I used to collect screen captures of inappropriate web ads, but stopped after it became easier than shooting fish in a tuna can. The best one I ever found was an ad that said something like “Microsoft Internet Information Server: A Bulwark of Reliability.” Sure enough, it was attached to an InfoWorld article asserting that one shouldn’t use IIS in high-reliability environments. Tonight, however, I made a screen capture of a great ad, and I think that Amazon has recently taken — nay, taken and demolished — the crown for best inappropriate web ad.
As you can see in the above image, Amazon has seen fit to adorn the top of a product page for Martin Luther’s The Bondage of the Will with an ad for something called “figleaves lingerie.” This is remarkably clever. Of course, whenever I think seriously about free will, the subject of fig leaves is liable at least to be hovering in the background.
More than likely, though, there’s no theologically-minded Augustinian punster on Amazon’s staff, and it’s just data mining at work. The same system that can identify that someone who likes one middlebrow Italian film is probably going to like another middlebrow Italian film (shock of shocks!) may have revealed some sinister truth about confessional Lutherans. If this is true, it’s of the same magnitude as the apocryphal beer-and-diapers tale. I can see it now:
I got the lingerie ad again when browsing without my Amazon cookie, so it’s not an ad targeted to me. (whew!) Perhaps, in the week before Valentine’s Day, it’s just a safe bet to advertise underwear to people browsing for books with “bondage” in the title.