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Annoying Internet Ads: An Open Letter to Digital Marketers Everywhere

Michael O'Dwyer| August 31 2016

| IT insights

Annoying Internet Ads: An Open Letter to Digital Marketers EverywhereDearest Digital Marketers,

Guided by rage and the deeply held conviction that annoying Internet ads have no place in the marketing landscape, I am calling on you to defend this practice. What qualifies as annoying? How can marketers get their message across without raising the hassles of existing and potential clients?

Edwin Land, an American inventor who is most famous for developing the Polaroid camera, once said, "Marketing is what you do when your product is no good," and there is certainly an element of truth to that. We're now so fed up with intrusive ads that ad blockers are becoming the norm. There are several reasons for the increase in ad blocker adoption but the primary one is ... yes, we want to block them.

Say Yes to Ad Blockers...

In fact, security professionals are quick to recommend ad blockers.

"Ads consume bandwidth, especially those delivered as Flash or code. If you're on a mobile device, with a small screen, the ads will also cover a good portion of the screen, thus making it difficult or even impossible to see the desired content you want to see," says Sorin Mustaca, CSSLP, Security+, Project+, an independent IT security consultant.

"[Over] the last 3 years, we hear[d] more and more about malvertising — the delivery of malicious software instead of ads, or in parallel with ads," adds Mustaca.

Security and performance concerns are certainly valid reasons for installing an ad blocker. I mean, who among us wants to negate the benefits of high-speed broadband with annoying Internet ads? As the available bandwidth improves, with 4G on the global horizon for mobile devices, I'm sure digital marketers are looking at HD video and even VR as possible tools in their underhanded game to attract clients.

Insert Irrelevant Internet Ads Here

The primary reason for such ads is often monetization. After all, some websites depend on ad revenue. Unfortunately, the decision to disregard an ad is taken away from us in many cases, as popups (which are now automatically blocked by most browsers), launch pages, subscription requests and many other 'techniques,' such as embedded YouTube videos, require multiple, frantic clicks to close down. This feature is even cleverly hidden or disabled at times.

"What worries me a lot lately is the fact that we see more and more concepts like 'fair ads' and 'acceptable advertising,'" says Mustaca. What does this even mean? Surely, we have the right to view ads or not? What is inherently wrong with an opt-in policy?

"The concept is good: non-intrusive ads. The problem is the implementation," adds Mustaca. "If they found a way to 'sneak in' ads despite the fact that the ad blocker is up and running, I have to ask myself: what else are they doing behind the scenes?"

The Correct Method

Marketers seem to be devoting a lot more time to bypassing ad blockers than to fixing the problem that Internet ads are intrusive, irrelevant or detract from the user experience. Big Data and so-called business intelligence programs can work if implemented correctly, with Mustaca citing Amazon as a company to which he's happy to provide information, as this action results in intelligent recommendations for future purchases. In this case, ads are helpful and serve a purpose.

In other cases, such as media publications, the site detects an ad blocker and asks you to disable it in order to access the content. The choice is simple: If you value the content, you will disable the ad blocker for that domain. If not, you will go on your merry way and select another site. This setup gives the user an element of control that is sadly lacking in general, with ads stuck in the middle of text content or stuck serving as banners that change on every page visit.

As for geolocation and data mining, implementation is key. Is it really so difficult to determine a user's language when presenting 'targeted' ads to business travelers or vacationers? How useful is it for English-speaking users to have ads in Thai, Korean or Chinese when visiting Asia? Clue: Not very.

In conclusion, I detest annoying Internet ads. It is nothing less than slander to suggest that everyone wants 'something for nothing,' when it is very clear that the fault lies in the ways ads are presented. We use a variety of free services and expect ads as a result. However, we are not dependent on them and are fully prepared to pay for commercial solutions when monetization becomes overly intrusive or a lack of privacy is apparent. Even global goliaths such as Google and Facebook can no longer afford to be complacent and need to consider the user experience when rolling out new features. Am I misinformed or is the role of digital marketing simply designed to hamper future sales as ad-saturated users exclusively rely on word of mouth and user reviews for product selection rather than on incessant promos that reek of desperation?

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this open letter. Please click the 27th word in the first paragraph 267 times. It won't do anything but I believe this ties in perfectly with the current trend in digital marketing: annoying the reader.

Best regards,

A Nother User

Topics: IT insights

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An Irishman based in Hong Kong, Michael O’Dwyer is a business & technology journalist, independent consultant and writer who specializes in writing for enterprise, small business and IT audiences. With 20+ years of experience in everything from IT and electronic component-level failure analysis to process improvement and supply chains (and an in-depth knowledge of Klingon,) Michael is a sought-after writer whose quality sources, deep research and quirky sense of humor ensures he’s welcome in high-profile publications such as The Street and Fortune 100 IT portals.

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