Personalize, Don’t Pander, With Unique Content

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Everyone likes to feel special, but feeling singled out is a different thing entirely.  Several companies seem to have failed to make that distinction in recent days, and now IAC/Ask, Acclaim, and American Airlines are paying the price for it in the public’s eye.

First off, Ask.  Earlier this week, our Jason Lee Miller described the mess-to-be in which the search engine company claimed, "The Algorithm Constantly Finds Jesus."  Now IAC, of which Ask is a division, has announced plans to launch an "online initiative for the black community" in January of 2008.

Johnny Taylor, Jr. was appointed CEO of the initiative, and he made an official statement on the matter.  "There exists enormous opportunity in today’s online landscape to provide Blacks with an experience that engages their unique communities through a collective voice," Taylor said.  "IAC . . . is poised to provide exceptional content and services for this growing and underserved population."

Blacks may not feel quite so underserved when they play Acclaim’s new online game, Dance! – there is an option, at least, to create a black character.  But the game will charge you one point to do so.

"As an optional character upgrade, we must put this in the item shop for players to acquire," explained an Acclaim employee, according to Broken Toys.  "This is the only way to offer the African-American heads.  However, it should be EASILY accessible to all, so we made it just 1 POINT in the shop (which is basically for FREE).  You don’t have to spend any money to get it, just play the game and earn points."

That’s not so terrible, I suppose, although it’s more than a little strange.  Also strange is American Airlines’s new website; AA.com/women proclaims itself "the airline industry’s first web page dedicated to women who travel."  And yet Joe Sharkey of The New York Times encountered a number of female flyers who had been quite offended by the site.

In an article titled "Maybe A Lavender Website Wasn’t The Best Way To Attract Women," Julie Pfeffer told Sharkey, "There are so many things that are infuriating about this lip-service nonsense that I can’t begin to list them all.  But I have to ask this: Why does AA feel that female travelers need things explained to them that male travelers don’t?  Are we that dumb?  That inexperienced in the ways of air travel?"

It looks like American Airlines – and probably Ask and Acclaim, as well – has got some ‘splainin’ to do.

Personalize, Don’t Pander, With Unique Content
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