Vote-Spamming: Or How To Know You’ve Hit Rock Bottom

A recent online poll:

Is Vote-Spamming a Problem?
Yes – 32 votes
Not sure – 18 votes
No – 1,456,776 votes

“Any contestants found spamming to obtain votes will be disqualified from the contest.”
I read this in the rules, does this mean I can’t tell my friends about the contest?
We welcome you to invite your friends to visit the contest and vote. Spamming would be if you were emailing people that you didn’t know or posting messages on message boards, to come and vote for your entry.

(They’re talking about parents out hustling votes for their online baby photos! –From The Parent Site Photo Contest Faqs:)

Top Three Reasons Why People Vote-Spam:

1) Vandalism — we all like to wreck things
2) Group Support — my friends like to wreck things
3) Community Support — let’s all come together and wreck things

But seriously folks…

The covers of Yellow Pages directories or any other kind of telephone directory are not art venues, they’re just advertising opportunities. Whether you live in New Zealand or anywhere else, these cover “contests” are publicity stunts to draw attention to a commercial publication (most of which are struggling to stay in business these days) which usually gets tossed in a drawer and forgotten or tossed in the garbage.

Advertisers pay careful attention to whatever medium their customers pay attention to and the Yellow Page directories (Business telephone listings) compete with newspapers, magazines, radio, television and now the internet for advertising revenue because that’s where the eyes of people who buy the services of business are.

Often times the Yellow Pages (it’s a multinational trade-marked company) resorts to publicity getting events to advertise themselves because if people start to forget the Yellow Pages exist then they don’t even think of using it and businesses regret the money they paid for their big ad and start to take out smaller ads in them the next year or don’t bother with it at all. It’s all about catching people’s attention and selling that attention.

And what better way to do this (i.e. cheap and easy) than by having a competition to design the front cover for their Yellow Pages directory. Of course they aren’t going to let anyone actually design the front cover; they’ve got professional design staff to do that (they do the ads inside too). What they are going to do is encourage everyone in the territory serviced by the directory to send in an image, knowing that all the while these “artists” are talking about the Yellow Pages to their friends, family, co-workers, neighbours, (blog readers)…

Of course almost all of what they receive is garbage and only fit for the door of a grandmother’s refrigerator but this isn’t a search for talent, it’s a quest for public exposure and word of mouth advertising (the best, and the cheapest). The “finalists” are really the winners of the contest. The Yellow Pages picks a few images that they’d actually be willing to see on their cover (buried underneath their logo, and a hundred other things listed on the cover) and that’s the end of the whole cheap charade.

No! Then they add yet another iteration of publicity by inviting everyone to vote for “the winner” (the Yellow Pages doesn’t care which of their hand-picked finalists gets “picked” by the public) and milk the whole publicity stunt one more time to get that last drop of public attention from the contest cow. The deck is stacked and the Yellow Pages wins regardless.

Is it fair? What if some of the finalists are featured in their local papers while others are ignored by their’s, being preempted in their own locality by a large warehouse fire or a brazen noon time convenience store robbery or a sweet old lady who’s just celebrated her 106th birthday? — or a lazy art reporter who thinks that maybe an art contest for the cover of a Yellow Pages directory …isn’t art

Is it? No, it’s a cheap advertising stunt. What is it about artists that makes them such suckers for contests like this? Save your energy and efforts and especially — your piece of mind — and forget about these promotional stunts. You’re only allowing yourselves to be used for the self-promotion of the contest organizers. You want $500? or whatever the lousy prize money is? Get a part-time job for a couple weeks. It’s easier than fooling around with circuses like this.

At the very least, stop using the fractal art community (or any art community) to vote-spam these cheesy contests. All it does is perpetuate a selfish attitude which has in the past destroyed any serious art contests that have ever tried to use public voting and subsequently destroyed the trust that they were based on.

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