More Annoying Ad Tricks

June 11th, 2014

Let me put my cards on the table. This site and my two radio shows are, in large part, funded by advertising. There’s no magnanimous purpose involved. I just want to pay the bills, and the same is true for others. While erratic, advertising is certainly an honest way to make a living, with the assumption that the products and services offered are honest.

I’ve tried to keep the ads from being too intrusive. There are banners surrounding content on this site, but the posts are front and center and, I hope, not overwhelmed. True, my radio shows are ad-heavy, and the same is true for other network shows in the U.S. In my defense, let me say that the network doesn’t pay me for their ads, but requires that they be run even in the online versions of the show. You can also fast forward through them if you prefer, just as many of you do now when you record a TV show with your DVR.

I also know that there are ad blockers out there that kill everything but the content. I have installed a WordPress plugin to request that you turn them off when visiting my sites, for the simple reason that advertisers who get new business will renew. Otherwise, they’ll take their money elsewhere.

So much for being selfish to survive.

But it’s also true that there are schemes out there that put ads in your face and require that you dismiss them to actually read the content. Among the most blatant offenders are interstitials, which are ads that put up a window before or after the actual content. You may have the pop-up blocker enabled on your browser, but interstitials, or hyperstitials, the full-screen variant, manage to bypass those restrictions. In passing, maybe it’s time browser developers find ways to deal with that. Some third-party ad blockers can manage the task.

I don’t need to remind you which sites use interstitials. You know who they are, and it’s up to you whether you want to dismiss them to read the actual content on the site. Long ago, I tried pop-ups for about a day, and got flooded with complaints. It’s hardly likely that I’ll consider interstitials, and I wonder how much business they can possibly generate for an advertiser if the potential customer is being put-off by the presentation. But that’s just me.

There’s yet another ad scheme that’s a little more subtle but even more irritating. That’s the auto-play video. You visit a site, and, without your intervention, the content plays a few seconds later. Usually there’s a short ad, similar to a TV spot, after which the unwanted content is played.

Now I don’t know about you, but I do not approve of auto-play, particularly without your advance consent. Consider the impact if you’re doing research for a client with whom you’re having an online conference or phone call, or perhaps doing an interview for a radio show. Suddenly the video starts blaring at full volume while you’re trying to get business done.

Imagine what might happen in an office environment, though I suppose the IT people at a larger company will install needed browser extensions, or activate appropriate preferences, to preserve the sanctity of the office environment. But playing hip-hop on a boom box is not relevant to this discussion.

Yes, I know there are ways to turn off this “feature,” but you shouldn’t have to jump through any extra hoops to stop the noise. I just wonder what the companies who run those sites are thinking when they pull those stunts. I mean, if they really want you to watch that video, just put in some content that’ll attract your attention along with a big Play button. Let the visitor decide.

Now it’s perfectly true that we’ve been overwhelmed by banners, and it gets harder and harder to persuade people to click or tap them to learn about a product or service. Google, Microsoft Bing and other search engines keep trying to perfect methods to target ads that attract you, and we do use Google AdSense here, for better or worse. I also try to find willing advertisers who have something to offer that’ll interest you.

At the same time, prices for banners keep going down. In turn, publishers continue to look for ways to put more ads in your face, in the hope of generating extra income. Certainly I’ve been tempted, but I want to show respect and not force you to tap through annoying content to read or hear what I have to say. It’s not easy.

Of course there is one way to stop the interstitials and other over-the-top advertising schemes, and that’s to stop visiting the offending site. Or let the blogger or publisher know that you don’t want to go through extra steps to read their content. I have to think they will pay attention if traffic seriously drops. At the same time, advertisers and ad networks will continue to look for even more intrusive ways to reach customers.

Or perhaps they will devise methods that will succeed in getting their messages across while, for a change, not turning off potential customers in the process.

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