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Insane state of today's advertising part 3 (plus.google.com)
961 points by archon810 on Sept 1, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 420 comments



Awesome to see that subject #1 on HN.

At my startup Confiant [1], we block bad ads in stream on behalf of publishers. Cedato aka Algovid aka TLVMedia is one of our prime targets, we block millions of their ad impressions daily.

They are essentially buying cheap display ad placements to resell them as fake video preroll ad placements. They sell on video exchanges like AOL's AdapTV and others. To maximize their yield, they resend ad requests in a loop to multiple parties every few seconds until an ad clears, leading to this massive network load.

We're on a mission to drive them out of business (and we're hiring ;) )

[1] https://www.confiant.com (edit forgot link)


The only good ad is a dead one.

With very few exceptions, especially in the consumer space, you won't need advertising if you actually need something. You'll search it out or your friends will tell you what to buy.

Advertising serves as a way for the capitalist class to exert veto power over other aspects of society by yanking funding at opportune moments (see the current Google snafu or Bill O'Reilly's departure from FOX (which was an example of this power being used for good indirectly via public pressure)). It also allows for shows of dominance, strength, and to move fucking product by creating an awareness moat vs your competitors. This means that people often already know they want to buy something, but they'll pick you instead of the other one which is fundamentally different from advertising performing a public service.


An anecdote from 2010: my company had racks of Rackable Systems servers. Every month a server went dead- power supply, board or some such. Rackable Systems were unreliable. Then on Slashdot I saw a square ad for IBM System X servers (unfortunately they have been sold to Lenovo a couple of years ago). That somehow made me do research- although I was aware of IBM System X before. Between 2010 and 1013 we bought perhaps 20 IBM System X servers (rock solid and beautifully engineered). Cost per that ad impression was perhaps $75,000.


I won't deny this has occasionally happened to me, but look at your example: it's B2B when my claim is primarily for B2C. B2B ads tend to be more targeted, aimed at corporations, and purchases are for higher dollar amounts. The product being sold was also competing based on build quality, a material improvement.

Businesses often make more rational decisions because they can assign someone to do research (like you did of your own volition) who will make comparisons and think about it.

Imagine the same process happening for shampoo. I'm sure there are some people that want "the best" shampoo, but most of the products are going to be nearly interchangeable and the marketing will try focus on various kinds of manipulation to dig that moat. These manipulations aren't what most people think of, like a sex symbol hypnotizing you. Instead they work to increase brand familiarity, social proof, and provide a life style narrative you can tell yourself and show off to other people with.

The capital hiding behind these campaigns funds newspapers, television, radio, and civic centers. It acts as a filter on the public discourse. If you're interested, look up Manufacturing Consent for more information.

Here's a clip from a documentary based on the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTBWfkE7BXU


You and I might dislike ads but don't you think there's a pretty big chance that a lot of the products you are hearing about from your friends were only brought to their attention thanks to ads? So without ads your friends would not have known about the products that they do now.


Yah your argument against adverting is bullshit.

Even consumers love ads.

Did you know that they even pay money because they want ads? Those 900 pages of Vogue that they buy every September, do you think they're filled with articles? Because they're about 870 pages of fashion ads. People specifically buy them because of the advertising.

And did you know Sunday papers are a thing, filled with coupons, that are basically ads?

Sorry, but advertising serves a purpose that consumers actually pay money for.


I'd categorize: 1) making ads available in a browsable index isn't the same as 2) throwing them into people's consciousness without their explicit consent/interest.


I think people buy Vogue (and all other advertising-sodden media) despite the ads, not because of it.


You definitely want to see the ads. It's like a catalogue.


It would be an interesting experiment to put out a non-ad-subsidised version of Vogue and see how many people bought it. I would guess at "not that many".


If it’s “900” pages of pure content, rather than ads, hell, even I’d buy it.


You're probably in minority though. It's like a catalogue. The "pure content" is just fluff.


Even if that "content" is boilerplate drivel like "25 Ways to Drive Him Wild in Bed!"?


Wouldn't that be called a "book"?


It's 900 pages of pure content ... but costs $95.


It is my understanding that a similar publication nowadays, Cosmopolitan, used to be mostly a literary publication in it's early days. I wonder how the contents vs advertising ratio was balanced at the time.


Most things are completely different if they are voluntarily or involuntarily. Trend magazines, price comparison sites, and coupons are all examples which people want to be exposed to advertise-like content.

Scam-like advertisement that use browser exploits to track you is not one of them. None would pay for that service, which is a good indication about which from of advertisement is wanted and which isn't.


This whole subthread started with the claim "the only good ad is a dead ad"


Electronic engineers face a similar problem, everyday:finding the optimal components to build stuff with. And at least in the case of standard components, they do that via parametric search tools(poring over many details), combined with vendors exposing a lot of details about products. And it works very well.

I wish we had that in more fields. Would provide huge value, but it's a hard problem. But i suppose if with the right incentives(banning advertising ?), we could do it.

The other source of info for EE's is education and PR, some of it probably pretty unbiased(at distributors sites), due to incentives.

As for ads ? they exist, but they seem to play a relatively small role, and probably nothing major will change if they stopped existing.


Parametric search tools are great for Digikey, but they're very hard to implement elsewhere. They're much less useful when you only have a small number of options. They're bad at quantifying qualitative properties like fit and finish or ease-of-use. And you can only compare closely related parts, because until you drill down to the level of, say, a parametric search for exclusively PMIC-Voltage Regulators-DC-DC-Switching controllers, it doesn't make sense to ask what the topology or output configuration is.

Plus, it's extremely tedious to collate and filter all of the properties needed to make them work. Ebay and Amazon barely do it at all. Newegg and McMaster Carr do OK. Only EE components seem to be demonstrate the ideal parametric filter systems that negate the need for advertising.

But I'm still a sucker for buying Linear Tech or TI components before, say, Maxim or Toshiba because even if the parametric search say that both options fit my requirements, the former seem to be better documented and more user-friendly than the latter. That's the kind of advertising you only get through years of writing expensive and high-quality technical papers and producing high-quality parts, and I suppose there will always be value in advertising that fact (or suggesting that fact, regardless of whether it's true for other advertisers) to less experienced engineers.


> But I'm still a sucker for buying Linear Tech or TI components before, say, Maxim or Toshiba.

Hah, reducing your BOM cost isn't a major factor in your decision making? ;)


Edmunds has a fairly good parametric search tool for new cars.

https://www.edmunds.com/finder/car-finder-results.html


Can you point at such a search engine for EEs?


Digikey.com

for example, for microcontrollers:

https://www.digikey.com/products/en/integrated-circuits-ics/...


Those ads were relevant though, and (I hope) not doing thousands of requests in the background; it was an IT-related ad, on an IT-related website, targeted at a person working in IT that was interested in new servers - what really is what the better ad providers are looking for. The rest is just idk, shotgunning and hoping something sticks.


I dislike relevant ads the most because they are most likely to influence my behaviour.


There must be a point between "advertisement for useless junk" and "useful advice + an affiliate link" where the two cross over, and as far as I can tell the only differences are relevance and directness.

One example of advertising that I think is acceptable are the ads on the slatestarcodex.com sidebar, which are manually placed there by the author and targeted directly at the niche he writes in. If a computer could achieve the same precision when choosing what ads to run, and based its choices on the publication rather than the user, I think it would also be acceptable to me.

Would you find such ads equally unpalatable?


Ads are bad. I'm not shopping not stop. I just want to read my article or whatever I am doing at that moment.

When I want to buy something I go to a shop and being there I still don't want ads. I want accurate specs, relevant statistics, maybe pictures and honest reviews. Sometimes I could use a guide, when it's not my domain.

I never stopped in the middle of something to say "I'd so watch an ad right now".


So perhaps you need to find paywalled news/review outlets without ads. Someone has to pay for the articles being written, servers, bandwidth etc


I don't know why you think I need to do something. Perhaps you need to realize that annoying your readers is not the best way to approach the issue.

Leaving aside the assumption that somebody has to pay just because you did something, selling my visual comfort for how much? a tenth of a cent? shows me how much you value your readers.


You're so on-point. All these rants about ads don't think about who'd pay for the content you're consuming if not for the ads.

You can't have high quality content and not pay for it - with ads or otherwise.

If you want ad-free, keep your credit card ready every time you open your browser

I'm not necessarily speaking in favor of ads. I'm just pointing out the shallow analysis which characterizes these companies as greedy or bereft of common decency who want to shove ads down your throat. It's a really unfortunate and ill-considered narrative


He's not on-point at all. You can find amazing content not touched by ads all over the internet.

Making money is hard but his way of doing it is nothing to admire.


> If you want ad-free, keep your credit card ready every time you open your browser

I'm hopeful we can smooth this experience quite a bit. In the near future, we have (as the current best extant example) in-browser Apple Pay backed by an HSM (either the touch bar or an Apple Watch). Presumably other vendors could implement something similar since at least the payment part isn't proprietary.

In the slightly more distant future, we could improve efficiency/privacy/reliability by using Bitcoin micropayment channels instead of credit cards, but same idea.


It is, however, really obnoxious when you click on an ad once and then are subjected to ads for that same product everywhere you go for months. I clicked on an ad for a Purple mattress a while back and now that's what I see on half the sites I go to. FFS, people, I don't want the mattress, okay!?!?


But most persons actually want to be influenced in their behaviours, it's the whole point of researching any subject in the first place.

Any decision we make is the result of a lot of stuff influencing our behaviours, and the border between researching information on a product and being targeted by an ad for this product is not really black and white.

If I had to chose, I'd rather be influenced by logical arguments than by a nude person taking a shower. Which only says so much about my personal values and is not really a good thing per se ^^


>But most persons actually want to be influenced in their behaviours, it's the whole point of researching any subject in the first place.

No, people research to make informed decisions.


I genuinely fail to see the difference, since our behaviours are the way our (informed or not) decisions are observable ?


How can you make informed decisions if you aren’t even aware of all the available choices?


Ads are not about being aware of all available choices. It is about presenting one specific choice in the best possible way : not the best way to make an informed decision


Well, if you didn't know of it before, and you were exposed to it via the ad, then do research... what's the problem? Isn't that an informed decision?


The problem is that there's no filter. This guy[1] Thinks we probably see 300 adverts a day, at the low end. Seems about right to me, lets go with that.

If I invest two minutes of research into each ad, I get 10 hours of research, every day. Obviously, it's not practical for me to actually research ads.

Thus, to deal with the raging torrent of imagery being ejaculated at my face by advertising companies, I must fall back to some kind of heuristic. I have two immediate choices: I can assume ads are truthful, or I can assume they are lying.

I know /some/ ads are lying, because I see obvious bullshit like acai berry ads on a semi-regular basis. So if I'm not willing to invest 10 hours a day of research, it's best /for me/ to just assume that all ads are lying to me, and chose more focused research methods when I feel I need them.

Now, if that very simple heuristic wasn't working for me I might be pressed to spend some time making a more complex, less binary heuristic. However, the simple reality is that this heuristic /is/ working for me. It's working very well.

If the advertising industry had standards, and required products to prove out their value before being advertised, then this would not be a problem, and they would actually be performing a valuable service to society. Unfortunately, they will shill for anyone with money, and do so at such scale that the best results-for-effort approach is to ignore the entire content source.

[1] http://blog.telesian.com/how-many-advertisements-do-we-see-e...


I think the point is: "informed decisions [about their behaviour]".


That’s why we need independent testing, and you should always check the independent tests before buying something.

For example, whenever I need a new product, be it anything from a spoon to a car seat for a child, I’ll check Stiftung Warentest for full tests of that category.

I’ll take the top 2 or 3, enter them on idealo or preispiraten or günstiger.de or hardwareschotte, and then I’ll take the cheapest of those.

At no point in this purchasing process come ads into play, and I get the best results.


Maybe I'm being uncharitable, but what I read from that story is that advertising saved your company from its own incompetence, since it should have someone responsible for managing those servers and subsequently for doing research upon noticing the problems.

For me, that example actually serves as an extra argument against ads.


Crikey, guy shares an anecdote of how an ad helped him and all you can do is be really nasty about it, it's completely unnecessary.

I bought a piano course from Udemy because of advertising on FB (and then spent an additional £150 on a keyboard). I'm really enjoying it. Please tell me what a horrible human being I am.


Honestly, in the context of the thread, I see the comment as downplaying and trivializing the serious concerns raised by oasfboasbfos. Besides, I didn't insult anyone, but the company as a whole; it seems absurd to me to take personal offense. Every company has its fair share of incompetence.


Your post implicitly suggested the poster was incompetent though, not just the company in general, since procuring the servers was apparently his responsibility. Seems a bit insulting to me.


Just because someone did that activity doesn't mean it was their responsibility. As an employee hired to write software, I've done everything from fixing laptops to cleaning the office fridge.

In fact, in my post I explicitly assumed that nobody was made responsible for the task, exactly because I assume the poster is not incompetent.


My gut feeling is that for every advertisement induced purchase you actually want and enjoy, there are several orders of magnitude more marketing/advertisement (directly or indirectly) induced purchases that are unnecessary or harmful.


And everything you buy costs more because of advertising. A few years ago a paper I read said the pharma industry was spending as much on advertising as on R&D.

The idea we couldn't find good products without advertising seems pretty moot with internet search available. The greater problem is seeing through the advertising to assess the product - there's a lot of things like market segmentation based only on different packaging (more wasteful, 'oppulent'). The Capitalist notion of value optimisation might work with false representation and coercion removed from the equation.


I think you're being uncharitable, advertising led the company to have a higher degree of competence and understanding.


Fine, but it seems like a terrible tradeoff for the drawbacks mentioned by oasfboasbfos.


I don't necessarily disagree with you, but your comment is not relevant to the one you are replying to. You are just hijacking the top comment to rant (albeit a popular rant).


It hints at the blacklist vs whitelist approach to security. I'd rather whitelist good content, then try to detect and blacklist bad content, as that is a game of whac-a-mole.


Everyone thinks advertising doesn't work on them. And everyone is wrong.


My claim is that it does work. Astoundingly well. My further claim is that it is not in the public interest.


I think people will always try to influence others, and I don't think advertising is the worst form of doing it. If you say that it's not in the public interest you'd have to compare it to alternatives that are.

That said, I think there should be restrictions put on the methods that advertisers are allowed to use. What currently happens in online advertising hurts everybody, including those who rely on ad funded business models.

Another issue is aonymity. In a world without advertising, you'd have to pay for everything directly. Making anonymous payments is extremely difficult and easily outlawed entirely.


I'm a libertarian. And putting/enforcing rules on someone who's not aggressing you because you don't like it seems like needing coercion.

You're voluntarily consuming ad-based content, no one's forcing you. If you don't like their ad-supported content, shouldn't you use only content which paid for in different ways? Why should anyone be restricted in their actions because of your opinions?


>Why should anyone be restricted in their actions because of your opinions?

Because the rights and protections under the law that advertisers rely on only exist because of my opinion and the opinion of other citizens.

Without the law, the concept of private property would be largely undefined. Corporations would not exist. There would be no limited liability, no chapter 11, no enforceable contracts, no trademarks, no patents, no copyrights, no courts, no police, nothing of the sort.

If we want to enjoy the protection that the rule of law affords us, we will have to accept that there needs to be some sort of social process that determines what our laws should be. It's a negotiation.

And no, using ad-supported services is not voluntary in any realistic sense of the word. There are many essential necessities of modern life that are ad-supported and have no real alternatives.

Also, voluntary is a rather ill defined term when it comes to things that most people cannot even know or understand.


> If we want to enjoy the protection that the rule of law affords us, we will have to accept that there needs to be some sort of social process that determines what our laws should be. It's a negotiation.

I have seen this sentiment a lot on HN as a counter to libertarian arguments, but really it's a straw man. The argument you are making is essentially: as a society we make rules, therefore we can enact rule x. Whereas the libertarian argument is (phrased in the vernacular of your counter-argument): society should only have rules which protect private property and prevent aggression.

> And no, using ad-supported services is not voluntary in any realistic sense of the word. There are many essential necessities of modern life that are ad-supported and have no real alternatives.

So? Just because person A depends upon the services of person B doesn't mean that person A can make outlandish demands on the way person B provides said services. Let A and B negotiate and determine the most agreeable terms for their cooperative exchange, sure. Alternatively, A can choose to deal with person C instead.


>The argument you are making is essentially: as a society we make rules, therefore we can enact rule x.

No, I was responding to this very general question by thecrazyone: "Why should anyone be restricted in their actions because of your opinions?".

I was interpreting this question in the sense in which libertarians are often framing it: "What gives society the right to get involved in voluntary agreements between individuals?"

So I was merely explaining my reasoning on why society has a legitimate role to play and why my opinion as a citizen counts for something.

Once that is out of the way, we can go on arguing about what specific rules are good or bad.

And on that point I have one key disagreement with some libertarians. I do not accept the absolute priority of private property over all other interests and freedoms that people value.

I find this primacy extremely contradictory given that there can never be a level playing field and libertarians keep arguing against levelling the playing field where that would be possible to some degree (inheritance tax)

I also question whether private property is sufficiently well defined or definable without taking into account other considerations of what it means to be human.

>Just because person A depends upon the services of person B doesn't mean that person A can make outlandish demands on the way person B provides said services.

I don't know what outlandish demands you are talking about.


> I find this primacy extremely contradictory given that there can never be a level playing field and libertarians keep arguing against levelling the playing field where that would be possible to some degree (inheritance tax)

> I also question whether private property is sufficiently well defined or definable without taking into account other considerations of what it means to be human.

I'm sure we could have a very interesting discussion on these objections but I'd hate to go completely off topic. But I'll easily bite :)

> I don't know what outlandish demands you are talking about.

In the context of the thread, clearly the outlandish demand would be regulating the advertising that B uses in providing A a service.


>I'm sure we could have a very interesting discussion on these objections but I'd hate to go completely off topic. But I'll easily bite :)

OK :-)

>In the context of the thread, clearly the outlandish demand would be regulating the advertising that B uses in providing A a service.

I don't want to regulate against annoying ads either. That's not what I'm talking about at all because this is something consumers can see with their own eyes, install an ad-blocker or stop using the service where there are alternatives.

But some of the things that ad networks are doing behind the scenes are so unexpected, complex or even malicious that consumers cannot be expected to understand them or to have voluntarily agreed to them. That's an area where I think something should be done.

We already have a lot of rules on the legality of contracts, on transparency, on duty of care, on liability for damage, etc. Not all of these rules have caught up to digital services yet.


Ads are embroigled in to modern Western culture. Do you expect us to lock ourselves away in the woods?

Why should we be restricted in our actions in order to allow product placement in every cultural artefact, advertising on your museum ticket, carefully placed concession stands in "free" public spaces, etc., etc.?


Eh, I think I've never clicked on an ad on the internet and bought a thing. The only times I've clicked on an ad that I can think of is mobile where I was trying to close something and got fucked.

So, advertising models based on clickthroughs definitely haven't worked on me. (Admittedly uBlock has reduced my exposure somewhat)

But the magazine style "increase awareness of product and hope that leads to eventual interest and purchase" probably works as well on me as anyone else.


Lifestyle advertising is far stronger and more insidious as it doesn't appear to us as if it's advertising. When I was growing up all movies and USA television seemed to have Apple computers only, all the stars drank Coke with every meal, all the footballers wore Adidas boots.

We almost always instinctively are attracted to the familiar, so just seeing a product before makes us value it higher, even if it's intrinsic value is less. That hard-wired instinct is hard to control.


you might be surprised how many "articles" are "sponsored", hard to tell really.


Some clearly doesn't work as intended though.

If I see an advert for Coca Cola, it doesn't make me want a Coke. I hate Coke and I understand that it is not at all good for me.

No amount of advertising is going to make me buy one. Simply being aware of the brand in this case seems pointless, because I'm doing nothing with it.

In other cases advertisements will merely lead me to avoid that brand or company out of spite, because I hated their advert (as I do most adverts).


That's not the intention. They know it won't work on every single person, but as long as there is ROI then it works.


It's a shame you got downvoted because you're making a reasonable point.

I loathe Pepsi Max ads. I like Coke Zero add. But I never buy Coke, I only ever buy Pepsi Max.


Everyone thinks some specific types of advertising don't work on them, and dependent on their self-knowledge they can be right.


Of course advertising works. And this is a very bad thing, not a good thing.


Can you explain why it's a bad thing?

From my perspective, I've found various things via advertising that I would have never come across by other means.

A lot of people argue that "you'll just search for what you want" except I'm tired of searching for "shirt" and then scrolling for days looking for something that may work. Every once in a while I'm hit with a really good ad, and I'll click it, and maybe even buy.


> From my perspective, I've found various things via advertising that I would have never come across by other means.

If you want to make a fair comparison, that should be compared to all the things you didn't find because useless ads took up your time and mental space.

Also, whether or not you found something through an ad is not the point; one isn't not going to convince a smoker to quit smoking by trying to convince them that nicotine doesn't make them feel good - it's the other shit about it that is bad.

In the case of advertising, there's a lot of cynical manipulation going on. The nagging factor in children's advertising comes to mind as one really evil example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hi63rXnuWbw

I've been TV- and ad-free since 2001 (yes, yes, I know: the "how do you know someone doesn't watch TV? They'll tell you"-smugness curse strikes again). In my case it was accidental however: I was living in a student appartment with no access to TV and Internet for over a year, having only books to read and rented movies to watch. Even when forced upon you you start noticing the difference pretty quickly, and wondering how you ever was capable of considering this normal. Nowadays ads just feel invasive, like strangers shouting at me on the street claiming they want to have a conversation while really they just want to get into my pockets.


> If you want to make a fair comparison, that should be compared to all the things you didn't find because useless ads took up your time and mental space.

> Nowadays ads just feel invasive, like strangers shouting at me on the street claiming they want to have a conversation while really they just want to get into my pockets.

I understand your point here. But to clarify, if I were to add up the seconds/minutes of time I lose to ads over the course of a month (for example), I don't think I'd spend that regained time on product hunting. My point was less "I save so much time via ads" but more "I don't want to shop." I view it as a time saver (at the expense of perhaps finding "the perfect item") rather than as purely a nuisance. That said, I definitely prefer content without ads.


Advertising is not a public service. You don't need to weight benefits of it for it to exist.

This might seem harsh, but no one is weighing the benefits of your existence to decide whether you live or die. You own yourself and you can sustain yourself hence you exist. Similarly, advertisers exist because they can sustain themselves, they are not coercing you into viewing / using content laden with ads. You're voluntarily consuming content which has ads. If you don't like it don't use ad-laden products


> Advertising is not a public service. You don't need to weight benefits of it for it to exist.

This is a complete non-sequitur. Plenty of things that are not public services are regulated or even forbidden. In fact, most of the things that are regulated or forbidden are, and the decision to do so is always based on "weighing benefits/downsides of it."

> This might seem harsh, but no one is weighing the benefits of your existence to decide whether you live or die.

Actually, yes we do, it's called criminal law. It is used to lock up (or in some barbaric nations, end the lives of) people whose "benefits of existing" within society have been found wanting. For humans we just happen default to assuming innocents until proven otherwise.

And whether or not something can exist on its own has no connection to whether or not it should, except in regards to how hard it is to get rid of.

> You're voluntarily consuming content which has ads. If you don't like it don't use ad-laden products

No, I'm not. The society that exists around me as a whole is not my choice, at best I can poke and prod at it and hope if enough people push into the same direction something changes. Until alternate payment systems like Patreon came along there simply was no way of being both a full member of said society without being confronted (or actively blocking) ads.


Advertising is something that could easily be banned. You do need to weight benefits to decide if that’s a good decision or not.

Many places have made that decision.


> If you want to make a fair comparison, that should be compared to all the things you didn't find because useless ads took up your time and mental space.

Why would you save mental space for non-adverised products? Are you supposed to be a product researcher? Is that your job? Is time not valuable for you? Because efficient people buy the first thing they recall, for crap that doesn't matter.

> I've been TV- and ad-free since 2001 (yes, yes, I know: the "how do you know someone doesn't watch TV? They'll tell you"-smugness curse strikes again)

How many newspapers and magazines have you bought that contained ads?

Because your complaint is about user-experience, not advertising.

And yes, the anti-advertising smugness is the worst. Everybody advertises, always have, always will. I mean, you had Roman gladiators in ancient times that were sponsored by brands.


> Why would you save mental space for non-adverised products? Are you supposed to be a product researcher? Is that your job? Is time not valuable for you? Because efficient people buy the first thing they recall, for crap that doesn't matter.

So many implicit assumptions and premises I hardly know where to begin...

You're equating "spends a big budget on branding" with "quality", which is a ridiculous fallacy.

Yes, my time is valuable. So buying something that is sub-par for the job is a terrible investment of time and money. The idea that I need an advertisement to help decide which product to buy when I can compare products in the store (both physically or on-line) is also ridiculous.

Plus, the most efficient thing is to not buy crap that doesn't matter in the first place. And I'm a lot better at deciding what matters to me since invasive ads are out of my life.

> How many newspapers and magazines have you bought that contained ads? Because your complaint is about user-experience, not advertising.

First: no it's not. Ads are not equal across media. The amount of manipulation possible through moving pictures and sound is vastly worse than it is through paper advertisement. And for the record: almost none, I barely read the news, and when I do it's on-line, and the few magazines I read are imported so they target people from another country.

> And yes, the anti-advertising smugness is the worst. Everybody advertises, always have, always will. I mean, you had Roman gladiators in ancient times that were sponsored by brands.

This is starting to sound like That One Guy At The Party who gets uncomfortable because one other guest is a vegetarian, and then tries to prove the vegetarian friend is a hypocrite.


People do awful things to each others from the beginning of time, yes. Should we embrace it? No, we should learn to behave better.


Fine, then you won't mind installing an extension or enabling an option that opts you in into being served ads while you browse. I'm sure most of us anti-ads advocates have no problem with that.


I /technically/ opt-in by not running ad-block on my laptop, so I guess that's true.


Depends. How many products are you using which you first heard from via HN? That's a form of advertising too, albeit a lot less sleazy.


Aggregation sites, that use crowd sourcing to bubble up interesting content and products is a fundamentally different beast than paid advertising.


Is it? Can you easily differentiate fake "bubbled up" content? That is what the best advertising agencies have their hands around and have for some time.


It is until advertisers conspire to bubble their own content up.


Of course advertising works - that's why I resent it so much and go to great lengths to protect myself from it.


Advertising definitely works on me: it helps me decide what not to buy.


I have a different opinion. Yesterday I was cycling and passed by a very good restaurant close to my house, the local was empty, and I was wondering why it's empty if they are very good, they have very good food and relative cheaper prices. I just realised they don't do ads! They are very bad in marketing despite the fact of being an exceptional restaurant, nobody remember them, they waits they customers remember them. I talked to myself many times "I need to go back there", but they passes and I always forget it.

I did a parallel with my software business. You can have an exceptional software, but you can't stay frozen waiting your customers to find out you. Be very good is not enough on a world too much information.

But, I think the traditional ad industry is not sustainable. Nobody wants to see intrusive ads, I believe content marketing and organically ads (I don't know if this term really exists), like in sports, are the best for the long run.


There seems a good possibility that other less 'good' companies are stealing the clientele away with advertising.

That, without the lies and coercion from other companies this place would be doing well, based on its relevant outputs rather than on its [lack of] glossy advertising.


Yes, I am sure lower quality restaurants are stealing the clientele because they do ads and are remembered.


> You'll search it out or your friends will tell you what to buy.

That's a very simplified description of consumption. You make it sound like we only buy stuff we're in immediate need of and therefore actively search for.


The solution is to nationalize the advertising industry and force everything possible into a genuinely competitive market.

Have a government run product listing. Think Amazon reviews, Yelp & Companies house. But with government ID to verify reviewers and harsh police enforcement against fake reviews or miss-leading product descriptions. Make it clear there will be prison time for systematic abuse.

We're at a point where this is technologically trivial & the first country to do it properly will get a big advantage over any that doesn't follow suit quickly.

Any person or company offering a product or service can create an account & list their product (with a price & links to where to buy it). Anyone who's bought the product / service can create a review. Throw in some sensible rules about major product changes requiring listings to be updated.

But what about the advertising industry? Fund a massive nudge campaign to improve citizen behaviour. Tail the funding off over a few years, this is really just welfare for all the anti-workers to give them time to switch into doing something economically productive.


> With very few exceptions, especially in the consumer space, you won't need advertising if you actually need something. You'll search it out or your friends will tell you what to buy.

I typically use adverts to help me decide what to buy, but the adverts count as negative points towards the product, because I feel that if a product needs to rely on persuasion techniques, or to bombard my eyeballs all the time (especially if they're preroll-type adverts rather than passive banners) or if they're beside spammy adverts, then the product is likely crap anyway or the company are.

Blame all the spam for this attitude, and all the obtrusive crap that is shown to me against my will each day (it seems that almost no matter where I look, online or physical world, I'm bombarded with someones shitty adverts)


> adverts count as negative points towards the product > i use adverts to tell me what not to buy

These sorts of attitudes seem odd. What products do thses people buy, since pretty much everything being sold in the west is advertised in some way? It seems like the sort of think someone would say as a sort of virtue signalling, but I can't believe its a policy anyone could stick to.


I didn't say anywhere in my post that if I see an advert, the product is instantly blacklisted -- only that it counts as a negative. So, if I had to choose between two otherwise equal products, I would choose the one with the least (or least annoying/intrusive) advertisement.

I also perhaps should have said web adverts. I don't much pay attention to TV/radio/magazine/newspaper/billboard adverts, so I imagine I buy many products advertised there.

I'm also not saying I don't buy any products that are advertised or that adverts don't work on me, but rather that:

1) If I'm looking for a product, I'll search and read reviews and such, but if I see advertisements, it counts as a negative point. I may still buy the item if it doesn't have enough other negative points.

2) If I see the same irritating advert multiple times, I'll make a mental note to never buy it. A number of youtube preroll adverts have had this effect.


OK, I understand your point, if it's restricted to web adverts. But even then, I don't think the mere presence of an advert would ever be enough to stop me buying a product I otherwise wanted. I guess it's all just part of your own personal code of conduct/behaviour, everyone is different...


Absolutely. I'm not suggesting anybody else follow this, I was merely adding my own little anecdote.

Its just a signal though and probably a weaker one than I like to think, but in general, the spammy scummy misleading or annoying adverts are the ones that stick in my mind and then I make a mental note not to buy those things.

Most of my online shopping is "I want X, so I'll check the usual online stores that sell X". If I see adverts for these things, I always feel a bit like they're trying to influence me (because they are!) or mislead me (because _some_ are) and I feel like its not in my interest to buy what the adverts tell me. Of course, that doesn't mean I won't buy it, if I determine its really the best X, but I'll consider other stuff first.

Similarly, I consciously don't click on sponsored links and other such things, if I notice that this is what they are, because I feel like they're trying to trick me into visiting them because they make money from it, not because its a benefit to me.

(my offline shopping is mostly groceries, most clothes and other household things. For these I just browse my local shops and buy what I like -- no outside-of-store advertising plays a part here and in-store advertisement I typically ignore).

But.. yeah, to each their own :)


> no outside-of-store advertising plays a part here and in-store advertisement I typically ignore

Having read about the psychology of these things, I suspect you are more influenced than you would like. Even simple stuff like putting a more expensive product at the right height, and arranged in pleasing rows of identical objects, while the cheaper products are lower or higher (so difficult to get to) and in smaller quantities (so less of the pleasing identical objects effect) etc.

There are books on supermarket psychology, and I recall a good BBC documentary also, but can't think of any names right now, sorry.


This is total nonsense. Without advertising, how does a new competitor compete with the entrenched incumbents? How does anyone find out about your product? News media? Because media converage is often the result of having a paid PR firm pitching your story to reporters. Reporters then become the gatekeeper for what becomes successful or not. As far as word of mouth, that is very difficult to rely upon as a repeatable business model.

For example, if a smaller local bakery competing with a larger and more popular local bakery starts to make birthday cakes but they didn’t before — how does anyone in the community find out about it since people that buy birthday cakes typically go to the incumbent because they have no idea that the smaller bakery is starting to make great birthday cakes as well? It’s going to take a lot of time before that smaller bakery starts selling some cakes because nobody will know to go there for that purpose.

Advertising is precisely the tool that allows new market entrants to compete with the status quo. As another example how does anyone learn that they can run Windows on their Mac without Apple having advertised that fact? Tech writers? How do they find out? PR? PR is advertising too you know, a different kind, but it is still a paid effort to create market awareness of some product or service.

As far as “searching it out” — let’s take searching on Google or Bing as an example — the top organic results are the result of years of SEO; a new incumbent would be buried on page 20 for perhaps years which means that company will die waiting for word of mouth to start to happen. Meanwhile some big competitor with the budget for the extensive content marketing maintains their market leading position because there is literally no way for the new company to ever be discovered.

Advertising is critical if we are to have competition. If we want nothing but Soviet style companies, then sure, eliminate advertising. Good luck ever launching a new product or trying to disrupt anything especially in spaces where virility isn’t possible. A new, more effective adult diaper for instance — who’s going to run out and tell all their friends about that? How much does word of mouth influence a decision as to what car to buy? There’s some influence certainly, but my family of five has different needs than my single neighbor. So word of mouth isn’t so effective when discussing the finer points of 7 seat vehicles. So I search blogs? Ok, so what providers a blogger to review vehicles? Page views? For what? Bloggers will charge for subscriptions to read their content? Good luck with that. Micro payments could be a solution, but a company would still need to let the blogger know there is even a new car to review right? Or are the bloggers camped outside of dealerships waiting for unannounced new models to arrive?

PR is advertising, albeit a more indirect form and PR is very expensive.

My point; eliminating ads is bad for innovation and bad for companies who want to enter new markets.


you're on point.

Also, we don't need to weigh the pros and cons of advertising as long as all actions are voluntary.

Why is it somebody else's business to make the world suit your tastes, you need to put effort for it, either by paying or creating such a product in the world, not by imposing it on others with regulations


This is what the Cluetrain Manifesto was saying... in 1999.

http://www.cluetrain.com/


Have you ever heard of multi-level marketing? Let's all buy what our friends tell us to buy.


Come'on. When your friends don't have any vested interest, it works quite well.


Agreed. Friends or colleagues who I know aren't materially invested but still have strong opinions are extremely compelling. My usual line of questioning when I have the luxury is to ask what features of $thing they don't like - usually more insightful than pros.


That's interesting. I do something similar with online reviews on Trip Advisor and Amazon: I filter to look at only 1-3 star reviews (or sometimes only 2 and 3 star reviews if there are enough). In my experience, positive reviews are all the same, but negative reviews will give really good specifics. Then you judge just the relative proportion of reviews that are positive vs. negative.


I'm extra wary of TripAdvisor, Amazon, etc -- as I don't know the people making the reviews, and I tend to assume a fair amount of astroturfing. I'm not convinced that they haven't worked out how to game the reviews such that even the lower-rated reviews aren't positives in disguise, in a similar way to those interview questions along the lines of 'What's your biggest weakness?' -- "I am a perfectionist // I work too hard // I care too much // I need to make every project a success", etc.

Typically anyone that bothers to select a thing for purchase will examine all the features and attributes that they consider important, but often overlook the negated aspects that only come from familiarity with the product.


This happens because it's a business problem with perverse incentives across the entire advertising supply chain - and no amount of technical solutions will solve it.

It's the same issue with every anti-fraud vendor and the new hyped blockchain nonsense. Until buyers and agencies vote with their dollars, nothing will change.


The thing is people are voting with their dollars, but it's on credit.

People don't want to pay for "free" content, and "free" software. So instead they pay with malware, insane data charges, markups to pay for ads, markups to pay for dealing with fraud, the indefinite privacy tax of their data, markups extracted from monopoly positions, and much more.

The problem is people don't see all of these exorbitant fees, but they see that dollar in their wallet.


I'm not talking about consumers but advertisers who are the clients and the media agencies they hire to produce and execute these media campaigns.

The internet has increased efficiency and lowered prices but this also has an effect of amplifying any misaligned incentives - so now agencies which are bonused on clicks will deliver cheap clicks, whether it's actually producing sales or not.


What's your point? If they don't drive sales, they'll stop advertising or go out of business.

Not sure what's your concern here


Marketing is a 12 figure industry and billions are spent with little accountability and incentives that drive bad intrusive ads that break privacy and extract data at all costs.

That's my concern, as stated in my original comment describing why this situation exists and why companies working on purely technical anti-fraud measures will accomplish much of nothing.


> Marketing is a 12 figure industry and billions are spent with little accountability

Isn't it wonderful that they could improve the human standard of living to the measurement of billions of dollars? Everyone who makes a profit in a free market system did so by improving the lives of their fellow human beings, else no exchange would ever take place.

But I really don't get the "little accountability" comment. Accountable to who?

> incentives that drive bad intrusive ads that break privacy and extract data at all costs.

This is where things get hairy. In historical times privacy is only a secondary right which stems from one's primary right to property. Nowadays, people are erroneously trying to elevate privacy to be viewed as a primary right and that has very dangerous implications which undermine the primary right of property. (I believe many of the advocates know this and are purposefully using privacy as a means to undermined property rights).


What are you even talking about? Yes privacy today is and should be a primary right. We are no longer in "historical times" and privacy is implied in the 4th amendment as well as integral to many recent laws. This is also far away from what this post and thread is discussing:

Programmatic digital advertising today is full of fraud and terrible ad experiences because buyers of such advertising and the entire supply chain is too complex, has no direct accountability to sales or business results, is incentivized by localized myopic metrics and lacks any governmental regulation or consequences at all.


In order for their to be fraud you would have be a party in some economic transaction. In the case of advertising the parties are the ad provider and the content provider. Are you suggesting the content provider is being defrauded? How so? An advertisement which causes a browser to make thousands of request does not necessarily denote fraud unless the contract the ad provider and content provider had prohibits it.


There are more parties including the consumer and the ad buyer. Ad fraud almost always means the ad buyer being defrauded by buying digital advertising that is not executed according to contract terms, if at all.


In my comment the content provider is what you termed the ad buyer. When you say consumer, who are you referring to? A person who visits a website with an advertisement? If so, they are not a party involved in an economic transaction.

> Ad fraud almost always means the ad buyer being defrauded by buying digital advertising that is not executed according to contract terms, if at all

If this is what you mean by fraud, why do you say there are no consequences for the violation of the contract? The ad buyer can seek recourse through a civil suit. Additionally the ad buyer can switch to a different advertisement provider.


Content providers are publishers being subsidized by ad buyers who are served by ad service vendors to show ads to consumers. Consumers are involved since their attention is being monetized, that is an economic transaction.

Civil suits will cost more time and money than it would be worth. Also the supply chain is comprised of people who move between companies and buy from friends and whoever they like the most. Combine that with lack of government enforcement and the easy of forming a new company with a clean reputation and there are no consequences.


Well if you don't pay, how's the supplier of said free service going to survive.

Note: I'm not supporting viruses and malware, here in my argument


Good grief, it's like an invisible war going on inside your browser.

> We're on a mission to drive them out of business

But if you succeed, won't you go out of business? It's like antivirus vendors: if there were no malware, there'd be no need for AV software. How do you remain ethical? If you win, will you close up shop?


Ad security is very weak by design because it allows any fourth-party to serve html/javascript on any website. As long as this is the norm, we'll be around to protect publishers and their audience. Beyond ads, everything we built applies to the web in general so if we ever run out of bad ads, we'll expand in different directions.

edited for clarity


I think that "effectively rid the world of shitty ad fraudsters" is a strong credential in one's CV. Jobs won't be hard to find!


>Good grief, it's like an invisible war going on inside your browser.

I find it incredibly interesting that the evolutionary-arms-race of ads and viruses versus blockers is mimicking the development of actual genetic evolution.

There's that XKCD comic that mentions if you want to look at 20 years of code evolution, look the source for the google homepage. Now imagine what your genetic code looks like after 800 million years.

I don't have any insight or education to back me up here, but I believe that even if we were to re-engineer the internet from the ground up we'd still get an evolutionary arms race, simply because a space with potential to exploit a system will always exist.


>To maximize their yield, they resend ad requests in a loop to multiple parties every few seconds until an ad clears, leading to this massive network load.

They are stalling for time in every allowed way to get more bids.

A standard tactic for company like theirs is to send duplicate lots for a single impression, and reload the ad few times per second once they get overriding bids even if one of lots was already sold.


> fake video preroll ad placements

Can you explain this further? Who is getting defrauded here?


Advertisers.

Preroll ads are valuable because people are mostly paying attention. eg you went to youtube to watch X, and they show you 15 seconds of swiffer beforehand.

The problem is there aren't enough preroll ad slots available to satisfy demand.

Therefore, companies invent them. One thing I know people are doing is this: film a video every day. Talk about who cares. It could be upcoming movies; the tv show with dragons; whatever. Buy an ad slot. Play your video. Put a preroll or interstitial ad in your video. Tada! You just turned dirt cheap ad inventory into expensive video ad inventory. Of course, if the viewer leaves the page too fast, you lose the money you spent. So this is an arbitrage play.

The problem with manufacturing video ad inventory is that almost all the manufactured stuff is either (1) off onto the side, or (2) not gating something that a viewer wants to see. And hence, they don't receive attention.

Make sense?

Legit video advertisers and publishers are all unhappy about this, because this shitty faked inventory drops the value of the real thing, ie preroll ads in main content that the user wishes to see.

Oh, and publishers get very unhappy because (1) many of them are ok with picture ads but not at all okay with autoplay video ads; (2) if they're going to put autoplay videos on their page and take the hit for (rationally) pissed off users, the pub wants to pocket that $5-$25cpm rather than get paid for still picture ads and let some arbitrager steal the difference.


>Preroll ads are valuable because people are mostly paying attention. eg you went to youtube to watch X, and they show you 15 seconds of swiffer beforehand.

Personal anecdote time.

Preroll ads are the main force for me behind installing the adblocker. I just can not stand something that manipulates my flow. I call it televication of the Internet. It is unbearable.

If for some reason I am not able to block them then I just do not watch them and I am not listening to them (I look elsewhere, say a lalala mantra in your mind).

I also taught my family to do so.

So advertisers actually loose in the long term.


> Preroll ads are the main force for me behind installing the adblocker

They are certainly one of the most annoying classes of ads, which is why I was exceptionally annoyed when Amazon put one before a Prime video I was watching a few days ago.

Granted it was for an Amazon product, but any sort of ad in a paid service is _extremely_ annoying.


I've always hated how you pay ~$8-15 for a movie ticket, and then have to sit through half an hour of ads. What the hell??


The issue of that is that for the first month, between 40 and 90% of the ticket price goes directly to the studio (not to the cinema). Plus you pay (cheapest value for Frozen, English, 2D, 6 months after release) usually at least 8'000€ per week to rent the movie.

So the cinema has to somehow make money – and that is with ads and food.


> If for some reason I am not able to block them then I just do not watch them and I am not listening to them (I look elsewhere, say a lalala mantra in your mind).

I've started using a similar strategy on YouTube in order to selectively "protest" against bad ads. Whenever I stumble upon a long unskippable ad or a short very aggressive ad (loud and/or offensive), I mute the video and start reading comments for a while, or I alt+tab to a different video, etc. Sometimes I leave the page if the video (or uploader) is not worth the hassle.

In my mind this can lead to 3 different scenarios:

* Google notices this behavior and decides to enforce heavier regulation on ads (they already killed >30s unskippable ads this year).

* Google notices this behavior and tries to fight it (e.g. by pausing the ad if the volume is not low enough, the Spotify way). In the browser this leads to an arms race that Google can't win. In the worst case I would go back to avoiding all advertising using adblock and/or alternative financing if available (YouTube RED, patreon, etc.)

* Google doesn't react, bad ads lose so much value that most uploaders stop using them. They don't want to alienate their viewers for so little benefit.

We need many people to apply this strategy for this to work. However in the short term content creators still get paid, and I get the personal satisfaction of screwing over bad advertisers.


Google already pause ad play if you change app/tab focus; my perception is (on Android?) this is a recent change. So you have to have the video ad playing to get to the point when you can skip it. So, like you I turn away - it's really annoying, but that just makes it more attention grabbing.


You are right, this does not work as well on mobile (at least on android). There is also no mute button on the YouTube app.

The funny thing is that they also pause videos when changing app/tab (not only ads), because background playback is a YouTube RED "feature". I would understand if YouTube RED was available in more than 5 countries. They have been artificially depriving their users of a basic feature for years and for nothing.

In the meantime I simply avoid watching long YouTube videos on my phone, and use NewPipe to listen to podcasts hosted on youtube (which means no ad revenue...).


> If for some reason I am not able to block them then I just do not watch them and I am not listening to them (I look elsewhere, say a lalala mantra in your mind).

Ah yes, the realization that all the spy-economy-supported content provides vanishingly little value to your life, and that if they managed to actually lock things down so you couldn't block ads it'd harm you not at all to simply stop looking at their stuff. A liberating state of mind.


What am I actually supposed to do in those 15 seconds?


Huh? I mean stop watching the low-value media supported by ads, if you can't skip the ads. We're awash in excellent media. The best humanity's created for the last few millennia. The problem of this age (at least in the developed world) is deciding what not to look at. In that environment, most of the stuff behind 15-second ad videos isn't worth my time if I can't block the ad.

If ad-blocker-blocking gets too good, I could ditch it at an infinitesimal cost to my quality of life. My alternatives are many and could last a few lifetimes even if no new content of any kind were produced at all. News, even? A news habit is of about as much practical value as a soap opera habit. I could drop this stuff like that. No problem. Go ahead and somehow permanently break my adblocker or wall off a large part of the web behind custom protocols and DRM. Bye bye.

[EDIT] the "realization" I meant in my earlier post was that, on examination, one may find that desire to watch/hear/read most ad-supported media is so low that not only is it not a need, it's barely even a want.


Twitch gets me which is unfortunate because they are generally providing a good service. They hit you with one of these ads pretty much every time you change channels, no matter how frequently.


In flight entertainment on United does the same thing. I practically have the barracuda networks pre-roll memorized by now. But if it helps United provide more content without raising prices, then I am ok enduring a 30 second ad. Content costs money — either the consumer pays directly or an advertiser pays. But people don’t make movies for free — at least not if they want to continue making movies.

Also, ads in YouTube — the content creator enables that so they can get paid.


You could always subscribe and get ad free viewing.

That way they can pay for the good service they provide without needing advertisers.


Even when you press "pop-out" on the player


Everyone feels the pain:

Publisher gets paid on a $1 CPM basis while Cedato gets paid $5-10 CPM and pockets the difference.

Advertiser thinks they paid for quality video content preroll but it's actually a tiny rectangle normally used for "display" ads.

Audience is infuriated. Think about what happens on a 4G mobile plan now that VPAID has been fully migrated from Flash to JS...


The only person who cares about that, though, is the audience. Advertisers as a group don't really care that much. Right now, Online Ad Spend is growing industry wide, so fraud like this is just chalked up as an efficiency loss, on growing market. No one else in the chain cares.


The publisher cares because they delivered a worse experience for user for no $


And you can't even install ad blockers on the phone.


"And you can't even install ad blockers on the phone."

Nonsense. I've been using Firefox + uBlock Origin on Android for years. There are even browsers/add-ons that can disable JavaScript completely, but I find it too much of a hassle.


my mistake, can't edit my comment now. *iphone I mean



Crystal for iOS as one example. Safari provides support for adblockers in both mobile and desktop.


Firefox Mobile, uBlock Origin.

Adblockers are here.


Or Brave on Android; it's basically indistinguishable from Chrome (or whatever the Android standard browser currently is called).


Just tried this. Other than having to redo all my forums passwords again this browser looks to be a winner. On my phone firefox ran very slowly and hogged too many resources.


Try nightly - 57 feels like it has big performance gains on my ageing 1+


Or root and AdAway if you're looking to block them in other apps as well.


My iPhone has them just fine, and Android being less locked down makes me think it probably does too


It's possible it's more likely on Android.

However I don't think it's a given that it will be prompted by Google, or will continue to be the case.

Google is an advertising company. Android, does not make money through licensing. It makes money by being a vehicle for advertising. Apple on the other hand, make money through selling products. Advertising (on the web) shouldn't make much difference to them, and helps put pressure on the competing platform as well as Adblocking being a potentially valuable feature to help sell their products.


How? I can't install plugins into my Chrome on iPhone 6s.

And you can't switch the default browser so it only helps in 30 % of the cases (when you are not inside Facebook/Twitter/etc and when you are not clicking a link that opens the default browser)


But you can install Brendan Eich's ad-blocking Brave browser

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_(web_browser)


I'll try this one on all my phones. Thanks.


My browsing experience on a mobile phone stepped up greatly since I started using Firefox Focus. You don't even need to mess around with plugins because ad blocking is already a built-in core feature.


As others have said, now is actually a really rich time for ad/tracker-blocking browsers:

* Brave

* Firefox Focus

* Ghostery

to name but three.


Great stuff. We do similar work at Publir [1] on behalf of high-traffic news publishers, although we do this largely by maintaining our own exchange. We filter for bad actors on the intake side.

[1] http://publir.com


You're doing gods work. We're a small-ish publisher, and i constantly am battling these pre-roll video ads getting stuffed into display ad placements. The biggest offender I've seen, apart from Cedato, is C1Exchange. At one point, they were serving preroll video ads into 100% of our display units, completely disregarding A) that we turned off video display units and B) that all of the units on the page are 728x90. It's straight-up fraud.


Who is your market? I've built a product that collects data like this, but we couldn't find any buyers. The short end of it, was no one in the market has an incentive to pay for it, except for the advertisers, and the advertisers just chalk it up to an efficiency loss in a growing market.

If I don't get upvoted enough for a reply,I keep a spam account at no.good.email.names.left.16534 a t gmail


How is that not fraud?


It absolutely is fraud. I worked on one of those big video exchanges and we'd sometimes see ads run through our own system multiple times. We couldn't spot it until after the ad ran because of the way the ad actually plays. It ends up a bunch of black box Russian dolls, where the spec says you call methods on the ad unit you are playing, which will just wrap another ad unit, which in turn wraps another ad unit.

We could piece together what happened sometimes after the fact, but not reliably.


As an example, I'm currently diagnosing an issue where an ad refuses to play in our player as it incorrectly identifies itself as being adblocked. We load the advertiser provided ad (really a DoubleVerify fraud protection module) which loads a custom video player which eventually loads the advertiser's media file. The DoubleVerify script is downloading a bootstrap JavaScript file from their server, which then randomly chooses some other JavaScript to eval to check for whatever they think indicates fraud. It's this JavaScript, dynamically downloaded from their server (possibly even dynamically generated) that thinks our ad player is an ad blocker.

And that's just diagnosing a bug, now imagine if you were trying to find some malicious JS.


It was definitely worse when it was all flash. At least JavaScript has ubiquitous debug tooling.

VPAID 3.0 (or is it 4.0?) has some proposals to fix this. It makes fraud analysis a first class citizen of the spec, sort of like companion ads. This allows them to be downloaded separately, as well as cached.


it's fraud.


This is a scam that should be investigated by the FTC.


To be clear, what exactly are you referring to by "this"?


Where's your hiring page?


Went to your website, don't see a careers or jobs page?


In related news, uBlock Origin has finally (today) been converted to a WebExtension and is now fully compatible with Firefox 57 and beyond.

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/ublock-origin


it's been a webextension for a while now, the only reason it has been listed as otherwise by Mozilla is because of the update wrapper

https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/issues/2576#issue-22541793...

https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/issues/2862#issuecomment-3...


Yep. I've been running it on nightly for a while now just by going to the development channel version.


I’ve switched to Ghostery, and it seems to work fine. Should I go back to uBlock Origin?


Ghostery has or has had some controversial analytics called GhostRank that it collects(it may be opt-in I'm not sure). But uBlock Origin is definiently the best content filtering extension I've ever used.


I think it’s opt-in. All the “share data” checkboxes in the “Support Ghostery” panel are unchecked for me.


It's opt-in, and has also been acquired by a company building a privacy-focused browser (I think?).


From what I see, it’s a small German startup that puts emphasis on user privacy. Sounds fine to me.


I personally prefer privacy badger over both. You can't add trackers to Ghostery, and I don't much care about ads that don't track me (I don't watch internet videos, I might not have this opinion if I did), and any particularly annoying ads just get blocked manually in privacy badger.

On mobile, there unfortunately is no such thing (no user scripts on chrome or Firefox, no privacy badger either), so I usually just disable JavaScript or use whatever privacy browser I have installed (currently Firefox Focus).


Privacy Badger is available on Firefox for Android. You might want to take a look at it if you use Android.

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/android/addon/privacy-badge...


Firefox Focus also applies its privacy features to Safari browsing; are there any benefits to actually using Focus as a browser?


I use both. uBlock Origin catches pre-roll ads on YouTube as well as some other things that Ghostery lets through.


I use Disconnect rather than Ghostery in addition to uBlock.


Note that updating to the web extension version will wipe all your ublock settings, custom filters, rules etc. Back up your settings first


It means it will work in Edge out of the box as well?


There has been a uBlock version for Edge for quite a while now; or am I missing something?

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/ublock-origin/9nblgg...


Yeah but it's a fork to work with Edge. But AFAIK Edge can work with all webextensions because it is using exactly the same APIs as Firefox.


Ah, interesting, I hadn't heard about that. Seems like it should work in Edge then, at least with minimal changes:

WebExtensions APIs are inspired by the existing Google Chrome extension APIs, and are supported by Opera, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. [1]

On the other hand the Edge version seems to no longer be very actively maintained, but the original repository[2] still links to the Edge repository[3] for installation.

[1]https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/Add-ons/WebExtensions/Wh... [2]https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/ [3]https://github.com/nikrolls/uBlock-Edge/


I'm actually rather surprised that companies like Google aren't offering solutions to integrate ads into the delivery of the page content itself rather than JavaScript at this point, as it's pretty easy to block the specific domains serving ads. It seems relatively straightforward; the ads would be pre-rendered on the server providing the response and could send the same info a script would for the most part, especially if there was an auxiliary script you could load from your own domain. Not that I'm endorsing the idea, it's just that it seems like an obvious solution to the usage of ad blockers.


I never quite understood why domain-blocking works so well for ad-blockers. I'm surprised why sites don't just use a reverse proxy or something to serve from those ad domains. What am I missing?


If the ads were static (e.g. advertiser A bought a specific place on one of publisher B's pages, for a month), and advertiser A didn't want independent verification that the ads were seen, then your proposal could be simply implemented.

"What am I missing?"

Many ads are served after real-time auction: whilst your browser is loading and rendering the page, an auction is going between advertisers for the ad spot(s) on the page. The auction happens quickly, but it adds latency. Adding a reverse proxy would add further latency, and would remove the ability for ad networks to properly target ads (e.g. using cookies) and account for impressions.


Which reveals a problematic truth. The tracking is worth more than getting rid of ad blocking.


Or some amount of well-targeted advertising is worth more than a larger amount of poorly-targeted advertising.


Would you mind expanding a bit on this real-time auction thing, like how common it is and what the process looks like, or could you point me in the direction of the sources you used to make that claim?

Thanks!


There used to be a great article on Searchengineland about it but I can't find it now. And it was originally patented by GoTo[1] and Google was sued by Overture[2] with mixed results[3]. It did give Yahoo! which owned Overture at the time some Google stock (2.7M shares).[4] (Which, interestingly enough, if they had held would be worth more than $2B today)

[1] https://www.google.com/patents/US6269361

[2] https://www.cnet.com/news/overture-sues-google-over-search-p...

[3] http://www.waltmire.com/2014/06/02/inventor-of-pay-per-click...

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/10/business/technology-google...


The ad auctions that happen on Google (and Yahoo etc) are a simpler version of what happens on the web since there's only one publisher (i.e Google) and a single 'ad network' (i.e. AdWords).

On the web, there are multiple publishers, served by multiple ad networks and multiple exchanges (and it's turtles all the way down)

Nowadays, bidding on the web happens through the OpenRTB protocol. See https://www.iab.com/guidelines/real-time-bidding-rtb-project... http://sharethrough.com/guides/programmatic-native/


I am constrained by the non-disclosure I signed when I left Google from disclosing how I know this, but I know that the auctions on Google are "not a simpler version" :-).

That said, I think IAB's efforts to make auction priced advertising available to people who don't use Google's ad network is commendable.


AppNexus[0] used to provide RTB to many networks in 2011, including Google and Facebook. Isn't that still the case?

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AppNexus


If you search for the terms "real time bidding" and "ad exchange", you will find a lot of literature on how it works. The explanation and the technical underpinnings are a bit involved, which is why I'm not just outright explaining here, but you will find explanations pretty readily.


If you poke around AppNexus, you will find what you are looking for. The process is basically: a visitor comes to the site, each connected ad network/buyer has 100ms to provide a bid, the top bidder wins.


What happens with ad blocking visitors? They never become a visitor to bid for?

I'd actually like for my ad blocker to download all ads and pretend to download the ad, and give the impression of an impression. That way someone would have made a bid for that impression.

Otherwise what will happen is that as ad blocking use becomes more and more widespread, the ad viewers become fewer but more profitable (Ironically perhaps more profitable on average than the original set of viewers, because adblock users weren't likely to click in the first place).

If ad blocking is to be a way of killing online advertising in its current form, and not just improving the browser experience (and this is what I think should be the goal) then it needs to cheat the ad networks, they can't just pretend the request never happened.


> I'd actually like for my ad blocker to download all ads and pretend to download the ad, and give the impression of an impression. That way someone would have made a bid for that impression.

https://adnauseam.io/


Yeah I don't really think the idea of cheating any further (i.e. fake-clicking the ad) is necessary. I just want to appear like a regular ad-viewing browser that doesn't click ads.


So like your IP, browser version, plugins installed etc etc get leaked to 100s of connected buyers? How is that even remotely legal in certain EU countries?


It's called Real Time Bidding. It gets very complicated, and performance is usually priority #1.


>performance is usually priority #1.

Not usually. Stalling for time in every allowed way to get more bids is something usual


The proxy suggestion seems to have merit though, it would still give advertisers the ability to run auctions, track users and ad views, etc, while avoiding domain filtering.

OTOH I suspect ad blockers would adapt quickly... it's not clear it would be worth the investment to set up.


It would generally stop advertisers from being able to verify ad impression, or to correlate users across sites. killing the most successful advertising whale (retargeting) in the process.


Why is that?

Assuming that the advertising site would just have a proxy that tunnelled everything to the ad server, would the ad server not get the exact same traffic?

Do you mean that the problem is that the site showing the ads could easily fake more client traffic to the ad server?


> site showing the ads could easily fake

Yes, that's what I mean by "unable to verify"; If the site is honest, everyone would be just as happy, but there is already so much fraud, even with (relatively) trustworthy Google and Facebook, that everyone wants some ability to verify; If all the traffic goes only through the site, that ability is lost.

> Assuming that the advertising site would just have a proxy that tunnelled everything to the ad server, would the ad server not get the exact same traffic?

Not exactly - the wide-sense-cookies[0] that allow the ad server to track users across different web sites would not be. Fingerprinting[1] would still work subject to advertisers trusting the proxy.

[0] including flash objects, etags, localstorage, etc, see https://samy.pl/evercookie/ for a 7-year-old discussion.

[1] https://panopticlick.eff.org/


They wouldn't be able to track users across publishers and through to their conversion pages.


So what happens when ads are being blocked? Does the real-time auction still occur?


No, usually the ad blockers will block the SSP's script which (depending on implementation) is either responsible for managing the auction, or calling a server which manages the auction. In theory it's possible for the adblocked to miss the SSP but block the eventual winner of the auction and at least on the demand side, we don't pay out for the lack of an impression (not sure of the terms between SSPs and publisher as to which of the two end up eating the lost opportunity, but I suspect the SSP's push it back to the publisher)


Offtopic: The website in your profile http://encona.com/ seems to be down.


Pro tip: not all domain names have an associated website. Mine neither.


Pro pro tip, it did at one point ;-)

https://web.archive.org/web/20150925213001/encona.com/


Haha, yes it did. But it had little traffic and what little useful information it contained is mostly out of date.


Encona is also a very popular and in my opinion delicious brand of hot spicy sauces in the UK.


Yup. I live in China now, so bring back a few bottles of Encona's 'original' hot pepper sauce on each visit to the UK.


Yeah, but they usually have a DNS record. Which, encona.com does. text and MX, just no A or CNAME.


If I understand correctly, I don't think an A record is necessary if you're just using the domain for email.

I only use mine for email. I have an A record but that just results in a 'No page found' page hosted by my DNS provider. Without the A record my email would still work but browsing to k45j.com would give a 'This site can’t be reached' the same way encona.com


Yep, that's correct.


An MX record perhaps.


Probably a bad idea to let ad companies serve from your domain. It would give them access to cookies and local context javascript.


That's exactly what the adtech industry is starting to do. They've even got WordPress and Cloudflare plugins that can dynamically reinsert blocked ads via their proxy.


Maybe not with the techniques they're using now, but if humans can tell it's an ad, then an ad blocker with say an image recognition model can too.


Easy- just make ads that humans can't tell are ads. Also helps if you make ads that the FCC can't tell are ads! As they've been doing.... sigh.


First page impression :

I'm just going to sip from my delicious cup of Niscafe coffee, the best around, while I write this review of the Nvodua graphics card.

Next page impression

I'm just going to dab my brow with the silky smooth Kloonix napkin, the best around, while I write this review of the Nvodua graphics card.

etc.


Native content can be really difficult for humans to distinguish.


Surely there will be an eventual crackdown of sponsored content that isn't marked as such.


Crackdown by whom?

Advertisers and publishers are generally in favor of it, consumers don't care, watchdogs are toothless.


In the US, the FTC. Or do you consider them toothless? It does seem like they're at least making the appearance of trying: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/03/lord-...


Product placement is legal in TV, why not papers published on arxiv?


Just wait for Bayesian filters that block specific areas of the downloaded content.


Core War, only for adtech. Let the games begin.


Canvas + WebAssembly to the advertisers rescue. You didn't really think this technology was created to make life better for users did you?


As long as I am able to block any element I want using my browser (and god help us if we reach a state where we can't), I won't have to look at any ad for more than 2 seconds. Any website that has too many ads to disable manually, or is in some way embedded with critical parts of the website is simply not worth my time.


> As long as I am able to block any element I want using my browser (and god help us if we reach a state where we can't)

Render content & ads on a single canvas?


I believe that falls under

> Any website that has too many ads to disable manually, or is in some way embedded with critical parts of the website is simply not worth my time.


> They've even got WordPress and Cloudflare plugins that can dynamically reinsert blocked ads via their proxy.

Using https with CDNs is basically a very funny large scale practical joke.


Advertisers/ad networks need to serve ads from their own domains so that they can identify the visitor via 3rd-party cookies and serve the most appropriate ad.


> serve the most appropriate ad

Is it just me, or is this approach not very useful? I'll google for a certain product, do a little bit of research and then buy what I finally picked. Then I'm stuck with seeing ads for similar products for the forseeable future. Ads for a product I already bought and no longer have an interest in.

I think ads would actually do better if they're just targeted to the demographic that fits the page I'm currently looking at without being personalized.


> I think ads would actually do better if they're just targeted to the demographic that fits the page I'm currently looking at without being personalized.

There's a gap: Getting search/retargeting interest information is almost instant, but finding out you've purchased is hard and takes time.

However it's effective enough: Retargeting boosts most verticals by as much as 3-5x, and where that one click pays $1 the ads cost about $3 per thousand to display them.


No, they don't "need" to do that. Not any more than newspaper, magazine or television advertisers "need" to know anything about the individuals seeing the ad, beyond the target demographic of the publication. They do it because there's money in it, but if website owners could put the welfare of their customers ahead of the relentless pursuit of profit by serving manually curated, static, untargeted ads we could have a much nicer web.


It's the easiest way to serve an dynamic ad, it will require further configuration to get it to go through your own domain, and ad blockers block by element selectors and ad placement, so even those served through your domain will eventually get blocked. To avoid adblocker one would have to actually blend the ad with page moving it in the page to avoid getting detected, which might not be acceptable UX/UI.


Please elaborate. I assumed just the opposite was the case.


Sites do this. For example, see Instart Logic: https://github.com/gorhill/uBO-Extra/wiki/Sites-on-which-uBO...


You've just described internet advertising circa 1997. Then Google came along...


Yes, but shortly after Google came along, ad blockers (or simply adding 127.0.0.1 analytics.google.com to your hosts file) also became popular.

Why hasn't anyone responded to that?


I suspect the only way ad companies would trust this is if the pages were served from a third party (someone not directly making money off of the ads).


Too easy to fake impressions. And it would break with caching.


I've thought of a few ways to do this, as you say there are a handful of good ways to do it. My issue has always been that (1) I'm not a good salesman (2) I wouldn't know where to get advertisers.

Would love to help build the tech if someone could deal with the business.


> I'm actually rather surprised that companies like Google aren't offering solutions to integrate ads into the delivery of the page content itself rather than JavaScript at this point

Isn't that what AMP is?


AMP still requests ads separately from the page and it still loads any ad without objections. It's just that if the ad is also written in AMP and signed by a validation service, it qualifies for faster loading instead of being delayed by at least 2 seconds (or is it more?) after page load and throttled to 1 ad load per second on top of that when there are multiple ad slots.


> I'm actually rather surprised that companies like Google aren't offering solutions to integrate ads into the delivery of the page content itself rather than JavaScript at this point, as it's pretty easy to block the specific domains serving ads.

You mean native advertising?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_advertising

https://developers.google.com/doubleclick-publishers/docs/na...


I was under the impression that while some pure domain blocking occurs, a lot of the rules engines seem to be written against page content that matches specific patterns, not specific domains, so I don't know if it would help serve more ads that much.


Doesn't Accelerated Mobile Pages offer something like that? That puts all your content on the Google domain, including the ads (or some version of them, I think?).


AMP ads are still served from other domains; but you have the option of writing them in AMP and having them validated & signed by a service to qualify for faster loading.


Blockers already have content rules.


Kind of like youtube content creators now put ads in the actual video?


To be clear, it's against YouTube's rules to embed advertiser-supplied content (like a video, image, audio clip, etc.) directly in a YouTube video. YouTubers are free to take money for product placements and endorsements, though, as long as Google is notified.

https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/154235?hl=en


There are plenty of ad servers that offer APIs for doing that.


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