The whole thing with the Internet is about desintermediation, and marketing departments are nothing but middle-men between producers and consumers. Even worse that they actually sell the idea that producers need to "build a brand". Zero actual value-add to the chain, but work to increase perceived and actual costs of the goods produced.
I can think of a couple other ways to get some sort of value from advertising. The first is using an ad to get someone to purchase something they otherwise wouldn't have. I suppose this creates societal value too, but in my opinion it mainly just benefits the advertisers. The second is to make "impressions" so that people remember your brand when they later choose (impulsively) to purchase something.
Since I don't participate in those two, I consider them pretty worthless. Showing someone like me an ad on a blog is worthless, because we have a zero percent click-through rate and a zero percent conversion rate. Showing ads on a search might actually be helpful if I'm searching for a product to buy.
Anyway, this leads me to two possible conclusions. Either we are in an advertising bubble where way more effort is put into ads than they're worth, or I just have no understanding/conception of the average Internet user's browsing and buying habits. After all, I guess enough people click on these things to make them profitable for the site, and enough of those actually buy something to make it profitable for the advertiser. So as a non-clicker, what do I know?
I was shocked to realize this about myself after talking to my ex's sister. She teaches kids in the BD class of a Chicago public school. She shared a story of her frustration trying to teach them about healthy eating. It went something like this:
"Can anyone give me an example of good or healthy food"
Class Chorus: "Mcdonalds!"
Carrie, taken aback: "Oh! and what makes McDonald's healthy"
Class: "McDonalds makes you big and strong! You could play in the olympics"
That anecdote hit me at the same time I had been researching literacy, and it really struck me that different classes of people exist in our society who interpret symbolic content at different levels. You or I probably see a picture of an athlete on an McDonald's bag and our lip curls in contempt at the transparency of the lie. But to a different type of person with a different background, that representation is taken at face value.
It's really apparent when you see people make a living off other transparent advertising, "Teen Mom discovers weird old trick to remove belly fat." Ok, bullshit. You can't target lose weight etc, but that isn't a multinational with inefficient marketing, that's an individual identifying basic desires and exploiting certain segments of their market. And it works.
So I'm guessing someone is clicking on online adverts.
Outside of a certain segment of the startup scene, where actually spending money on marketing is uncool and you have to get customers by being viral/freemium/whatever, there's a ton of businesses that drive traffic through non-sexy means like PPC.
Re: does "branding" add value? I think it does. Keep in mind the original brands, which involved adding a name to commodity products to show customers they were trustworthy. The value of branding is it lets consumers feel trust in what they're buying. You can go in any McDonalds in the world and know that the food will taste OK and won't give you food poisoning. The food is not awesome, either, but it goes to show that often people do value trustworthiness and consistency (ie, branding) over super high-quality.
(Admittedly there is less value in situations where, say, the branded cheese is exactly the same as the supermarket cheese, just in a different packet and twice the price.)
Do you really believe that advertising (which is only part of what marketing departments do) is "zero value-add"? How do you learn about new products? How do you think the press who review products learn about them? How does a product become available for your to buy at Walgreens on the corner? All of that is "marketing"...
If you don't want accept those ads, fine, but from an ethical and legal standpoint you shouldn't be consuming its content or using its service, either. This whole "the users are the product" thing sounds great but it's an oversimplification; ultimately, it's the user's consumption of advertising that's the product for an ad-supported site; the user itself (ex ads) is often worthless or less than worthless.
You're making a deal with the provider of the site that you'll consume their product in exchange for also viewing the ads; if you don't like that bargain, don't accept it and don't consume the content.
The fact that you pay for your bandwidth, btw, has nothing to do with the fact that the site also pays for its bandwidth. Your ISP is not using part of what you pay to cover the bandwidth costs of the content provider.
Here are some terms of service for you. When you enter into any business venture, you accept the risk of it not succeeding. Wishful thinking notwithstanding, the consumer is under no obligation to indemnify you against it.
(This is also why I liked paying for content on iTunes or Amazon - that seems like a more fair deal where I don't get both charged and ads (cable) and I don't have to mess around with using the TiVo to skip ads.)
If the terms of service included a link to an audio advert, do I have to quiet other sound sources so I can hear the advert?
Is that impractical? Yes. But when I rent a car, I don't read the terms either, and they still apply. It's just a result of a world in which we undertake hundreds of "transactions" a day with business entities, all of which have to be governed by legal agreements.
"But wait, what about freemium? Plenty of services remove the ads for paying customers", one might ask. The problem with it is that you now a have false sense of choice:
1) Free product + ads
2) Paid product and no ads.
Yes, marketing is much more than advertising. But I think that the "advertising" part is what everything else is based on, when it shouldn't. To take on your example, the "press who review products" is, most of the time, dependent on eyeballs to sell ads to. This model is so broken that you either have newspapers going bankrupt or Huffington Post-style blogs, with zero actual content.
If enough people started using adblock, perhaps we would get to a point where the current model would be unsustainable, which would producers to either:
- Get rid of ad-based services and products, and start charging directly.
- Improve their ads to make it more relevant to consumers.
By that logic, it's also possible to avoid high grocery bills by sticking some things in your pocket and not paying for them. Just because you can do something doesn't mean it's a scalable or ethical option.
Google's core breakthrough in advertising was to close the loop and push advertisers towards ads that are relevant to customers, where they know exactly how much they're earning per dollar they spend on ads. Ads have, actually, improved quite a bit over the past 10 years. The famous line was "half of ad spending is wasted, we just don't know which half" (paraphrased)... now they know which half.
To go back to the OP's subject - the reason why retargeting has grown so popular is that it WORKS LIKE A MOFO. Retargeted ads are usually an order of magnitude more relevant and are immensely cost effective in terms of spend versus conversions. The best indicator that someone's interested in buying a Ford? They visited the Ford site.
Google is better than the alternatives, sure. It doesn't mean that it is any good. The ads I get on my cell phone are still awful, to the point of discouraging me to use it more.
Some may believe that the ethical choice is just to not watch that TV show.
Here's my dilemma: I don't own a TV, I can't be bothered to even try to download, let alone watch. I tried with The Wire, it became a suffering labor to t trough it, no matter how interesting. Mad Men? Good luck. I have no time.
You're absolutely allowed to do this if you choose, but you should also be aware that it's harming the sites/app that you're obviously visiting. If a site has incredibly intrusive ads, I just choose not to visit it. Most sites I visit respect the user enough to not have crazy pop-over/roll-over ads; as a result, I don't use AdBlock extensions and they get their CPM $.
FYI, here's the Arstechnica article RE: Ars vs. AdBlock, for those interested: http://arstechnica.com/business/2010/03/why-ad-blocking-is-d...
Also, it is a matter of signaling: I don't want to reward sites that have a business model reliant on ads. That would give them a very strong incentive to go to the lowest common denominator and just optimize all their work to increase page views.
Ten years ago, we used to complain about the state of "mainstream media" and thought that blogs would be our salvation. But instead of rewarding quality work of bloggers, we decided that it was okay to accept ads. When you get that, you get a popularity contest, and this is why we end up with crap like Techcrunch and Engadget and other AOL-owned "properties".
Ars provides the "premium" service, but what they offer for it? Full-text RSS? It is not worth $5/month. I will just adblock + readability the hell out of their articles.
To sum up: I don't want to hurt the sites, but I do want to hurt the business model. If the websites rely on this failed business model? I'm sorry, but it is just collateral.
So, to summarize:
(1) You don't want to "reward" sites that have a business model reliant on ads
(2) you want their content anyway
(3) when they offer you a trade: pay us $5 and we won't show you ads, you ignore them
Conclusion: you're a cheap dick.
Full-text RSS is the only thing that would interest me, but not $5/month worth of interest.
Conclusion: yo mama is fat.
But let's put aside the whole Ars debate: which part of the "I want to hurt the business model" you guys haven't read? I will not support any site that relies on ads, even if there is the "freemium" alternative. I want ad-based anything to die, and to die fast.
Much like subsidized agriculture, any ad-based economy is inefficient and produces incredible unknown side-effects.
And I hate to have to keep justifying myself, but I put about $15/month on flattr. Whenever I see anyone using it with any remotely good content, I am more than happy to pay. I keep a subscription to Ubuntu One even though I barely use it. One of the features that I liked the most about github and disappeared: the link to pledgie.com. One of the YC companies that really got me excited, I participated some, but unfortunately didn't take off: micropledge.
I want to consume things of quality, but I don't see any quality coming from any business that is ad-based. If they want to see my money, first they need to get rid of ads and commit to excellence, not the other way around.
It's really quite simple: if you want ads to become less popular you have to pay to support the creators: stop reading Ars or pay $5/mo to never see ads again. I'm assuming that you have no intentions of ever actually paying because you closed with an unintentionally hilarious example of entitlement: “If they want to see my money, first they need to get rid of ads and commit to excellence, not the other way around”. Despite reading enough of their content that you want RSS feeds you're still forced to change the rules yet again so they're supposed to work for free until you decide they've reached the $5/month level of excellence?
I know that my proposition is not perfect, and if I got my way I would be forcing my will onto other people (the ones who would be okay with ads in exchange of free access) but it's the best that I can come up with.
I am me. I guess that is a pretty strong credential.
Seriously though, my local weekly newspaper knows nothing about my habits, but offers ads 10x more relevant than Google, who has been tracking me for a decade.
There are two main difference between the RIAA "every pirate is a stolen sale" and adblock.
1)When you "pirate" something it doesn't mean that you "pirate" everything, while if you install adblock you block the ads on every site.
2)When you "pirate" something it doesn't mean that what you have pirated would have been a legal purchase. But if you go to a website you would have gone there with or without ads. You can say that you won't have clicked on the ad or won't have purhcased anything. But almost 99% of our ads revenue is on impressions and not on click or conversion, so it doesn't really matter if you click or convert the ad.
But, right know, the number of people that use adblock are not that big of a deal (at least on our niche market) that you have to work on fighting it because, right know (for us), it is not worth it.
This is kind of tangential to your point, but a good marketing department is a lot more than just advertising. The role of marketing can include getting an understanding of the market and helping to build the right thing.
I do agree that the argument is very similar to piracy arguments told by MPAA/RIAA. When such a thing happens, the smartest thing for businesses is to adapt.
However, for the moment I like the Internet services and websites that I'm using, while I don't like the content or the prices or the restrictions promoted by the media industry. Which is why I'm being a good citizen and so I'm not installing AdBlock.
But this issue cuts both ways. AdBlock when used by a minority, is actually beneficial to websites. Because otherwise that minority would get really annoyed with a lot of them and losing those consumers is worse than not having conversions from them.
So that's another reason why I'm not using AdBlock, because websites that annoy me to the point that I can't take it anymore do not deserve my eyeballs, while those where the ads are promoted with taste do deserve my attention.
When my grandmother died last year we looked up the website for a cremation service to find their phone number. Then for the next week or so I kept seeing banner ads for the same cremation service all over the web, on completely unrelated sites.
I would expect to see a cremation service ad on an obituary page, maybe a local newspaper, etc. I would not expect to see it on, say, a tech blog or an Android user forum. And I could consistently refresh threads on that forum and keep seeing that particular ad from that same company. Maybe it was the nature of the service advertised and my frame of mind at the time I was seeing it, but I was really creeped out.
I cleared cookies and it stopped. At that point I realized that the advertiser was doing something in particular to tell Google that I visited their site and to start throwing ads at me elsewhere. I checked out the AdWords docs to see how they were doing this and figure out how to opt out.
I don't know how long this has been a service offered by Google. Up until that one instance I likely had countless ads retargeted at me, and I may have even clicked such ads. And it works great until one instance where I'm creeped the heck out and I push back.
Why not show me several retargeted ads? If I don't click one, I'm not going to click one of the other dozen copies on the page, so why not put something else relevant there?
As it stands, viewing a retargeted advert on an ad-heavy page is like being mithered by an annoying child. "Buy this buy this buy this buy this!"
(Curiously I appear to have opted out, but I still get this retargeting stuff.)
Of course, it replaced seeing EVE Online ads everywhere for years (literally).
At the time I thought they were just doing an ad blitz, because it was the time of year when people plan vacations for the summer ahead and might consider going on cruises. In hindsight it seems silly for them to spend money displaying ads to me, when I've already paid (a substantial sum of money) for their product.
It wasn't until the funeral service ads that I realized I was being targeted for having visited specific websites.
Retargeting is basically disabled if one opts out there (for the web, search&gmail or both).
Until ad network administrators take responsibility for what's being shown under their name, adblock stays on.
I've always thought that this is because they don't have any other advertisers for that particular show. Like "this ad is not relevant but it's the only one we have so we'll show it to you anyway".
I'm an online publisher who has a significant percentage of income that comes via advertising and I think ad blocking is a good force for the Web. I don't use it, but I don't have a problem with those who do.
Ad blockers typically block poorly performing display advertising (the CTRs on banners nowadays is ridiculously low and the levels of recall have been shown to be abysmally low in studies) and text link advertising from the big networks.
Ad blockers typically do not block 'content marketing', videos on sites like YouTube, editorial mentions of products, references to products and services within content, adverts in podcasts, job ads (usually), sponsors in e-mail newsletters, and a whole myriad of other ways that smart advertisers and publishers are using.
It's about time we killed off mass market display advertising online. Why? Because it gives publishers an incentive to actually work to provide experiences that benefit both readers and advertisers and not sit on their fat asses collecting checks for doing sod all.
Increasingly, though, reputable media organizations are doing collaborations with brands, such as with merchandise, pull outs, giveaways, or in clearly marked 'products we like' sections (essentially advertising as content - super popular in fashion and women's magazines). It's a rapidly spreading model in the magazine space in particular. Monocle magazine is one of the exemplary examples - http://www.reallypractical.com/2009/07/06/is-monocle-the-fut...
The big traffic/small CPM model is still too lucrative online for the bigger online publishers to spend too much time on the newer ideas, but the hands of other media have been forced by tumbling revenues and, in a funny twist, are becoming more progressive.
On quality, though, the readership will ultimately vote with their feet (or clicks) - outlets that fall into the payola trap will suffer audience drops and legal trouble, outlets that transparently entertain or inform their readership in conjunction with advertisers will thrive (as Monocle is).
Separate from pairing up with media outlets, many advertisers are now going 'direct' to audiences with content-driven campaigns (not just videos, but entire content sites). Digitally prodigious companies and startups have been doing this for ages with blogs and the like, but the approach is now becoming mainstream and being taken on by the big brands.
Ad blockers are next to useless on all of this but, IMHO, the end result is better. Outlets and brands have to start telling interesting stories and sharing interesting content, instead of tricking us into clicking graphics and becoming leads.
They must or it wouldn't be a profitable system. Strange.
Then install TrackerBlock:
Perhaps if I used gmail, so they could read my emails and see what I've bought already, I wouldn't have this problem. I'll pass on that idea though.
Virtually every single website i visited for a week was shoving airbnb in my face. Yes, i know you exist, i went there.
There has to be more complexity to the 'rule of 7' because i'm sure there must be better sales patterns than just shoving 7 ads in a row for the same thing at you. The same thing happens with comedy central's online shows.. every time the same ad-- it just makes me hate the product after the first few times.
This gave me an idea for how to prank a friend if they leave you alone with their computer for a short while. Just visit loads of sites for an embarrassing subject (maybe haemorrhoids, vaginal rash, penis enlargement, etc...) They will then be subjected to ads for that subject for months after, with no idea why :-)
Something really, really needs to be done about this.
Not to mention that I think it grabs my attention from what Im trying to do and redirects it into me wanting to buy a product all of a sudden. No.
Proud Adblock user ever since it came.
All kidding aside, I'd say that the minute you start paying for Google's search engine, email, docs and other services you are automatically entitled to them blocking ads from AdSense-powered sites. Until then I can't see how someone can complain given the value received. Fair trade.