Maybe you like watching foreign commercials. Or you're an aspiring copy writer hoping to break into the ad business. Or you saw a particularly offensive ad last night and you're wondering where to complain.
Well, you're in luck. You can indulge virtually all of your ad-related desires from the safety and anonymity of your computer. Nobody needs to know your idea of fun is looking at vintage pantyhose ads.
The Internet has spawned a Web site for every ad fetish imaginable. Want to check out cigarette ads from the 1950s? Click to adflip.com. Curious to see which commercials won at this month's International Advertising Festival in Cannes? Try adreview.com or adforum.com, among others.
And if you want to know what insiders think about the business, try adrag.com, a Web site "by the adgrunts for the adgrunts."
Some tips before you begin: To view TV commercials you'll need a media player such as RealPlayer, QuickTime or Windows Media Player; it also helps to have a fast Internet connection.
A sample of what's out there:
This is the 800-pound gorilla of ad sites. There were 5.7 million commercial viewings on adcritic.com the day after the Super Bowl, the launchpad for the best new ads. According to founder Peter Beckman, traffic to the site has nearly tripled in the past year. Why do people seek out advertising? "It's pop culture. It reflects what is hot, what is cool," he says. What's not cool: Video streams can be excruciatingly slow when the site is busy. He promises to fix the problem in the next 30 to 60 days. In addition to more than 2,000 ads, there are some funny ad parodies.
A nicely designed site, it is operated by U.S. trade magazine Advertising Age. Visitors can watch new "hot spots" and rate them on a scale of 1 to 5. The archive isn't nearly as extensive as adcritic.com's, but you won't spend as much time waiting for ads to load. As a bonus, you get Advertising Age commentator Bob Garfield's always-entertaining ad reviews.
Also part of Advertising Age, the site posts news and commercials from around the world. Some ads can be viewed for free, but others will cost you. Personally, I wouldn't pay a cent to watch an ad, especially from a site as slow-loading and wonky as this one. When I clicked to read a story about the Cannes festival, I got the headline, U.S. Jews Call For Ban On McDonald's Ads For McFalafel In Egypt.
A Web site by and for people who want to rid the world of intrusive advertising. Whether you're bugged by ads at movie theatres, in public urinals or in your e-mail box, badads.org offers tips to fight back.
These folks, who sponsor an annual "Buy Nothing Day," are no fans of advertising, either. Worth visiting just to see the cool opening graphic of an American flag taken over by corporate logos.
Do you find a particular ad offensive, violent or insulting? This site, operated by the ad industry's self-regulatory body, Advertising Standards Canada, lets you submit a formal complaint. Experience the thrill of getting an ad pulled off the air, or at least blow off some steam.
A business-to-business site, with headquarters in Paris, France and Hoboken, N.J., it allows advertisers to search for agencies and view their creative work on-line. The archive contains thousands of ads from around the world, including extensive Canadian content. A good place to go if you're thinking about dumping your shop but don't want the world to know.
Billing itself as "the world's largest archive of classic print ads", it boasts nearly 10,000 searchable images from the 1940s on. Back then, ads didn't try to be ironic or politically correct. Consider the 1941 ad that dismisses a woman as "low on 'date-ability' " because she doesn't use April Showers powder. Dan Forrer of Vancouver, who co-founded the site with his brother Burk, says advertising "distills the culture of the day into a single image," he says.
Similar to adforum.com, this Toronto-based business-to-business site calls itself the "marketer's marketplace" and contains ad news, articles, agency listings and an ad archive called adsgallery.com.
This user-friendly site chronicles the depiction of gays in advertising. Were the guys in Volkswagen's 1997 "Da Da Da" ad more than roommates? And, in a U.S. ad for Minute Maid, what's with Popeye and Bluto getting tattoos that read, "Buddies for Life"?
Hosted by someone named DABiTCH, this is a good place to get an insider's view of the ad business, warts and all. The site was down yesterday, but it offers links to articles, news, book excerpts and some very funny U.S. Bud Light radio ads. Be sure to check out the section called badland, which lists examples of ads that are remarkably similar to each other.
I entered this address just to see what would come up. "Advertising.com is a leader in providing comprehensive, integrated marketing solutions across multiple digital platforms . . ." That's as far as I got.
Here you'll find a wonderful collection of quotations about advertising, including:
"It is flagrantly dishonest for an advertising agent to urge consumers to buy a product which he would not allow his own wife to buy." -- U.S. ad man David Ogilvy
"Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it." -- Stephen Leacock