December 7, 2006
People Might Not Hate All Advertising...Just Bad Advertising

Over at Techdirt, Mike has written an interesting short commentary about advertising that he posted in the wee hours of the morning, at least Eastern Standard Time.

The theory? "People Don't Hate Advertising; They Hate Bad, Intrusive And Annoying Advertising." He points out that Forrester Research has recently released a study that has the press surrounding it claiming that consumers hate ads because more than 50 percent of households use some kind of advertising blocker.

Mike doesn't buy into the theory that the fact that people who block ads are necessarily "anti-advertising," though, but that they are certainly against certain kind of ads that are pervasively rude. He points instead to the variety of ads that people seek out, viral marketing and Superbowl ads and the like.

He summarizes:

It just requires the marketers and the advertisers to stop thinking of advertising as a second class (or third class) type of content that needs to be forced on people. Instead, it's about recognizing that ads are content, and if it's good content, people will be willing to watch it (or even seek it out).

As Mike points out, "there's never going to be a technology designed to block out the ads people want to see."

In the comments section, though, is where the debate really pours out, though. It starts with the brilliantly named "Search ENGINES Web," who objects that viewers can't have it both ways, as the content has to be paid for one way or another. That comment generated some vibrant response, including reader Byron, who writes, "Yeah, right, o' clueless shill for the advertising industry. Next you're gonna tell us that YOU do NOT use ad filters, pop-up blockers, or any other type of technology to minimize INTRUSIVE advertising on your own computer(s), right?"

It's a clear distinction--people don't like blatant shilling that insults their intelligence. For instance, look back at yesterday's post about Studio 60 and the product placement discussion on the Nov. 27 episode.

Look back a couple of weeks to a response to Mike's piece about professional journalists learning from campus newspapers.

Thanks to Joshua Green for passing this along.



The attitude of the some of the comments on the Techdirt post is that people would rather steal content by skipping ads than by viewing them.

That's like saying in 1999 people who want to download a single song are stealing from the music industry because everyone knows that songs belong on albums, which are really the only thing for sale. Which explains why iTunes had to come from a computer/consumer electronics company and not the music industry.

Make it easy to sell to people the way they want to buy and you'll more likely than not make money. In a world of choice, there's room for business models that work on something other than interrupt advertising. People are willing to pay for entertainment. Movies and HBO prove that.

There are times when people do want advertising. The two modes that come to mind are: when they're interested in purchasing something; and as part of a past time that has to do with shopping.

If you're going to redo your deck next weekend, you'll probably be doing research on wood, repair kits, and weatherproofing. You'd be in the mood for advertising on any of those products, so relevant advertising would be more appropriate.

With addressable media, there's room in the industry for individual advertising preferences, where people tag what they're interested with a list of keywords, or other forms of text, that the ad network reads and uses to present ads. This would be even more relevant than Google, which currently has to infer what you want by observing what you're looking at, whereas a preference based approach could be more accurate because you could tell an ad network exactly what you want to see.


Good points, Joel. And, as many of us who do research on various media can tell you, the Amazons and Googles sometimes get a pretty skewed idea of what we are interested in when they try to do the inferring...

But I think you are right about the fascinating perspective from some of the responses in the comments section. The commercial interruption era of television may feel like something set in stone, but it's not like the medium of television itself is ancient. I think it's a truism--things change...and people generally never like it when the signs of a shift start bubbling up.