As Agent Smith in The Matrix remarks, “Humans are a virus.” —and in many ways it’s true. We find ways to weasel into the smallest physical cracks, and the recesses of the mind. We invent and exploit. There is no safeguard against ingenuity, and ingenuity is hardly ever altruistic. Everything we do is born of business; and when we created the digital body of connected tissue, the virus spurred into existence like antimatter.

The antivirus world is comprised of names—I mean, obviously they have names; what I’m talking about are proper nouns: Peter Norton, Natalia and Eugene Kaspersky, John McAfee, David BitDefender… What does this indicate? I suppose formal names can make some sense: in the beginning, all you have is the online street cred of the person who is overseeing the code. IT is inherently esoteric by nature of the fact that you have a bunch of people all speaking different languages; and when everything is written, there is no symbol like a name. Either that, or antivirus specialists are egoists, perhaps themselves caught up in the self-replication spirit. That would be conveniently ironic.

Anyways, Norton becomes the household brand, but then they hit a problem: too many people were accusing the antivirus of using far too many system resources. A virus? In ways non-pragmatic (if you know how to use a computer), the results were laggy. Way too many features attempting too much. It was that type of annoying that occurs when business has gone wild. The bad days of Norton, even for those well-versed in the mechanics of an operating system, and how the OS should control the programs, and not the other way around, struggled to find that kill-switch uninstall path through the gauntlet of it repeatedly stating: ‘if you uninstall Norton you’re exposed. Not just your computer, but…you have a peek at this web-site.’

(What’s that Εντοιχισμ?νη you ask? What happened to the people who didn’t know how to use a computer, and suffered through some of the darker horror stories of pre-ground-up-recode Norton? Those people had complete mental breakdowns and then probably got Macs.)

So we come full circle. It’s inevitable, you see! In the affected areas, business always swells with the tissue of the exploited. I’m sure we could find some pathogen whose behavior mimics the dynamics of a recurring yearly credit card payment.

Let’s move on. Norton ushers in a new Antivirus2.0 era around 2007 with the nearly complete (80%) redesign of their code, bringing required system resources down considerably; unfortunately, and not so considerately, the same Norton-esque traits (windows with no close buttons, perpetual Armageddon-typography reminders of the dangers of not paying, etc—those remained, but hey, who can really blame them for that?)

Alright, so where is this all going? Besides the workings of nature being a (always) perfect parallel for the workings of business? As always it’s going to the advertisements. When you’ve raked in as much money as this ‘pre-installed-on-pretty-much-every North-American-PC’-type company has, you obviously have a bit of an advertising budget to throw around. Norton does not fail to disappoint. For example, the hilarious David Hasselhoff vs. An Oscillating Fan scenario:

There are others as well: Jackie Chan vs. A Caterpillar, and 80’s action star Dolph Lundgren vs. A Unicorn. Displayed is star power, and of course, the ubiquitous power of comedy. I think most would agree that if you have those two things working in unison you’re going to garner a fairly good reaction. If that is one level of advertising, then in my humble opinion what they’ve (recently) moved onto next is surely the next tier up.

Let’s take a look first, and I’ll get into it after.

Ok, the comedy (cute and cuddly) is still there; so we drop the star power for my ever-stressed power of the viral (the virus, we meet again!): not only are these videos born from the viral circuit, the Norton commercial is going to move back to Youtube in one gloriously effective circle of life—and that is just the first part. The second layer of what is occurring here is much more deviously clever. At the conscious level everyone just laughs at the babies being cute, and little more thought is given; at the subconscious layer what we in the industry like to LOZANO call psychic anchoring is occurring loud and clear. Think of humor in some instances as a temporary psychological jamming signal; your defenses are down. In the objective we have the parental instincts being targeted by a paradigm of viruses, sickness, total system shutdown. Children are the computers. Viruses can be real physical death. Arg. It’s all mixed together in a quick, sublime, yellow color scheme ad which, at the end, even asks for you to send them more baby tapes. This is a bit of a stretch, but this may even plant that psychological seed out there that, hey, you can trust your children with Norton. Send us your baby tapes.

I stay bring it on. Viruses. All of them. Well, maybe not all of them, but it all about strengthening the immune system. I’ve said in other blog posts that the (honestly) never-ending assault on all sides from advertising will only make us stronger; it will build immunity. I hope to see the day where we transcend this paradigm of bombardment-style commercials all together and, while (as Quine said) we can’t see what that would look like from here, I would imagine things would operate much more… healthily.