Ad Space – 1-900-BIG-SCAM

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
Premium-rate telephone lines

The Promotions:

The Pitch:
Where else are you gonna get this kinda content?

It’s common these days to talk about how the Internet has wrought massive changes to our society. So it’s good to get a reminder that, before most people had an Internet connection, they were still trying to do most of the same things people use the Internet for today, just with more rickety methods.

Back in the 80’s and 90’s, only total dweebzoids made friends on online forums, but a party line? That’s a horse of a different color.

Celebrities didn’t have Twitter accounts you could follow, but there were phone lines where you could listen to new messages from Corey Haim and Corey Feldman every day. (Yes, the “Corey Hotline” from The Simpsons was a real thing.)

And you may not have had access to Pornhub or any of its ilk, but there were so, so, so many phone sex lines ready to scratch that itch for you.

These premium-rate phone lines were a way for an Internetless public to get custom selected media content delivered instantly to their homes. And just like the Internet, these services could end up catering to some really weird niche interests.

I’m not sure which of these ads strikes me as the oddest. The one that promises to tell you what famous historical figures your pets were in a past life? The one that makes it sound like all it offers is hearing people sob and cry? The one that claims it can do handwriting analysis over the phone? Or maybe the “Freak Phone”, where … I just don’t even know what that’s supposed to be offering.

Regardless, whenever you look at the disturbing oddities the Internet has to offer, remember: this was all around before, but at least now it doesn’t cost us a dollar a minute*.

(*Two dollars for the first minute.)