Psyops, The Non-Virtual Popunder and Stuff

You know those little subscription cards that fall out of magazines? They annoy the hell out of everybody. And apparently that’s why they are one of the most expensive and efficient advertising options in the print world. Same as a pop under ads online. You see, the reason they are put in magazines you already have a subscription for is the fact that they are very likely to fall out on a train, in a doctor’s waiting room, at the office or wherever good times are had. Kind of like psyop planes dropping leaflets on the enemy positions.

But here’s the interesting part. The damned cards have a name. They are called “blow-in cards”. They are named so because apparently they are placed into magazines by puffs of compressed air. They have even more annoying comrades – the bind-in cards that are as it’s clear from the name bound together with magazine pages. The thicker bind-in cards are kind of like permanent bookmarks making it hard to find any pages with actual information on them. I often go through a magazine ripping those out before reading.

Another interesting thing about blow-in technology is the way they make the card stay in place during the binding process. Most blow-in machines (how’s that for a profession – blow-in machine operator?) use static tacking. A special device creates a charge on the card and on the page so that they’ll stick. O’reilly books have this special binding that doesn’t work too well with regular blow-in machines, so people were complaining about blow-in cards that unintentionally became bind-ins. An interesting engineering solution followed:

With the old system, the cards were hit with a static charge to keep them in place as the cards moved through the binding machine. Sometimes, the card would lose the charge before getting all the way though. This new machine uses a miniscule bit of glycerin that holds the card in place longer and then fully disappears.

By the way, I have a whole collection of those O’reilly blow-in cards on the wall of my cubicle because they have those cool colophons with animals on them. I think Wrox books should have used baseball cards of developers for that purpose. With hilarious stats. That’s not a bad idea actually. Maybe they would have been better off if they had my marketing genius on their side. Still, with the money they saved on photographer’s services I am surprised that they went belly up.

In Linebarger’s “Psychological Warfare” I’ve read about sets of leaflets used by the Allies during WWII that had numbers on them. German kids collected those as stamps because of that (any collector will understand a desire to have the complete series). Those leaflets turned out to be extremely efficient because many adult Germans with collector kids had a full set in their house where they could safely study them.

This real world pop under kind of reminded me of banners that are being referred to as “Godzilla”, “gonzo” and “skyscraper” banners and popups. Some even have flash movies with this technology.