Art students Mimi Cabell and Jason Huff, wanted to explore how Google’s ad scanning technology would react to a series of email exchanges depicting violence and racism.
So they emailed each other the original text of Brett Easton Ellis’ novel American Psycho, page by page, to see what kinds of products would be marketed to them. They have turned the project into a book that includes Ellis’ original chapter titles along with the ads that ran next to each email and their own footnotes. The text essentially retells American Psycho via relational Google Ads.
What kinds of ads would run next to graphic depictions of rape and murder sent through a Gmail conversation? Cabell explains on her website: “In one scene, where first a dog and then a man are brutally murdered with a knife, Google supplied ample ads regarding knives and knife sharpeners. In another scene the ads disappeared altogether when the narrator makes a racial slur. Google’s choice and use of standard ads unrelated to the content next to which they appeared offered an alternate window into how Google ads function — the ad for Crest Whitestrips Coupons appeared the highest number of times, next to both the most graphic and the most mundane sections of the book, leaving no clear logic as to how it was selected to appear. This “misreading” ultimately echoes the hollowness at the center of advertising and consumer culture, a theme explored in excess in American Psycho.” (Via Electric Literature).