chapter  9
THAT GREAT SUPERMARKET OF DESIRE
Attributes of the desired other in personal advertisements
ByCelia Shalom
Pages 18

The personal ad may be considered as a distinct generic form which is linked to the small ad. While the small ad offers something, the personal ad both offers and, most essentially, seeks. The personal ad can be dated back to at least the eighteenth century in Britain (found in the matrimonial columns) and today it enjoys the status of a popular-culture genre. Personal columns (variously called ‘Lonely Hearts’, ‘Heartsearch’, ‘Heart to Heart’, ‘Eyelove’, ‘Soulmates’, etc.) are found in a wide range of publications in Britain including local and free papers, national papers and general-and special/ specific-interest magazines. Measures of the generic institutionalisation of the personal ad are its use in publicity (advertisements for mortgages and men’s perfume) and exploitation as a creative enterprise (the New York Review of Books holds an ‘Erudite Personal Ad Contest’, for instance). It is fast adapting to a range of different technological forms: many written ads are now linked to ‘voicemail’ (a special 0891 number which contains a further spoken message and space for respondents to leave their own messages), which makes the contact process much speedier than using ‘snail mail’; there are teletext and videotext ads; and Usenet personals have taken off in the United States, partly as a reaction to the expense of the 0891 calls.