“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

The Mystery of Bearded Harold

weirdads5Not too many people use Hotmail these days, so I don’t know if any of you guys’ve seen these before, but there are a series of strange ads that show up on the Hotmail pages alot.

The second thing you’ll notice about these ads is their weird tendency to word their sales pitches like propaganda, as if your country is telling you it’s your duty to use whatever their service is. But the first thing you will notice is the crazy ass photos they choose to represent the sort of person they are trying to sell to – i.e. you.

At left is the first one I noticed, and I think you probly have some of the same questions that I do:

What’s up with that? Who is that man with the giant nerd glasses and cartoonish overbite? Why does his face have the waxy look of a caveman dummy at a history museum? Is he organic or digital? Why does his open collar and string necklace suggest a laidback, comfortable surfer dude when his head looks like a hideous monster? Is that a fake nose, and if so is it attached to the glasses? What does he want from us?

I mean, this is weird. Somebody made this ad, and somebody purposely chose that picture to appear on that ad. What were they trying to make us think? Who was he supposed to represent? Is he one of the 9 out of 10 homeowners who fail to take advantage of government refinance plan? I don’t think so. Judging from his smile he must be the tenth guy, the guy who succeeds to take advantage of government refinance plan. That means he’s the person who is supposed to respond to this ad. That means he’s us. He’s how they see us seeing ourselves, isn’t he?

And what’s with the “9/10:” thing? Is that a normal way to write “9 out of 10”? Is it weird that it makes me think of the day before 9/11?

Well, that ad always confused me, but it got even weirder when they started using the photo of the longhair. Check this shit out:

weirdads1

How do I put this? Oh, I know: WHAT IN FUCK’S NAME IS THAT?! Why do they think that face will attract us to whatever it is they’re advertising? And what does Obama have to do with this? Is this an ad, or is it really some kind of psy-ops disguised as an ad, trying to brainwash us to be against Obama? Probly not, because it seems like they also made a version for people who feel negatively about the name Obama:

weirdads1bSee, it doesn’t have to be Obama. It could just be President.

weirdads2The creepy bearded guy represents more than just cheap auto insurance, though. He also encourages you to look into getting a Pell grant. And he brags about his online schooling. The bottom of these ads say that his testimonial does not represent an actual person, but his face and hair must come from a real person, right? He doesn’t look collaged together like the overbite guy.

This was a real still of somebody, maybe a mugshot or something. Because I doubt he’s a model. And now he’s supposed to represent a relatable everyman who should inspire us to follow in his footsteps.

Here’s what we know about him:

He doesn’t have a college degree. He used to have a bad job (defined as less than $45,000 a year). He holds an online degree in government financial aid. He drives less than 2 hours a day.

We also know some personal details. He’s 25 years old (born 4-5-84), a resident of California, six foot one, 180 pounds, and his name is Harold something (Snow, maybe?). He has a Class C license meaning he can drive a motorized scooter or a 3-axle vehicle weighing 6,000 pounds or less. He can also tow a 5th-wheel travel trailer exceeding 10,000 pounds but not exceeding 15,000 pounds, although this is not something necessary for the financial aid job, most likely.

Most of that stuff we know from the latest incarnation of the ad, which shows us his California driver’s license:

weirdads3

Finally – and this part is more an assumption than something I got from the text on the ads – he gets strip searched at airports alot, and questioned in connection with local kidnappings.

My friends, I’m afraid I haven’t come to you with answers, only questions and creepy photos. But I’ve been seeing these things for months now, and I couldn’t remain silent any longer. I need help solving this one. Where did these photos come from? What the hell are they trying to do by putting them on these ads? What do they mean? Why do they mean? Somebody answer me that. I need to know.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Saturday, January 2nd, 2010 at 2:09 am and is filed under Vern Tells It Like It Is. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

53 Responses to “The Mystery of Bearded Harold”

  1. That is some strange shit right there. Another thing I always worry about with shit like this is the targeted nature of online ads. I always wonder if my online surfing habits have somehow summoned these weird fucking ads and that nobody else can see them. Like maybe some mathematical algorithm cross referenced all the shit I look at online and came up with an FBI-like phycological profile of me and then generated these monstrosities to catch my eye.

    I guess what I’m saying is, someone please tell me I’m not the only one seeing the fucking disgusting yellow teeth ads everywhere, I just don’t want to believe the internet is trying to tell me something.

  2. By the way, I blame Google for all this. I know people online seem to like Google as a company but those people are fucked up. I mean, what kind of a company have the motto “do no evil”? Shouldn’t that shit go without saying? What kind of people are they in the habit of hiring if they have to be constantly reminded not to do evil things? No sir I don’t trust ’em.

  3. Sorry for the almost incomprehensible grammar in the previous two posts, I only just got up and I’m feeling pretty hungover.

  4. OK, I realise I’m talking to myself here since everybody else is apparently asleep, but Drew McWeeny just posted this on his twitter account http://twitpic.com/wcdx8/full

    So rest assured Vern, other people are seeing those ads. I’d be pretty relieved if I were you. Unless of course the demented freak that created those ads knows something about online film critics the rest of us don’t…

  5. If bearded harold is a regular reader this must be a pretty awesome day for him, rock on harry!

  6. Mode, I have seen those ads myself, but since so far only outlaws like you, me, and Vern have seen them, I think your theory may still hold water. I’m pretty sure these ads are narcs. “Oh, you need help from the government, freeloader? How about we give you some free food and free room and board and even a nice free shower full of your fellow scum, er, we mean citizens?”

  7. I set up my hotmail account back when I was living in Russia and never changed the “country” designation so hotmail still selects ads for me about Green Card lotteries and matchmaking services to set me up with wealthy American men.

    But I do get those scam emails.

    Have any of you guys noticed that the people sending those scam emails always have really ethnically clashing names? They’re always from somebody named “Ingrid Fernandez” or something. I mean, I’m sure there are lots of Polish-Mexicans out there, but why do they all seem to get into email-marketing? And if this isn’t a real Polish-Mexican trying to help me re-work my mortgage, then why do the email marketters always think those would be good fake names to use?

  8. Good morning Vern and Friends.

    I JUST got off Salon.com, where I saw the bearded guy out of the side of my vision and thought it was going to be a reference to an article about terrorism (it’s a political website, to a degree).

    So congratulations, Vern, for capturing a zeitgeist…or something.

  9. Vern,
    Firefox + Adblock Plus = no ads! Or, you can install Greasemonkey for firefox and install the scripts specific to hotmail. I use both.

    You can turn off adblock plus for the sites you wish to help out also (i.e. view the ads so you can click them).

  10. The internet is looking down its snooty nose at you, Vern. It has analysed your online habits and assumed you are a hard-up Charles Manson type. In a way, the internet is trying to be nice by relating to you in terms it thinks you’ll understand, but it’s coming off as insulting because it’s a machine and doesn’t understand feelings and is probably also busy creating an army of killer robots.

    I get the same problem, except all my adds tell me how I can get ripped in less than two weeks and where I can go online to meet female nerds for friendship and possibly more.

  11. Bearded Harold looks like Devin Faraci from CHUD!

  12. This shit is always fascinating for me . I always try to understand the reasoning behind targeted ads , and I wonder what kind of ads are targeted to other people . I , for example , browse searching for everything : books , comics , movies , videogames , boardgames , history , animals , ninjas and , yes , shockingly even tits . But sometimes I search for little things only because I’m curious and I want to know : how to make soap , how to work metal or how to cut wood ! There was and ad some time ago for some kind of web based game , like fantasy or something , but with a picture of a good looking woman in contemporary clothes saying shit like ” Come play with me , my Emperor”. I never clicked it because I know better , but I figured that maybe their reasoning was “videogames + tits =GOLD ” , and that shit was born . What really pisses me off is how lame it was, unprofessional , without work behind , badly written and insulting for the person targeted . Now for your ads, Vern , I think the first one is a connection to your more nerdy side ( they figured , he’s writing about Up , Garfield and Mary Poppins , he’s an adorable man-child , and that’s their idea of that concept) , the second one ( crazy beard guy ) is a their connection to the more badass things you write about , action-criminal movies ( like Undisputed or American Yakuza ) . I mean , the guy looks like Charles Manson , and the driver’s license make it look like a police case file . And I think that’s insulting too.

  13. On further analysis , following my theory and THEIR understanding of your persona , Vern , I think that they will add to the last picture , in future updates : a katana , a cyborg eye , a tattoo , a Pixar inspired background with a knight on a motorcycle and an armadillo. And you will click it .

  14. In the future there won’t even be any ads. Products that have been mathematically selected for you will just turn up on your doorstep. After the price is automatically deducted from next months paycheck, of course.

    I predict that in 65 years time almost 80 percent of the population will be Amish, by which time the Amish will have progressed to a point which parallels 1987. In a cruel twist of fate however, the Amish elders decide to go with betamax, so don’t bother keeping hold of those old VHS tapes, for they will be useless.

  15. If they go with Betamax. will they also pick HD-DVD 20 years later?

  16. Naahh, Sony will just bribe all the studios same as they did last time.

  17. this is very intriguing. i am a hotmail user and have been since 1994, but i have mostly been using it in japan for the past few years, so i get japan-targeted ads and have yet to see bearded harold or other like monstrosities, unfortunately. i really hope someone can chime in here to shed some light on this. i wonder if i will see these ads if i log on to hotmail next time i am stateside. one can dream (nightmare?).

  18. This is either a result of a combination of incompetent, half-blind advertisers whose first language is likely not English or the consequence of keeping a spiteful online ad programmer on the payroll at lowermybills.com.

    “designed to help 7-9 million homeowners. . . only 85,000 have used the program. . .” 8,000,000 divided by 85,000 approximately = 94.

    The ratio of those who fail to take advantage of the program is closer to 99 out of 100.

    For some reason, I now recall those weird TV ads with the guy wearing the Riddler-like costume suit; he kept shouting that everyone could take advantage of crazy government handouts and grants that only he seemed to know about unless you paid for his book or software or something.

  19. Holy crap, I hadn’t noticed these before but now I’m seeing them everywhere. I just saw one on boxofficemojo.com. Supremely Disturbing.

  20. But no one has seen alternate versions of these ads, with normal-looking dudes, right? If not, the “this is what the internet thinks you look like, Vern” explanation doesn’t really suffice.

    Seems obvious to me these ads are INTENTIONALLY designed to turn you off, and since they all seem to relate to government policy, it makes me think there’s some kind of political self-sabotaging going on. Like as if Obama diverted some cash to help the American people, then moved on to the next problem, but then the team in charge of actually helping the American people disagreed with the policy and thought, “OK motherfucker, we’ll do it, because we have to, but just WATCH how we do it.”

    I find it hard to believe there’s a functioning or at least semi-functioning human being out there who can get up in the morning, make himself breakfast, clothe his naked body, and even program code, but then is somehow totally unaware that his ad makes me want to puke all over my Macbook.

    On the other hand, maybe I’m just out of the loop and this is the new advertising aesthetic for 2010. Game-changing, that’s what these ads are.

  21. As matalo mentioned, Firefox + AdBlock prevent me from being entertained by these. On a strange side note, though, I just had to check out ‘www.lowermyballs.com’ after misreading the URL in the ads. Mysteriously, it redirects to the Wikipedia entry for Jiddu Krishnamurti!
    What the hell? Who is responsible for this? Anyway, that seems like a good opportunity to recommend his writings to all of you…he’s brilliant. And if his stuff was good enough for Bruce Lee, it’s gotta be good enough for everyone else, I think.

  22. Jared : I don’t think this is a game-changing move in the ads world , but I think you pointed out something important . The shock value of all of this . I’ve seen the yellow teeth ad and the dog-hybrid ad , and they make me want to puke , but I sure as hell remember them . As I said , I don’t click on them , but some other curious user ? Maybe . And he will talk about them , resulting in publicity . Now , for the ads Vern posted , change “shock value” with “moronic value”.

  23. I guess it goes without saying I thought Harold was meant to be Jesus at first?
    And I use Hotmail. It was my first e-mail address and I’ve never felt the need to change it. Though it’s been updated to this “Windows Live” thing now which is a bit overly flashy. A forum I’m on has a default mode with a big advertising banner over the top (usually for a movie, because it’s the official forum of a sci-fi board) which has a secondary advert that appears suddenly over the front of the board(or in some cases, it cuts through it, with sound effects, like and AVP2 one there was this time), to the point people just set it to one of the plainer, thrill-free modes so as not to have to put up with it.

  24. This is how it works in the day of “viral advertising.”

    The people who created those ads made them with a high WTF factor with the hope that people would go “WTF?” and maybe even write head-scratching blog posts about them, and maybe even continue the head scratching in comments-section discussions of the ad. This will extend their advertising for free. The more people notice and talk about their ads, the better; the context is irrelevant.

    I wonder if their plan is working?

  25. Yeah I guess it is working, I did a little research and apparently the guy that started lowermybills.com managed to sell it to someone for $300 million. I honestly don’t understand how this can be possible but then suppose I’d actually have a pot to piss in if I did.

  26. I’m pretty sure that was 300 million doll HAIRS, and not even good doll hairs. Doll pubic hairs.

  27. Tim Brooke Taylor

    January 2nd, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    I believe that The Bearded Harold is actually married to the original Snorg T-shirts girl.

  28. There’s a very simple answer to all your questions, Vern and everybody.

    Simply pull up one of the ads again. Now put on your special sunglasses. You know, the ones you found in that box, the last time you were in church? Look at the ad again.

    It figures it would be something like that.

  29. My theory? Whoever created those ads was too cheap to hire models to pose for the accompanying images, so they just took some random pictures of people and digitally altered them: distorting the first guy’s face and adding beard, glasses, ect, and adding long hair and beard to the second guy.

  30. Great stuff, Vern. Fucking hilarious. That first guy is goddamn creepy. WTF?

  31. I get those same ads, but usually I see a dude who looks like George Clooney in the first ad and a guy who bears a strong resemblance to Brad Pitt in the others. Are you guys telling me that’s not what you typically see?

  32. Well… I’m not sure about the first guy. He’s fucked up and that’s all you can say about it.

    But that second guy is supposed to look like Jesus I think. You know, so it can seem like both Obama AND Our Risen Lord are backing their play. This is an amazing and upsetting new trend in advertising. I’ve heard a lot of radio ads lately, for instance, that begin with “The president has ordered the nation’s financial institutions to lend to those who qualify…” — what the fuck does THAT mean? I didn’t know the president could order banks to lend to specific individuals. Oh, wait, those who “qualify”? I get it. Clever. And retarded.

    Cletardevered.

  33. “The president has ordered the nation’s financial institutions to lend to those who qualify…”

    Actually, that was done already in the past decade or so. The result is, well… where we are today: the government is hastily printing money to try to pay off banks for making toxic loans the government _told_ them they had to make but which were poorly secured. (The big investment and brokerage houses made things worse in the middle, by buying those loans from banks and selling them internationally packaged with decent loans to bring the credit rating up. So which financial institutions, “too big to fail”, are now being bailed out?)

    Indeed, cletardevered. But politically correct at the time.

  34. Also, Gordon Freeman is not amused. {g}

  35. haha, love the new ad, Vern. Suddenly I’m overwhelmed with a patriotic desire to buy Vern-themed swag. Maybe its because I have a beard, I dunno.

  36. I bought the “Don’t Be Ellis” t-shirt a while back. It has led to several situations where I’ve had to explain the philosophy of not being Ellis to people.

  37. Saberman,

    Ah, I hate to drag politics into this but you should really check out this link which helps debunk some of the myths about the financial crisis:

    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2008/10/misunderstanding-credit-and-housing-crises-blaming-the-cra-gses/

  38. {rofl!} I didn’t even notice Vern’s new ad, until Mr. Subtlety mentioned it! My eyes just habitually rolled off it and moved along.

    Brilliant idea–and yet, oddly self-defeating. (Cf. eyes just habitually rolled off it and moved along.)

  39. Now all the sudden I’m seeing some new ones: moving clips of a guinea pig sniffing a camera and a skinny dude in scuba gear scrubbing his armpits in a bathtub. This seems to support the “any random shit to get people’s attention” theory.

  40. I have seen other weird ones like a baby writhing around in a car seat (or something).

    I know believe the ads are the creation of Skynet, which has just become self-aware, and these are the closest approximations it could make to real advertisements. Clicking on those ads will be very, very bad for mankind. Don’t ask me how, but it’s the first step towards Judgment Day.

  41. And now my e-mail is showing one with a 2 second loop of a kinda cute blonde girl talking (no sound).

    I’m more convinced than ever this is part of a non-human takeover. This is not the work of normal humans. This is the work of aliens or robots trying to pretend to be human.

  42. When I first saw this bearded man on advertisements I thought he looked like pictures depicting Jesus.
    I figured the advertisers where trying to use this image to brainwashing us into thinking that if Jesus had insurance this is the insurance that he would have gotten.

  43. THANK YOU! I’ve started a joke collection at my desk at work with clippings of all of the ads I’ve found him in, but I really am interested in figuring out who he is and why someone would find him “enticing”. I’ve been mostly looking through the America’s Most Wanted website, because that picture looks like a mug shot.

  44. I’ve been wondering about this guy for ages. My fear was the Interwebs knew I hadn’t shaved for like, two or three weeks, and was trying to tell me something. But I really would like to know what marketing genius thinks this guy will make anyone do anything but call the cops.

  45. Holy shit, I got one on Box Office Mojo where Bearded Harold’s hair grows and shrinks when you scroll over it. WHAT THE MOTHERFUCK?!

  46. You are not the only person wondering, I noticed a thread on boingboing about this very topic.

    http://www.boingboing.net/2010/02/01/odd-photo-in-ad-for.html#comments

    This was the comment that seems to have identified the source of the photo:
    Author Profile Page gobo | #3 | 09:46 on Mon, Feb. 1 | Reply
    Report

    It’s a Vetta stock photo from iStockphoto.com. Looks like they bought exclusive rights to it, but here’s another of the same guy with even worse fake teeth:

    http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-8130861-ugly-guy.php

    For what it is worth, they seem to have tracked the source down using a reverse image lookup tool called TinEye http://www.tineye.com/

  47. Definitely a psych-ops campaign against Obama. Very similar to the stuff Joseph Goebbels was doing in the 20’s and 30’s, associating images of degenerates with an individual or group.

  48. Has anybody here seen a web ad with this man’s face? http://resources2.news.com.au/images/2009/08/26/1225766/217570-dt-daniel-wood.jpg

    If so, please tell me what website.

  49. Excellent blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on
    everything. Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many choices out there that I’m completely confused ..
    Any suggestions? Kudos!

  50. For any reason I had to think of “Bearded Harold” today. (Maybe because there is a new Rob Zombie flick coming up?) That’s all. Has the mystery of these ads ever been solved?

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