More musings on the effectiveness and necessity of ads

Two commenters on my post yesterday Blocking ads is taking a free ride show the passion this issue evokes. It seems people really don’t like ads – or at least the digerati doesn’t.

There were a couple of points – the first from Tom Raftery making the point that a lot of sites are available via RSS feeds, so unless the ads are in the feed then people won’t see them. And worse, it is pretty easy to switch off a feed so the content had better be pretty compelling to make it worthwhile putting up with the ads.

All very true Tom – in particular I agree that in-feed advertising will become more important..

A couple of thoughts in response:

  1. I’m guessing that a lot of the sites you read are blogs, and they are written by people who are not looking to monetise their content directly. I’m a prime example – I write this blog because it helps me be a better VC, not to make money directly. This is a different case to companies whose business model is to build a web service that people want to use. If they are not making money from their site they are probably in a world of trouble. Typically these sites don’t make their content available via a feed precisely because it is then difficult to monetise. Newspaper sites are a good example.
  2. Content needs to be compelling enough that people are happy to put up with the ads. If it isn’t then it almost certainly isn’t good enough to build a business on. Particularly given we are pretty adept at not seeing the ads – see below.

Then Alan made a couple of points around the idea that ads don’t work. He cited Jakob Nielsen’s eye tracker studies which have shown people barely see the ads. These heatmaps show where people’s eyes linger on the page (they make compelling viewing):

Heatmaps from eyetracking studies: The areas where users looked the most are colored red; the yellow areas indicate fewer views, followed by the least-viewed blue areas. Gray areas didn’t attract any fixations. Green boxes were drawn on top of the images after the study to highlight the advertisements.

This is undoubtedly an issue for advertisers and they need to find formats that work. I would regard this as a problem for the advertiser and the publisher though, not the consumer. If we barely see the ads then why do they irritate us so much?

IMHO we need to let publishers and advertisers experiment to find formats that work and that consumers are prepared to put up with in return for free content and services. Otherwise we will either have to pay for the services directly or they will disappear.

To my mind it is as simple as that. Notions of fairness and irritation are secondary considerations. At some point, maybe not in the too distant future, companies will lose the land grab mentality and close down services that they don’t believe can generate cash for them. This is business after all.

  • Nic, aren’t people completely freaked out by the fact that the viewer is not even seeing the advertising impression, never mind making an active decision to engage? Perhaps the challenge has even moved past attention to engagement: now what would be the true metric of engagement? Just a thought (The Attention Trust?)

  • Nic, aren’t people completely freaked out by the fact that the viewer is not even seeing the advertising impression, never mind making an active decision to engage? Perhaps the challenge has even moved past attention to engagement: now what would be the true metric of engagement? Just a thought (The Attention Trust?)

  • Ads are extremely annoying when they aren’t targeted correctly. For example I am being bombarded 5-10 times a day with ads for Geico, Progressive and eSurance. None of these products are sold in MA where I live. I have been hit with these ads so many times now that even if I move I won’t buy their products.

    Another annoying part of advertising is getting the same ad over and over after I have decided that I do not want the product or have already bought it.

    Ads would be much more effective if advertising rates were raised 10x and the number of ads reduced 10x. Then track consumer behavior and try to increase the relevancy of the ads.

  • Jon Smirl

    Ads are extremely annoying when they aren’t targeted correctly. For example I am being bombarded 5-10 times a day with ads for Geico, Progressive and eSurance. None of these products are sold in MA where I live. I have been hit with these ads so many times now that even if I move I won’t buy their products.

    Another annoying part of advertising is getting the same ad over and over after I have decided that I do not want the product or have already bought it.

    Ads would be much more effective if advertising rates were raised 10x and the number of ads reduced 10x. Then track consumer behavior and try to increase the relevancy of the ads.

  • Nic…I’ve tried to give a “general case” of my thinking over on my blog here

    I’ve looked at this issue as a piece of game theory.

  • Nic…I’ve tried to give a “general case” of my thinking over on my blog here

    I’ve looked at this issue as a piece of game theory.

  • nic

    thanks for the comments guys.

    Paul – companies look to click through as a measure of engagement. Levels are low, say 2%, but people do have an idea of what they are getting. I guess what this shows these heatmaps show us that ads won’t be generating much positive brand equity, above and beyond the clicks.

  • nic

    thanks for the comments guys.

    Paul – companies look to click through as a measure of engagement. Levels are low, say 2%, but people do have an idea of what they are getting. I guess what this shows these heatmaps show us that ads won’t be generating much positive brand equity, above and beyond the clicks.

  • Troy Young of UX Magazine (see http://www.uxmag.com) has a great definition of Media 2.0. People will suffer adverts if the content or service they are receiving is free. Paid content (like Sky Movies) should have no overt adverts, unless they can be discreetly embedded with product placement.

    If enterprises can place adverts in cached memory inside a street level WiFi/WiMax transceiver, seamlessly deployed across populated areas, users can harvest local products and services on-demand from the nearest transmitter. A business can capture a customer requesting their products or services whilst harvesting that information from the nearest local transmitter right at the moment of interest. That ability to know someone nearby wants your business will pay for the transmitters to be deployed. These local cached memory transmitters can also power Out-Of-Home (OOH) TV advertising screens where “infotainment” videos of surfers, skiers and skydivers designed to catch the audience attention are interspersed with 15 second adverts for local or national enterprises. These OOH adverts can have wireless access point interactivity to allow users to get more information directly from the enterprise running the advert and capture the location specific customer at the moment of decision.

    User profiles could also be pulled from their handheld devices in a specific location, at that moment in time and aggregated into a crowd demographic profile to allow OOH advertisers to broadcast adverts appropriate to the assembled audience (without compromising individual privacy laws). This unique knowledge of the aggregated crowd profile facilitates the revolution of publishing appropriate advertising only when a receptive audience has assembled.

    On-line video games could also be provided for free on permission to receive “in game” interactive adverts appropriate to the user profile of the player. Eventually IPTV may also be broadcast by only transmitting the detail on the screen that has changed from the previous animation (like on-line electronic games), which may enable digital placement of in-program interactive adverts appropriate to the profile of the viewer.

    The media world is being turned on its head as it pays advertisers to help deliver Web 2.0 services for free in return for targeted access to receptive consumers and this is Media 2.0.

    People will come to accept the “fair exchange” of focussed and targeted advertising paying for digital city deployment and free delivery of some Web 2.0 services. If people don’t want adverts, they will be paying for the service.

  • Troy Young of UX Magazine (see http://www.uxmag.com) has a great definition of Media 2.0. People will suffer adverts if the content or service they are receiving is free. Paid content (like Sky Movies) should have no overt adverts, unless they can be discreetly embedded with product placement.

    If enterprises can place adverts in cached memory inside a street level WiFi/WiMax transceiver, seamlessly deployed across populated areas, users can harvest local products and services on-demand from the nearest transmitter. A business can capture a customer requesting their products or services whilst harvesting that information from the nearest local transmitter right at the moment of interest. That ability to know someone nearby wants your business will pay for the transmitters to be deployed. These local cached memory transmitters can also power Out-Of-Home (OOH) TV advertising screens where “infotainment” videos of surfers, skiers and skydivers designed to catch the audience attention are interspersed with 15 second adverts for local or national enterprises. These OOH adverts can have wireless access point interactivity to allow users to get more information directly from the enterprise running the advert and capture the location specific customer at the moment of decision.

    User profiles could also be pulled from their handheld devices in a specific location, at that moment in time and aggregated into a crowd demographic profile to allow OOH advertisers to broadcast adverts appropriate to the assembled audience (without compromising individual privacy laws). This unique knowledge of the aggregated crowd profile facilitates the revolution of publishing appropriate advertising only when a receptive audience has assembled.

    On-line video games could also be provided for free on permission to receive “in game” interactive adverts appropriate to the user profile of the player. Eventually IPTV may also be broadcast by only transmitting the detail on the screen that has changed from the previous animation (like on-line electronic games), which may enable digital placement of in-program interactive adverts appropriate to the profile of the viewer.

    The media world is being turned on its head as it pays advertisers to help deliver Web 2.0 services for free in return for targeted access to receptive consumers and this is Media 2.0.

    People will come to accept the “fair exchange” of focussed and targeted advertising paying for digital city deployment and free delivery of some Web 2.0 services. If people don’t want adverts, they will be paying for the service.

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