April 23, 2021

Facebook's Subliminal Scroll Stoppers

I loved the 1999 movie Fight Club starring Brad Pitt and Ed Norton.

Brad Pitt plays Tyler Durden who is Ed Norton's alter-ego. Tyler does all the bad-boy things Ed is afraid to do. One such thing is splicing single frames of pornography into family films. Fight Club went meta in a delightful way at the end when we ourselves are treated to one such lighting-quick pornographic image. As Tyler says, "A nice big c---".


For the last few months sometimes when I'm browsing my Facebook feed I've sworn I've seen not pornography, but just a flash of skin that then immediately disappeared. When I'd scroll back up or down there was nothing there. Every time I thought maybe I'm seeing things, or maybe the phone glitched.

Today I spotted the same thing and took the time to record it. In this case, when the ad for Ka'Chavah Chocolate Milk first scrolls into view it is showing a woman matter of factly taking a hike in a white bikini.

She's tired, she's probably been hiking all morning, so she's taking a break. She's sensuously chugging down a giant white tumbler of chocolate milk. Hopefully, she gains the strength to continue!

Strangely this carefully crafted and probably expensive brand image is only on screen for 0.75 seconds, I measured it. Then she fades away and the real ad starts, which is absurdly wholesome. It's a close-up of someone pouring chocolate milk into a mason jar, makes me thirsty.

If you've ever seen someone madly scrolling through their Facebook feed, you know how difficult it is to catch their eye and get them to stop scrolling. Scroll stoppers are one way to do that. Flash an image that will capture the user's attention. At least the male users.

It's not exactly evil, but it is very sneaky and annoying. Especially from a granola company that says their mission is to “reconnect with nature and rediscover the ways of our ancestors, who lived in harmony with the earth”.

Imagine if every advertiser did this?  Your feed would be full of scroll-stopping images. Hands waving fans of cash, gooey slices of pizza being pulled away from a pie, that one damn resort in Fiji they always show with those huts on sticks to make you think about relaxing.

Meanwhile, the actual ads would be selling unrelated things like life insurance, Proctor and Gamble products trying to look relevant, a new-fangled anti-anxiety gadget you blow into when stressed.

It would be a mess, a sad glitchy mess.

Check out the future below or on YouTube.

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