Sometimes advertising can get out of hand. As someone who makes their living creating marketing and advertising I know it’s important to be smart and ethical when making decisions for a campaign. For all the relevant and meaningful marketing being created today there is an alarming amount that isn’t so. No form of marketing seems to cross the line into frustration and non-ethical behavior as often as web advertising.
Whether it’s a simple banner ad masquerading as part of the website, video ads pausing content, or full-page takeovers that make their close button hard to find. Even the most humble of banner ad seems to be placed on the page with more carelessness every year. It’s hard to imagine these don’t create more bad will than good. That’s not even considering the ads that exist solely to spread malware (which hopefully had nothing to do with a company trying to advertise). I can’t help but wonder about the decisions being made when these intrusive ads are created. Anecdotally, I certainly go out of my way to avoid websites that host ads using these techniques. As well as associating the companies they advertise for with trying to rudely interrupting me and/or waste my time. I can probably count the number of times any of them have actually convinced me to click on one hand.
In the past I used ad-blocking plugins without remorse. A tactic that was not at all fair to some of the websites I visited. After all, the damage inflicted was to the website itself rather than the companies creating the ads. The rich diversity of content on the web is only made possible by advertising. My favorite YouTube and Twitch channels wouldn’t exist without it. The websites that foster communities for my favorite hobbies couldn’t pay their server and maintenance costs without the revenue.
The truth that is easy to forget is that we need advertising. We need the advocacy to keep the wheels of our economy turning and the opportunity for content creators alive. But the majority of consumers don’t want to view ads, and advertisers are willing to go to extreme measures to force their messages on consumers. This adversarial position that both sides take is what’s to blame for the current state of web advertising. However, I still believe the onus is on us, the marketers, to produce ads that are meaningful and non-obstructive to consumers. Whether we like it or not, it’s simply far too easy to block every ad on the web. So it’s important that we seek out services and partners in online marketing that are as thoughtful when it comes to fostering good will as we are. We also need to express the value in doing so to our clients and higher-ups. Only then will people come out of their ad-blocking shells and actually watch/listen to what we have to say.
If you’d like to learn more about how consumers view online marketing, take a look at this in-depth article from HubSpot posted a couple years ago.