Online Advertising Crap

I hate the stuff. It’s an irritating visual distraction and it slows down your computer – what’s not to hate? The in-yer-faceness varies from relatively genteel ads, which point out products and services that might be useful, to screaming, spittle-flecked pop-ups that won’t take no for an answer. The issue isn’t whether an ad is good, bad, or ugly, but the fact it’s there in the first place.

I installed AdBlock Plus on my computer several years ago, and I’m used to never seeing an ad. On the rare occasions when I use an unprotected computer, I’m shocked at the visual clutter people allow on their screens. Unsurprisingly, I pay WordPress a yearly bribe to make ads go away for readers of Beautiful Railway Bridge, something that wasn’t necessary when it was hosted on Blogger.

So imagine my delight when I came across a site claiming there are now 10 million ABP users, 1 million up from the previous month. Good stuff! I thought, and read further. Turns out the Online Publishers Community, for so they claim to be, is feeling sick as a parrot about what they see as the loss of revenue. The site is offering an “Anti-ABP” plugin for WordPress users, provided by a company called dSero. It’s unclear if the “Online Publishers Community” is an invented front for dSero – I rather suspect it is.

dSero claims the Anti-ABP plugin will sneak ads into the Adsense spaces bombed out by ABP. It also claims that 6% of online ads are blocked by 30 million ABP users, taking into account Chrome and Firefox browsers, and that the loss amounts to $5.3 billion this year.

Clearly dSero is trying to create a panic. Let’s examine their assumption that blocking ads leads to loss of revenue. People who install ABP do not want to see ads – there can be no loss of revenue from those who would not have bought from you in the first place. The “loss” is simply an inefficient use of advertising resources. And capitalism is supposed to be supremely efficient, right? Somebody told me that once. If an Anti-ABP  plugin sneaks an ad past, are they likely to embrace the vile thing with open arms? No. They won’t click on it, and they will probably punish the company responsible by not buying anything else.

It seems to me that online retailers have two choices – block ABP users from sites carrying advertising (that would be the honest way) or simply accept that some of their visitors will never click on ads. The loss of goodwill produced by the former is counterproductive, while the latter increases goodwill among ABP users who might buy if the ads were presented in another form. Raging online ad-hater as I am, I do visit dedicated sites for news about products that interest me. Advertisers should suck it up and focus on better ways to sell their products.

Installing an Anti-ABP plugin comes across as a passive-agressive compromise, which fails to solve the problem, and alienates potential customers. It’s called shooting yourself in the foot.

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