In a Hostile World, Ad Blockers Make Things Worse

An ad-blocking software company has raised over $25,000 to wage a campaign to let people know they don’t have to see online ads. Its new goal is to raise $50,000 more to buy a billboard on Times Square. According to the founder,

We’re going to use ads to get rid of ads. We will use the money raised to make AdBlock banner ads and video commercials, and we will show these across the internet to people who don’t have AdBlock. If we raise enough, we will implement our craziest advertising ideas and capture the whole world’s imagination.

There’s a fine sense of irony at play here. Even the founder of ad blocking software realizes that to get the word out about almost any product or service, you have to use advertising!

If I didn’t find this hypocritical, I’d find it hilarious. After all, he also wants you and your friends to view ads to learn about his company, and he’s willing to pay publishers for the privilege of showing banners and videos.

It only shows you one thing: how deeply advertising is embedded in our culture, and how in a global world where you want to reach more people than you know individually, advertising of some kind is essential.

This is not the same as saying that we should all be patient with intrusive, useless ads. Rather, it’s time for both advertisers and publishers to get their respective acts together and use the capabilities given them by big data and similar technological advances to target better audiences with more useful messages.

Advertising in the future must be –USEFUL. It must serve a purpose. Its purpose could be to inform, to entertain, to teach, or to create convenience for the customer. It should appear only when the customer is willing to receive it. (yes, ZEDO sells the InView Slider and the InArticle video ad, so we’ve got a horse in this race.

And here’s the tough part: the customer who receives it must recognize its utility. In this data-rich environment, there’s no reason to serve porn to children or Viagra ads to old ladies, and yet that still happens. Careless publishers who don’t examine their user data sell the wrong ads to unsuspecting audiences. Careless agencies and brands who don’t mine their customer data and don’t look at the publishers’ data should not be buying ads in environments that are known not to be brand safe for them. The numbers are out there.

But so are the incentives. The agency wants to get the brand greater “reach.”  The publisher wants to sell more ads. This results in misaligned targeting, ads that don’t work, and angry visitors. And the poor ad server in the middle gets an email that says “get your stinking ads off my computer.”

This does not have to happen. Blocking ads is throwing the baby out with the bath water. But it is doomed to happen unless we in the advertising and publishing industry get our acts together and quit making decisions based on raw numbers and start making decisions based on accurate, target, information. We need to work together to fix this before a disgruntled public fixes it for us.

Enhanced by Zemanta