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Why Online Ads Aren't Working

I'm a HUGE fan of AdBlock Plus coupled with EasyList, the awesome extension for Firefox. The reason being? I hate seeing ads on websites.

Not that I have anything against advertising. I don't. I watch the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, the World Series and even the Heavyweight Title Bout just for the commercials. I couldn't care less about sports, or the televised event. Why? Because the ads are incredible. They are fun, creative, hip and all around just great, yet, they still manage to reach me as a viewer advertising their product. I can remember specific Nike, Budweiser, GoDaddy, BMW, Dell, Levi's, and many other ads from several years ago (remember the Budweiser frogs?). They left an impression on me. On rare occasion, even ads on everyday prime time television seem to "hit home", and stay logged in the memory banks of my mind.

What's great? These ads have been so effective, that there are sites a plenty following the main event dedicated to people who want to watch just the adverts, such as superbowl-ads.com.

For the most part, however, ads just come and go. Radio ads. Mailbox ads. Television ads. And even online ads. Nothing original. Nothing creative. Nothing hip. Nothing fun. It's the same thing, over and over and over, just using different graphics, or a different theme. The presentation remains the same. Think of the paper ads that you find in your mailbox or in the newspaper. Do you recall any specific ad insert, or do they all just blend in as the same thing? Do you recall anything specific that the insert was advertising? What' about a radio ad? I have a few good ones that have stuck with me, specifically a Pringles ad, but for the most part, it's just the same dull audio. I think you get the point.

The Internet sits at a different position than its other media outlet cousins. It has the ability for anyone, including me with this blog, to push their opinion, product or content. So, you would think that advertising marketers would take advantage of this outlet, and present ads that influence the browser. However, that's just not the case. With online ads currently, it's either:

  1. Flash-based
  2. Text-based

First off, both suffer from great irrelevance. I have personally seen ads of both nature, that have nothing to do with the site I'm visiting. For example, when recording my workout on an exercise site, I don't want to see something on improving my love life. If viewing a page about something related to Ubuntu, I probably don't want to purchase an enterprise rack system with Linux preinstalled. We all know what I'm referring to. Advertisements using text on the page to create a "relevant" ad. While some ads have gotten better in this department, for the most part, I'm unimpressed.

Further, picking on just the flash-based sites, I hate to see moving objects on a web page while I'm trying to read a document. It's annoying, obnoxious, and I end up adjusting my window size and page location, so the advert is out of my peripheral while reading. Or, I just install an ad-blocker, then I don't have to worry about it.

So, it's no surprise to me when I read Techdirt's article regarding the problem with online advertising. They hit the subject right in the head. While you would think online advertisers would appreciate this sort of feedback (users installing ad-blocking software), instead, they are complaining that if ads aren't online, we'll see less and less content being published.

The simple fact is, the current state of online advertising is bad advertising. They just aren't reaching the average web surfer. While this doesn't necessarily mean that ads haven't been a youthful spring of wealth for content publishers, there seems to be little data supporting the growth and profit of products purchased from online ads, yet a wealth of data showing the amount of revenue spent on online ads. Sorry, but the captive audience is dead.

Yet, the Washington Post, as Techdirt points out, seems to have missed the memo. "Rick752", his handle online, is being targeted in that article as the man that could "threaten the financial underpinnings of much of the Web". Maybe I missed the memo, but I fail to notice where "the Web" is built on the financial gains of any one company. If content publishers go out of business because of Rick752, they failed to learn how to reach their audience, and thus, failed to sell their product. All they were selling, were ads.

Take Daily Kos, for example, as the Washington Post points out. If you're running an ad-blocking software, such as AdBlock Plus, you'll notice a nag at the top of the page pleading, nay, begging you to either disable the blocker, or subscribe to what is normally a free site. If they get visits without the ad revenue from clicks, then their content will go under, and Daily Kos will be forced to go offline. It's rather unfortunate that they haven't learned the principle of Content is Advertising. So, if they go offline due to a lack of ad revenue, they have no one to blame but themselves.

In a nutshell, I'm not offended by ads. Again, I like to watch the major sporting events on television just because of the ads. I know many people who are the same. I'm just not a fan of the current state of affairs. I've had AdBlock Plus installed practically from the day it was installed. Since then, not only have I not been annoyed, but I haven't received any malware or spyware from the ads. My pages load faster, and my browser is more stable.

Keep rockin' AdBlock!

{ 7 } Comments

  1. Jeremy using Firefox 3.0 on Windows Vista | June 26, 2008 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    Typo above: you couldn't care less about sports, or the televised event.

    Saying you could care less is saying that you do care.

  2. Aaron using Firefox 3.0 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 26, 2008 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    @Jeremy- Thank you. Noted and fixed.

  3. Mattias Bengtsson using Firefox 3.0 on Windows Vista | June 27, 2008 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    "Again, I like to watch the major sporting events on television just because of the ads."

    Are you insane?

  4. Miles using Firefox 2.0.0.11 on Ubuntu | June 27, 2008 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    That's the same very reason why I'm gonna quit my job (online advertising). Can't stand it :/

  5. Lucian using Konqueror 3.5 on Kubuntu | June 27, 2008 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    Yep, adblock is very useful. Same easylist here on konqueror.

  6. Vadim P. using Firefox 3.0 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 27, 2008 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    It doesn't work, no secret. But you know if everybody keeps saying that, eventually, all 'free' services that attempt to rely on advertising will just become paid.

    Do you win then? Not exactly.

  7. Aaron using Firefox 2.0.0.14 on Windows XP | June 27, 2008 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    @Mattias Bengtsson- No. I can't stand sports.

    @Miles- Good luck with that.

    @Vadim P.- I doubt it. Many will attempt that route, and most that do will fail. There's plenty of growth for online advertising. Plenty of avenues to explore. Unfortunately, online advertisers are just going about it the wrong way.

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