Adverse advertising

Posted by JoshDreamland on Sept. 11, 2013, 2:01 p.m.

I recently became privy to the apparently ongoing debate about the moral and economic implications of AdBlock Plus. I'd like to share my views on it, and I figure I'll do so in bulk so they can be ignored in bulk rather than on a case-by-case basis (which would be annoying (lol!)).

In case you missed it, that was a poorly executed reference to this video, whose antithesis is "Ads are sooo anoying lol!", ostensibly a swipe at the typical teenage mentality of those who block ads without considering the implications of doing so. The issue in this debate is that we have pigheaded morons leading the front on both sides, so only the stupidest, most empty, worthless points are being proliferated. Yay!

Disclaimer: In weighing in with my own thoughts, I'm going to be attacking the side that's against AdBlock Plus. The reason for that is simple: The other side can't possibly form an argument without recognizing their own shortsightedness. Team "We hate ABP!! INTERNET=SRSFUKKNBUSNESS!!" has already basically destroyed team "Ads are sooooo annoying lol!" with their various videos and rude remarks, at the heart of which are some facts and almost-facts revolving around the fact that advertising is essential to the maintainability of the free online services we take for granted. I have literally nothing else to add to the attacks on team "Ads are sooo anoying lol!"


As mentioned, the basic principle behind Team "We hate ABP!! INTERNET=SRSFUKKNBUSNESS!!"'s argument is that corporate sponsorship is the lifeblood of the services we have all come to use. There is no arguing that. Even if the maintainers of those websites and services were able to cover all the financial requirements of the services they provide, that would be undeniably unfair. Even in a completely Marxist system, we're still looking at novel unfairness. Take Google as an example: Google itself is an advertising company. It serves billions of unique requests per day to hundreds of millions of unique users. Meanwhile, my own site serves hundreds of requests to tens of unique users daily. You'll notice that along with the slight difference in traffic comes a slight difference in running costs; the entirety of Google's staff, in the event that the pay flow started moving in the opposite direction, could not make a living and sustain all Google services at the same time. So unless this Marxist regime is going to start chipping in for replacement hardware and general Google service upkeep, it should indeed not expect continued services without some other form of income.

TL;DR: Yes, without the current advertising system, free services we enjoy would fail.

So, here is where I depart the Team "We hate ABP!! INTERNET=SRSFUKKNBUSNESS!!" bandwagon:

When faced with this problem,

Any company that tries to force this conventional advertising scheme is STUPID.

That is my brilliant and college-educated counter-argument: these companies are stupid.

Now that you're not foaming at the mouth, let me explain.

In general, Team "We hate ABP!! INTERNET=SRSFUKKNBUSNESS!!" seems to have a badly broken concept of how advertising works. While there's a divide between those who blame AdBlock, and those who blame AdBlock users, what their concepts of the situation essentially boil down to is depicted here:

SVG Version | Giant PNG Version

While the illustration might be considered a slight hyperbole, it captures the basic misconceptions of advertising exhibited by members of Team "We hate ABP!! INTERNET=SRSFUKKNBUSNESS!!":

1. The point of an advertisement is so I get paid

2. Blocking the ads is having a negative impact on the goal of the ad

3. All we have to do is somehow force these graphics into the brains of our users, and everything becomes happy again

Point (1) is so obvious that no one on Team "We hate ABP!! INTERNET=SRSFUKKNBUSNESS!!" would admit to thinking that way. Issue is, they do think that way! Here's how you know: look at point (2). Point (2) seems correct, at first, until you substitute in the *ACTUAL PURPOSE* of an advertisement. The purpose of an advertisement is to persuade the viewer to buy a product. Let's pretend that instead of allowing users to block the ads, we bolt the user to a chair, prop his eyes open, and force him to watch the short ad. Quiz time! This invokes which of the following reactions:

1. Joy! [:D]

2. Fear. [:(]

3. An inclination to buy your product! [:D]

4. Hate for you and your product [:(]

If you answered 1 and 3, congrats! At least you're consistent. If you answered 4 (and maybe 2), you are instead realistic!

So, let's use that simple idea to defeat a quick argument from Team "We hate ABP!! INTERNET=SRSFUKKNBUSNESS!!":

Argument: It's only a ten second advertisement

Fact: If the user is pissed off from a ten-second advertisement, THEN THE USER IS PISSED OFF FROM A TEN-SECOND ADVERTISEMENT! The user doesn't give a shit if your rationale states that he or she should not have an issue with your ad. If he or she has an issue, forcing the subject will only make matters worse.

So, you claim that all users have to do is grin and bear your shitty advertising so the cash will keep flowing in from the big, corporate money factory. Here's where the IQ of the corporate bodies come in. Consider this scenario:

1. Someone manages to nullify the effects of AdBlock Plus

2. You get money from ABCXYZ bicycle company to advertise them.

3. All users are forced to watch ABCXYZ's quick, ten-second advertisement.

4. They are forced to watch this ad so often, they grow sick of it.

5. Their annoyance solidifies and is projected at ABCXYZ.

6. ABCXYZ loses a sale for every 100 people who view their ad on your site.

7. Time to renew your advertising contract.


If you're not stoned out of your mind, or irradiated in such a way that you are unable to grasp simple causality, your guess is probably that ABCXYZ isn't going to want to continue advertising with you. OH NO, THIS IS THE VERY PROBLEM WE WERE RUNNING INTO WITH ABP!

What it comes down to is that Team "We hate ABP!! INTERNET=SRSFUKKNBUSNESS!!" can only legitimately complain about human nature. It's a problem for the bland, ritualistic, unimaginative advertising that is so convenient to plaster over a YouTube video or on the side of a website. If you want advertising to work in the future, you have to be more creative: both you and advertising companies alike.

One of the best examples I've ever seen is a YouTube channel about science things. I don't remember the name of the channel (maybe someone here does?), but I remember the product that sponsored him: Gorilla Tape. Every few minutes of video, he would throw in a quick, three- or four-second shoutout to Gorilla Tape. It was mildly annoying, but too brief to react to, and personalized enough that eventually I stopped noticing. And yet, I still remember Gorilla Tape. In fact, I don't remember the name of the video, of the author, of the channel, or even the topic. But I remember Gorilla tape.

If more companies and organizations would learn to advertise like that, this entire "AdBlock Plus" fiasco wouldn't be an incident.

In summary, don't blame your users for their nature. Neither of you owes the other anything. While your service is appreciated, it does not follow that so will be everything you bundle with it, or that you are beyond the point of possibly annoying them.

If your advertising is so monotonous that even a 50KB browser extension can detect it and remove it, maybe it's time to rethink your advertising.


I leave you with this interesting thought experiment by SMBC:


JuurianChi 7 years, 4 months ago

This is an interesting read, and very informative.

Given "the way things are" (Much like how there may be no destroying ThePirateBay and the like) I've almost completely given up on trying to compete with Adblock Plus. I'm actually even considering becoming a user.(Again. Considering. I can't really fathom why I would use it. As Advertising doesn't bother me all that much. Especially considering, I get free shit because of it.)

In my own work I've been trying to brainstorm effective advertising solutions of my own.

One of the problems most members of Team "We hate ABP!! INTERNET=SRSFUKKNBUSNESS!!" have is that their reliance on traditional ads is directly linked to the fact that their content isn't all that great. Or that they lack REAL business skills.

Your Gorilla Tape example is the best example of what does work. Product placement at it's finest.

Spontaneous and most likely relevant to your interests as a viewer of the program.


I guess, I'm not entirely sure.

JoshDreamland 7 years, 4 months ago

It was so remarkable that I actually stopped to evaluate it as a marketing decision, which is probably part of why it's so memorable to me. It has the added benefit of being new, so whether it was unique enough to be remembered by its own virtue is yet to be seen. However, it'd take one hell of an ABP to skip that ad, so at very least we're prolonging this loop. [:P]

But yes, more targeted advertising has been found to, in general, be what the people want, until privacy concerns enter the picture. I find a genuinely relevant ad is usually more helpful than spooky, but it's an extremely rare occurrence.

More frequently, I visit a restaurant's website and am given ads for that restaurant for the next three weeks. That's spooky, and unhelpful.

twisterghost 7 years, 4 months ago

If traditional advertising didn't work, traditional advertising wouldn't exist.

Companies spend billions of dollars a year on advertising. If that was a waste that just turned users away, they wouldn't be spending so much money on it, and they wouldn't be funding the analysis teams whose entire jobs are to calculate the impact of advertising, further solidifying that it is working.

The problem we have here is that everyone on this site and everyone we generally surround ourselves with are people who are hyper-aware of this situation. Something like 5% of internet users use adblock, and while that is a significant amount, it isn't actually all that much.

Notice how the pre-roll ads, banner ads and interstitial ads have been gently lathered all over the internet, yet people still use websites like Youtube nonstop all day every day? Ads don't drive people away as much as you may think, and while it does make the user experience a hell of a lot worse, it doesn't make the user experience as bad as a pay wall.

I've kicked around the idea of a service I could make an account on and just click a button to donate a few cents a day to a website in order to remove ads, but that will likely never happen.

The fact is that advertising is a large source of income for many, many websites, and ad blocking software (there is a big difference between adblock and abp) threatens that paradigm.

The tl;dr of it is that companies who either serve or purchase ads are not stupid at all. Why would they be? They are making money without having to offer any kind of payment plan or selling merchandise to users. It is kinda brilliant, really. Banner ads are easy enough to overlook, and if a website has actually crossed the line with advertising, the best course of action is to just not use that website - deny them the money you would have made for them.

I don't mean to sound like a jerk, but this post largely seems like a work of opinion rather than an analytic look at the situation, which it seems like this is trying to be (referencing the parts where you say what is the 'correct' answer to questions, etc).

In summation, I think ads are lame, but I also think ads are important and _can_ be great (e.g. Old Spice)

JoshDreamland 7 years, 4 months ago

On the global scale, yeah, impact from ABP really isn't hurting any big companies. Least of all Google. Google loses more money to the "I'm feeling lucky" button. But for sites run by small groups of people or single users, it's a pain, especially since a substantial fraction of their target audience is in that 5% of people you described. For them, that isn't all that unlikely; odds are, these are the same 5% of people who use computers for more than email, Facebook, and Yahoo games. [:P]

The message in this blog assumed the reality of the Internet-apocalypse scenario suggested in such media the video I linked at the beginning. I didn't mean to imply that this was a huge problem, but instead to point out that in the event that this does become a huge problem for any group of people, the correct course of action is not to bitch at users for blocking ads, but to make better ads.

The argument I'm making is actually really simple, and not very subjective:

1. Some people are put out by a ten-second ad, and so block ads.

2. If they could not block ads, they would be pissed at the ad.

3. If they were pissed at the ad, they would be unlikely to buy the product.

4. The point of ads is to persuade people to buy a product.

5. If ads made it less likely for viewers to buy a product, they would not be run.


6. If some people could not block ads, they would be unlikely to buy the products. (2, 3)

7. If some people could not block ads, there would be no point in running the adds for those people. (6, 5)

So, my conclusion, (7), simply says you oughtn't bitch at people. Your ad-fu doesn't work on them, pure and simple. It doesn't matter if they block the ads or if companies refuse to advertise with you because doing so is ineffective; the bottom line is that advertising is ineffective. So stop bitching at your users.

But anyway, I've tweaked that line about companies being stupid so as not to say more than I mean.