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Google Will Pay Publishers for ‘The Night of the Yellow Ad’ (adexchanger.com)
128 points by potench 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments





Made me think of an art project in a shopping street in Vienna over 10 years ago where all advertisements and logos were covered by yellow foil. I remember quite liking it back in the day.

https://www.fontblog.de/fontblog-archiv/C1716572149/E9454162... http://dativ.at/fotos/panoramas/neubaugasse.html


Sao Paulo made that into law, banning outdoor advertising: https://99percentinvisible.org/article/clean-city-law-secret...

Moscow introduced a similar design code in the city centre, it's unrecognisable from 5 years ago: http://www.artlebedev.com/moscow/design-code/

2 cents per advert and the would explodes. That’s what your mental health is worth chaps.

One thing I find consistently underwhelming is how much money is actually being paid for individual ad locations, both digital and especially physical space. Ie, a sizeable city's public space being fully plastered with (nowadays animated) ads _might_ add 1% to the city's spending budget, but even that number seems high, and the proportionality is totally screwed between the public benefits and downsides.

I just wanted to add that the grass is always greener on the other side. I've spent a decade in Maine where advertising is mostly non-existent, and I loved traveling to Boston or NYC where I got to see the result of giant advertising budgets.

Do you mean for the novelty or because you actually enjoyed the advertising?

I love how billboards (which are essentially banned in Maine) add to the major roads. I love seeing giant ads slapped on the side of buildings, reminding me that the second season of 13 reasons why is now on Netflix. I love seeing advertisements for SaaS companies. It makes me feel like I'm in civilization, and it reminds me of my childhood in Peru.

I had no idea that anyone on earth felt this way.

This is genuinely an insane opinion

There's some novelty at specific locations (Times Square, Picadilly Circus), sure. I also seek out adverts (blatent ones, like trailers, or christmas adverts), but those are on my terms.

I had the misfortune of hearing a few minutes of commercial radio in a taxi when I'd forgotton my earphones the other day. The assault on the senses that advertising brings is unbelievable.


What's the downside? It's not like they removed artwork from the subway wall in order to cover it with ads.

I get that some people don't like seeing ads but there's all sorts of public infrastructure that people would rather not look at.


Most other public infrastructure doesn't try to make you unhappy or manipulate your desires in every aspect of your life.

Edit: I wish there was some sort of go-to essay on how and why advertising is bad, backed by academic sources. It would make arguing against ubiquitous ads just a bit easier.


>Most other public infrastructure doesn't try to make you unhappy or manipulate your desires in every aspect of your life.

Taxes make me unhappy and yes, all sorts of things the government does, many of them related to infrastructure are designed to manipulate people at scale. Often it's manipulation for "the greater good". Sometimes it's not.

Having my infrastructure subsidized slightly more by ads and less by taxes makes me less unhappy.

Advertising on public space is highly unobtrusive, like a banner ad compared to some JS advert that covers the whole canvas and tries to trick you into clicking it.

The overwhelming majority of of advertisement is irrelevant to any given person. I'm not in the market for ED pills, high end vodka or student loan refinancing. When it's irrelevant like that it's just white noise. If I do see something relevant them maybe I'll look into it and maybe exchange my money for whatever is being sold and it's a win for both parties.

Paying for infrastructure is a necessary evil. That money has to come from somewhere. Ads are a fundamentally less evil way of satisfying that necessity than taxes.

Also, the ads on the subway have never tried to run malicious code on me and don't report my metadata to Google/FB/the NSA/etc.


>Ads are a fundamentally less evil way of satisfying that necessity than taxes.

Strongly disagree. Advertising is obtrusive, distracting, ugly. It defaces our public infrastructure and crowds our minds. It lets companies into our brains nearly everywhere, companies who generally are working hard to make the world a worse place by overharvesting the earths' natural resources in order to make junk to sell to us, or to enrich a select few by selling an experience to the rest of us.

I don't watch television partly to avoid sitting through ads. Raise my taxes to pay for ad-free streets, subways, and everything else that isn't so optional for me.


>...the ads on the subway have never tried to run malicious code on me...

Ads that are trying to psychologically manipulate you are doing worse than running malicious code on your machines, they are trying to run malicious code on your brain.

Research has shown time and again that there are exploits to trick human minds, and you cant really just update your brain to shut those down. You can try to be mindful of them and avoid them, but if they are plastered literally everywhere when you go out into public, that becomes a much harder task


>Research has shown time and again that there are exploits to trick human minds, and you cant really just update your brain to shut those down. You can try to be mindful of them and avoid them, but if they are plastered literally everywhere when you go out into public, that becomes a much harder task

There's a BBC documentary series called "The Century of the Self" about the invention of modern PR/propaganda by an Austrian gentleman named Edward Bernays.[1] He basically perfected the art of propagating fake news. (If you've read "The Fish That Ate The Whale" you'll recognize the name - he's the one who helped the CIA overthrow the Guatemalan government.)

The series is three or four parts and the first episode is a bit heavy on how Freud's pop-psychology was the catalyst that started it all (Bernays is related to him, though I don't recall exactly how) but oh man was my mind blown when I got to the part about "manufacturing consent." It's incredible the master manipulation machine this guy was running in the 1950's. It's even more incredible when you realize that our brains still work the exact same way. We still fall for these tricks time and again but now, thanks to the internet, they're harder to resist and we can fall for them faster and more efficiently.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bernays


I knew someone would make this comparison.

The ability for an static ad to screw with your mind is orders of magnitude less than the ability of code running in your browser to engage in nefarious behavior with the aim of stealing your PII for the purpose of financial crime or just intrusive tracking.

Subway ads are like boring old banner ads on websites that are only targeted based on the content of the websites they are on.

>Research has shown time and again that there are exploits to trick human minds, and you cant really just update your brain to shut those down.

It's very hard to run those exploits when your level of access is "2x2 square of glossed folder paper on the wall"

Static print advertisement like found on subways is orders of magnitude less bad than TV, online and arguably radio ads. I don't see why there is some perceived moral argument against using them to help pay for the upkeep of society.


I don't find that they are less of a threat. We can find and fix issues in machines because a human mind is outside of the system evaluating and fixing things. When the mind itself is being manipulated there is nothing above that making fixes.

As for the "perceived moral argument". I don't see why everyone in society should be subjected to psychological attacks constantly to keep taxes lower.

These are value judgements so people are going to have different opinions that aren't based on immutable laws of nature. If you're going to assume that the other side is ridiculous because you don't hold the same opinion, why even engage in a debate in the first place?


Edit: I wish there was some sort of go-to essay on how and why advertising is bad, backed by academic sources. It would make arguing against ubiquitous ads just a bit easier.

Could there be a reason there isn't one?


It's just one search away! This is what a search for "the effects of advertising on self-esteem" on DDG yields the following Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_advertising_on_teen...

The footnotes are full of peer-reviewed articles like: "Impact of exposure to idealised male images on adolescent boys’ body image"[1]. I spent about 2 minutes on this and this only covers a small sliver of the impact advertising can have on mental health.

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S17401...


I wonder if solving captchas to train neural networks would be less annoying and more valuable in the long run?

All in all that's how the exact addresses were mapped in Google Maps.


What's amazing to me is that so many people clicked on what would otherwise be an ignored ad space.

Extremely high click-through-rate isn't good generally. I can make something very vague and get high CTR but the conversion will be awful and a waste of money. For an awareness or cost per impression campaign it would be good though.

Compared to the average display ad the bright yellow grabs attention and "The night of the yellow ad" makes you curious


I am annoyed that I missed out on the opportunity to do so. Running ad-blockers has its downsides.

Incidentally, we have archive evidence of print adverts and they tell as much about how we used to live as what old newspapers do. With digital adverts there is no trace or evidence that the adverts ever existed.

Different times, different attitudes. The rash of crypto-currency adverts from last year promising untold wealth would look utterly crazy at any other time than then. Someone needs to save the adverts - including yellow squares - for posterity.


So what was the mistake? Why pay full price when it's worth the lower bid that would have won anyway?

Googles ad market is a 2nd price auction - ie. the winner of the auction pays the price of the runner up.

Many auctions only have a single bidder, and in this case, the price is a 'reserve' price set by the publisher (website). That is common in ad slots which have strict targeting criteria banning nearly everyone else from being eligible.

In those cases, often the advertiser sets a super high bid, just to make sure they win the auction. Assuming the eligibility criteria keep all other bidders out, that's not an issue.

It looks like what happened here is the 'Yellow Ad' found a way to be eligible for far more auctions than normal, and had a very high bid. That meant it was now a 2nd bidder in lots of auctions where the price was normally set by the 'reserve' price, and the final hammer price was much higher.


Thanks for the insight. I still don't fully understand the point of the article. It seems to be focused on publishers getting to keep the extra ad revenue. Does that mean the advertisers don't get a refund for their overpriced ads?

I took it to mean that Google was covering the advertiser's cost to the publishers that showed the ad mistakenly.

I read it that way too which was interesting to me. What about Google's actual clients: the advertisers who lost out on clicks/traffic because a fake ad took their place. I guess I'm surprised Google would bend over backwards to keep the platforms happy but shrug off the impact of the error on the people who ultimately pay them. Perhaps it's indicative of where the power lies in the internet advertising chain: whoever it is that can generate clicks.

Nothing newsworthy. This is part of day to day operation, just another postmortem for someone.

Saw a huge spike in CPM metrics yesterday and freaked out because it was timed near a deployment. Team chased it down to Triplelift network bidding $26 CPM over millions of impressions but Adx winning 90% of the auctions anyways, presumably with the same creative.

Anyways, I found the article very informative because we weren’t sure what happened, it was such an anomaly we thought all our data was bad for the day, but it turned out to be an early Christmas present I guess.

Postmortems of things that affect a ton of businessses and people seem newsworthy to me. And while this isn’t a very detailed one, it’s more information than I could find anywhere else - we assumed it was a costly fat finger mistake.


It's funny Triplelift was even bidding that much. Maybe some publishers have detected the issue before it was known and milked it with ad networks.

I have seen faulty bids internally that are magnitudes larger.

Pretty lucky windfall for a bunch of people though :)

"google" will pay? or google will take their fat share from all their advertising clients who will pay the extra price since the floor price suddenly jumped to $20 across the board?

seems like an elaborated scam within google to bump q4 revenue. someone really wanted their bonus I guess.


Are you suggesting that Google decided to risk the trust they've built over decades (worth billions) for a one-time infusion of a few million dollars?

no. and not conspiracy. just belive that they did the math and found out they can get the PR and a profit :)

This is the funniest explanation I've ever heard. Google is one of the biggest companies in the world worth hundreds of billions of dollars, their name is literally a household verb for searching, and you think they need PR?

Sorry, this was obviously an accident that cost them ten million dollars. They are not going to orchestrate a stunt that makes them look incompetent.


> They are not going to orchestrate a stunt that makes them look incompetent.

Speaking of the other Google story on the main page as we speak...

https://www.blog.google/products/messages/latest-messages-al...


Yeah, that whole debacle does not look good for them. This is damage control.

Is everything a conspiracy to you?

I assure you that there's no real way to spend Google's money on ads and then somehow make it back on rev share w/ publishers (or on the money you didn't collect from the real advertisers who didn't win the auctions you overpaid for)... of all the possible scams, I don't think this one would work very well. I'm willing to look into it though.



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