and merely accepted the intrusion, at least then.

Over the years, I’ve found the dealer labels clumsily affixed to some of the cars I’ve owned, but these days the car stores mostly give you custom license plate frames sporting the name, logo and city. Yes, it’s a larger presentation, and more apt to be visible, but it is also easily replaced.

For a while, I didn’t mind. Maybe the dealer deserved the extra courtesy for giving me a “great deal.” On the other hand, they surely have a budget sufficient to cover advertising in daily newspapers, and on TV and radio. Why do they want their customers to assist with their ad campaigns without payment for those services? Why indeed!

Of course, the cost of buying all those “free” license plate frames is obviously a part of their marketing budget.

But that’s the car business. When I buy an appliance, I do not expect to see a Lowe’s or Best Buy’s emblem polluting the otherwise pristine interior, or secretly affixed to a shelf inside. Sure, when I buy a new electronic device, it will often be cluttered with decals of all sorts, announcing special trademarked features, or perhaps identifying the company who supplied one of the parts, such as Intel on a PC. But they are removable, and remove them I do as soon as they’re installed. After all, do these companies actually believe I want to show off all that junk to my friends?

Now to their credit, Apple doesn’t put decals anywhere, even on the Macs, which sport Intel processors. Labeling is minimalist. Only the Apple logo is visible unless you examine the rear or bottom of the unit. I suppose they’re giving up some marketing cash by making that decision, but it’s not as if profits are suffering. At the same time, gear from such companies as Dell positively overwhelm you with that irritating garbage, and it’s not as if that company’s profits are soaring. But maybe the profits would be less without the decals. I can’t imagine they’re doing that free of charge.

But perhaps the most intimate irritant to one’s desire to live ad free is the smartphone. You remember all those notices that a message was sent by a BlackBerry. Well, not to be outdone, Apple opted to deliver announcement that one’s email was “Sent from my iPhone” from the very first day. It came out of the blue and, by the frequency of those expressions, it became very clear very soon that Apple had made a difference, not just in selling lots of smartphones, but in craving free advertising for doing so.

As you can expect, the default signature on the iPad is “Sent from my iPad.” Just today I got a message from the editor of a large tech publication that was “Sent from my Kindle Fire.” Well, I suppose you have to expect that Amazon wanted to join the crowd. Since they are purportedly selling those things at a loss, I guess they feel they need all the publicity they can get.

Now I suppose I could just sit back and let this trend run its course. I mean, there’s nothing really harmful in giving Apple, or whatever mobile handset company you’re dealing with, a little free publicity in exchange for selling you such terrific gadgets.

On the other hand, you are paying hard-earned money for that gadget. Why, oh why, do you need to give them free advertising on every single email you write. Are they giving you a spiff for promoting their stuff? What about giving you an iTunes Reward for every 1,000 messages you send? Oh yes, there would have to be some sort of method of tracking the messages affixed with that signature, while at the same time ensuring your privacy. Sure, if you use the Webmail interface for Gmail, they are giving you targeted ads, in exchange for getting a free service; that’s why I access my Gmail on a desktop email client. But if you pay for something, that should be the end of the financial relationship, and giving a company free advertising ought to have some financial value, right?

Sure, perhaps I’m half serious about this. I mean, you can change the default signature on your smartphone. Nobody forces you to tell the world the name of the device you used to write it. That’s what I do, and, besides, my real concern about the whole thing, at least with the iOS, is the inability to create multiple signatures.

Of course, there is a way to stop the practice. Tell your car dealer you want them to remove the decals and replace the promotional license plate frames. With your tech gear, you just remove the decals. They usually come off without damaging anything, though you might have to struggle a bit to get some of those labels off.

And when it comes to my iPhone and iPad, well, the default signatures were removed on the very first day. Maybe I’m just being obsessive about the whole thing, but why should it make any difference to anyone what I use to write my email?

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6 Responses to “Do They Deserve Free Advertising?”

  1. rwahrens says:

    When I bought the first car from my current dealer, I asked the salesman if they’d give me a hundred bucks off the sticker price as a payment for carrying their name around as advertising. He laughed. I made them remove it.

    He doesn’t laugh any more with subsequent purchases, he just has them removed. If they’d pay, I’d let them remain – maybe. I really don’t like how many of them almost cover up portions of the plate and registration stickers, and I doubt that they’d pay the fine if I rolled through some small burg in another State and got a ticket for an obstructed plate.

  2. Dave Barnes says:

    When I buy a car, I add (handwritten) language that states: “The dealer/seller agrees to affix no decals/stickers/identifiers of any kind to the car. If such are on the car, the dealer agrees to remove them immediately. If they are no removed immediately, the dealer agrees to pay the buyer $2/day for each day the decals are on the car.”
    You should see the look on the salesman’s face when he reads that. Priceless.
    I had one car that had to go to the body shop before I picked it up as the dealer insignia was screwed into the trunk lid.

    • @Dave Barnes, I think we should have that contract posted online so everyone can take it out when they make the deal. 🙂

      But let me add this cautionary note: If you want to complain about the decals or license plate frames, wait till the price is established in writing. Otherwise, it’s possible the dealer will just consider the lack of ongoing publicity in setting a transaction price.


  3. Karl says:

    When I was younger I would remove those dealer’s name (usually just sticker letters) from the cars I’ve purchased. The usually came right off.

    Now when making the final deal for a car, I polity ask them not to add it. Haven’t had one add it since. But if any of them balked I would certainly do something like Dave Barnes does (see post above). That’s classic!!!!

  4. John B says:

    I think you’re overlooking one reason to leave the default iOS email sig as is. It shows that you own and are sending an email message from your iOS device. I’d bet most people view that sig as more of a status symbol than free advertising for Apple.

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