How Far Will Online Advertisers Go?

After watching a video recently where I discussed online ads with a caller, Max sent the following email to me. He makes several valid points about the state of advertising on the web and why we should all maybe look at things from a different perspective than what the caller presented.

First of all, I’ll tell you my thoughts on the matter. I don’t know who you were talking to but the part where he says people don’t look at ads are just wrong. Him, you, and I all probably skip ads and ignore them completely. But just because he skips and ignores ads doesn’t mean he speaks for the general population. The obvious statement which you pointed out is that “if advertising didn’t work, they would have stopped a long time ago.”

Obviously it works, and they’re getting LOADS more than a percentage of the population. Secondly, you mentioned how you purchased insurance for one of your dogs, and then insurance ads followed you around. This is part of a flaky system of advertising collection that basically targets YOU for specific ads. NPR recently ran an interesting story about this behavior which is both interesting and scary.

The basic gist of the article is that the Internet advertisers use cookies to target users. Websites can store cookies and those wonderful Google click ads that we love, with many more involved, can access those cookies which simply store a long number string that identifies YOU personally! They then compile lists of what you like and have those special algorithms that kinda sorta work and then target you with ads that will make you buy stuff.

This is avoidable by deleting cookies, other protections, etc. but the majority of average computer users don’t even know what a cookie is (although this is changing with the new generations) and they get followed around by these ads no matter what sites they go to. Not to give you a conspiracy theory vibe, but this is orchestrated, planned, targeted advertisement. Your ad A list is sold to lots of different ad companies without you even knowing about it in the first place.

Overall I hate ads, and would happily pay to get rid of them. Look at it this way: TV and Cable evolved with ads, and then we got premium channels like HBO and Cinemax which have no ads, but cost a lot of $$. Then we got DVRs which cost an extra fee monthly so we can record and fast forward our favorite TV shows. My guess is in the future we will just get TV shows on demand by purchase and advertisement will be phased out of television content. If it isn’t, I’d pay the premium fees for no ads.

Apple is pushing to bring interactive iAds which I love because they’re not flashing and annoying. They’re starting their iAd brand with the idea that you WANT to view these ads because they’re not inherently obnoxious from the start. As we’ve heard from some rumors, Apple is keeping a tight leash on their ad content. I believe their motivations are to move advertisement from something you mute and block to something you see and want to click on.

It seems that companies are used to the easy cheap Internet ads that flash and bother people while they’re trying to read an article or look at some Facebook photos. My point is, companies are going to have to sacrifice a little bit to remain in the advertising position that they are in. I disagree with your caller that only a small percentage of people actually look/click on the ads. However, I feel that if advertising companies continue on their current path for the Internet market, they will find themselves there.

What are your thoughts? Do ads really annoy you that much? What do you feel is a viable solution? Thanks, Max, for sharing your thoughts with us.

  1. To be honest I don’t particularly care for ads but they don’t really bother me. I know that they are a way for you and other people to make money off of them, which is why I actually added them to my sites now. The only thing I would say about this site specifically is there may be just a few too many ads, especially between the end of the post and where I can comment. I think that iAds will be a viable solution, at least for iOS at the moment. If more advertisers took the time to make ads like iAds instead of flashy annoying ones I think more people would take the time to look at them.