And now a word to our sponsors

Shut up.

Okay, that’s two words. And I’m about to add a lot more.

If we take it as a given that the purpose of advertising is to attract customers and get them to buy the product, is it not logical to assume that annoying customers is a bad thing to do? There are many ways to annoy customers; the content of the ad itself is chief among them. But the Internet has given us a much more powerful way to drive away business: the pop-up ad. It’s not limited to just the little block ads either. Perhaps a more accurate term would be the “in-your-face” ad.

When you click a link to read something on a page we want to read what we went looking for. We do not want to see the screen suddenly pirated by another display that insists … well, something. I don’t know exactly what it’s trying to do because there’s nothing that makes me click ‘X’ faster than some smart ass interrupting my endeavors.

It’s bad enough that news articles are accompanied by side bars with annoying attention-grabbing flashes and even automatic video (another horror story), but do you have to interrupt the text paragraph by paragraph with not only links to ‘related’ stories (better left to the end of the current reading) but also promotions for things which it is unlikely anyone will look at merely because you did stick it in the middle of the read. This is not the way to engage your audience: it is the way to drive them away.

“Uh-oh! Looks like you’ve got an ad blocker!” Well no kidding, idiots. That is because your ads are so damn annoying no one wants to see them. Really people do not mind advertisements if they are presented in an acceptable fashion. “HEY STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND BUY THIS CRAP NOW!” is not an acceptable fashion.

Facebook is the champion example of how not to do things, with their ‘sponsored posts’ shoved into your news feed. It’s spam, that’s all. Why do you think FB Purity is so successful? Because Facebook hasn’t got a clue as to how to avoid pissing people off. They seem to take perverse delight in it, and rework their script every so often to circumvent the latest efforts at stopping this nonsense. If their advertisers ever wake up to the fact half of Facebook users don’t exist and the other half don’t look at the ads that company is going to have a sudden problem in the income department. Frankly, they deserve to go bankrupt because they have so horribly and commercially bastardized what is basically a good idea (sort of like what happened to any holiday you care to mention.) And when it comes to FB’s claim of “targeted” advertising, have you ever seen an ad that actually interested you? Probably not, because their analysis algorithms seemed to have been created by elementary school children who can’t even get the hang of the concept of a single selection criterion, never mind the plural form. In fact the businesses are paying for “targeted” ads and getting generic random-hit probability instead. For this they pay a premium.

Some bright spots have even come up with a method of making auto-run videos that so far no browser setting or extension can prevent from happening. Not all of us have unlimited data to waste on your not-at-all-important message. And the rest of us don’t want to be interrupted in what we’re doing anyway. Seriously; put your videos where the sun does not shine upon them.

It didn’t used to be like this, of course. In the simpler, better days of the Internet ads came in fixed blocks like ‘banner ads’ that sat quietly at the top and/or bottom of the page until the viewer looked at them. The technology now allows people to be forced to look, whether they want to or not. Net result: one less potential customer for every intrusive ad displayed. The exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.

I am reminded of an election for mayor in a town I used to live in a few years ago. The candidate who won was the person with the fewest campaign signs cluttering up the countryside.

Food for thought.

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