There’s a row developing in the UK at the moment about ad blockers on the internet. The advertising companies object to other companies writing software to block ads, but seem not to notice that those companies provide software that many people go out of their way to install. The complication is that the adverts fund the websites those people who use ad–blockers want to read. In other words, the advertisers inability to produce adverts that don’t irritate is threatening the internet economy.
There would be no problem if consumers did not install ad–blockers. This doesn’t happen by accident; people have to find ad–blockers to install them. So why do so many people do so?
I can only speak from my own experience. I’ve used ad blockers for years.
- I don’t object to adverts, I object to arseholes. I find adverts that behave like arseholes very irritating. Ad–blockers help me stop those arseholes putting their ego ahead of anything I’m trying to do. The ad–blockers are crude, and block anything that might behave like an arsehole. But that’s an advertising industry problem: if they controlled themselves so they only made adverts that respected others, it wouldn’t be necessary to block, so the reasonable adverts that are currently blocked would be seen.
- Adverts steal attention (as I’ve said before). If I’m reading some information, I do not want my attention distracted. This attention stealing is rude, and I dislike rudeness. Ad–blockers block this egotistical behaviour.
- Adverts are too often dismal. If my attention is going to distracted by something, then that something should a reward, not a punishment. The quality of many adverts is appalling: childish, bigoted, irrelevant, self–important, self–opinionated: the qualities that, when found in a person, label them an arsehole. Ad–blockers filter arseholes.
- Adverts are dangerous. The computer press often has stories of adverts being used to hack personal computers. They’re a classic vector for installing malware. Ad–blockers help make the internet safer.
- Adverts cock–tease. Click bait, as it’s called, makes some outrageous claim to get people to click through, but rarely resolve the tension they create. Ad–blockers cut this bad behaviour.
- Adverts waste money, and stop me spending more money on telecom services, to the extent that mobile phone companies are installing ad–blockers on their networks. At first, this confused me: sending more data would allow them to charge more money. But then, my own situation made it clearer: I subscribe to a low bandwidth internet connection on my mobile phone, and only use it for text email. I do not bother to go to the web, because web browsers do not properly ad–block, and even sensible websites may have high bandwidth, low quality, animated adverts, which would very quickly exceed my bandwidth limits, costing me money. If I was confident that using the web on my mobile would not waste money so quickly, I might well use my mobile to go to the web, and thus probably pay for more bandwidth to browse. Ad–blockers save me money and might make money for mobile companies.
- Adverts often use animation, and animation on the web, whether cartoon or video, is such a low standard it’s often worse than movies. (yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m repeating myself again.)
Of course, the fundamental problem is that if a product needs adverts to sell, it doesn’t sell itself, so it isn’t up to scratch. Adverts are marketing are propaganda are lies; if a product needs to lie to sell, the product is not worth buying (I’ve said that before, too). Adverts are unavoidably associated with bad products. I wonder if the quality of most adverts reflects an unconscious need by the advertisers to communicate this truth? Nah, that’s kind of psycho–crap belongs in a self–help book, not in an essay trying to understand a business reality.
I have to admit I don’t understand why so many adverts are such poor quality. When I lived in the UK, the adverts on the TV ranged in quality from appalling to brilliant. There were sometimes brilliant poster campaigns too, such as a Wok in the Black Forest (part of a 1980s cigarette poster campaign). Now, these ads were seen by everyone, so it’s unsurprising that most of them weren’t to my taste. Most of them were intended for opinions and situations different to my own.
But the internet, or at least the internet with google and faceboot, is supposed to enable advertisers to target their ads precisely, to suite the individual seeing them. Instead, I find the quality has actually got worse. What little humour there is, is so childish it could be a Republican Party Presidential candidate. What targetted adverts shown at me often refer to a problem solved, not a problem unresolved which might be solved with something as yet unbought. What subtlety there is belongs to the pneumatic jackboot school of eloquence. Many adverts I see online are unmitigated crud. To be fair, some are ok: simple informational adverts are difficult to get very wrong. Google search has got it nearly right, with text adverts relevant to the search terms. Faceboot has a long way to go, though: clickbait is annoying.
So, ultimately, the reason for the rise of ad–blockers is the ad industry itself. The quality of their output is so appalling, inappropriate and even sometimes dangerous that it’s not surprising people block them. The advertising industry should work out how to make adverts that people want to see.