Maybe This Whole Online Advertising Thing Just Isn't Working Out

  • by , Featured Contributor, September 12, 2014
We’ve known each other for a while now, you and I -- since 2007, by my reckoning. So I think it’s time to start being, you know, a bit more real with each other. Maybe tell each other some things about ourselves we’re not so proud of.

I’ll start.

Many years ago, I got asked on a date by a guy who lived in my building. He was a lawyer who defended abused children, which I thought was just awesome. He was also legally blind, which didn’t worry me one way or the other but is, as will be apparent shortly, relevant to this story.

The date, shall we say, did not go well. It was, in fact, one of the worst dates I’ve ever had. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. But as it turned out, my date did not feel the same. He developed a bit of a crush on me and was keen to pursue it.

Had I been more mature, I would have told him directly that there was no future for us. At the time, my preference was the less enlightened “ignore until it goes away” technique. But I had a problem: the guy lived in my building. I saw him in the hall and on the sidewalk. Regularly.



And this is where the legally blind bit comes in. Because although I saw him, he didn’t necessarily see me. Although I’m ashamed to admit it, I took advantage of the situation. I would duck around the corner, or just keep walking, or turn and head the other way.

Hate me yet?

My behavior wasn’t nice, and it wasn’t the right thing to do. And because I didn’t communicate honestly and directly with the gentleman in question, I can understand why he didn’t immediately take the hint. But, to an outside observer, it certainly would have been obvious that there was no relationship there, that there was not going to be a relationship there, and that the best thing for everybody would have been to move on.

The way, maybe, we should move on from online advertising as a model. A report issued last week by PageFair and Adobe describes an explosion in the use of adblockers: growth of nearly 70% between June 2013 and June 2014. 144 million active adblock users around the world.

Advertisers, take heed. These people are not just failing to return your call. They are actively changing direction when they see you, hoping you didn’t see them.

Sean Blanchfield, the CEO of PageFair, told The Guardian that adblock software is “like the Napster of the advertising industry,” and wonders whether the media is going to respond by going after end users the way the music industry went after illegal downloaders.

But doing so would be a form of willful blindness on the part of advertisers. Forcing people to watch your ads against their will just makes people hate your ads and hate you. Eventually, you will be ignored; the people you are targeting will duck around the corner, or just keep walking, or turn and head the other way.

Consider this commentary from a different Guardian article: “[T]here's also the question as to whether anyone's even paying attention to the tired old online formats; or, put otherwise, whether banner blindness has rendered them not merely irrelevant – but invisible. A… popular statistic gives banner ads a click-through rate of 0.11 per cent. Ask yourself: ‘when did I last click one?’”

I didn’t have the courage or the wisdom to face my would-be suitor directly and tell him to his face how I felt. But every time an adblocker is downloaded, consumers are telling media how they feel. It’s time advertisers get the message -- and shift strategy before it’s too late.

9 comments about "Maybe This Whole Online Advertising Thing Just Isn't Working Out".
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  1. Jaffer Ali from PulseTV, September 12, 2014 at 10:34 a.m.

    Kaila, you are so consistently spot on...if I wasn't married, I would propose. This one is particularly good and may banish you from online ad conferences. Keep on telling the Truth.

  2. Stewart Wills from, September 12, 2014 at 10:38 a.m.

    Fantastic post, and much needed -- thanks.

  3. Nate Carter from Mediassociates, September 12, 2014 at 10:46 a.m.

    Perhaps this whole automobile thing isn't working out. Time to saddle up the old horse.

  4. Rick Monihan from None, September 12, 2014 at 10:52 a.m.

    Remember how piracy was going to kill music? Yeah that didn't happen. Concerts are now big money makers and you can still make money selling songs if you do it right. Same here. Lots of different flies in the tackle box, one for each occasion If all you think about advertising is "we need to get eyeballs", then you're thinking about it wrong.

  5. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, September 12, 2014 at 11:19 a.m.

    Kaila, I have been sitting with similar feelings and I love that you put it out there -- I have always said to anyone who would listen that the solution to this self created problem is quite simple;

    1. Make any targeting options opt - in instead of the ridiculousness of trying to understand how to opt out -- that's why users are "opting out" with ad blockers -- taking consumer privacy for granted was the biggest mistake we made and we made this early.

    2. Only run one advertiser per page view -- too many people talking at once means nothing gets heard -- it still shocks me how many different ads appear on a single page view -- we look like idiots as an industry with this practice.

    If we made these two adjustments, online advertising would be tolerable and even appreciated at times when the creative merits the earning of consumer attention instead of trying to kidnap it.

    Thanks for today's column.


  6. Ted Leonhardt from, llc, September 12, 2014 at 11:56 a.m.

    Love your title, love the dating story and I'm sure you're right about advertising. Advertising is rooted in the industrial age, mass market thinking of the past. I suspect that we're seeing it's replacement now with content and one on one connections. Who knows where will it take us. I don't but it will be fun to watch.

  7. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, September 12, 2014 at 2:53 p.m.

    At Sweepstakes Today, what we do is to turn advertisement into entertainment. We do so with text links and contents. The point is the advertising (online) has it's blinders on. The industry is not seeing how to maximize a campaign. The industry on a whole thinks that the only way to make a campaign to work is with a banner only. The idea that you can get 50 up to times the number of clicks with a text link, is not believed and thereby rejected. Wake up!

  8. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 12, 2014 at 5:55 p.m.

    But more money keeps going down that rabbit hole. How many people want to sit through a :60 ad for a :15 video clip e.g. ? Snake oil still sells.

  9. Krista Niess from MKT, September 21, 2014 at 1:06 p.m.

    I completely agree with you, online advertising is not benefitting anyone. People who are on the Internet and different websites don’t want to click on the ads or have to sit through the ads and be forced to watch. Also companies who are spending money on online advertising aren’t winning either, they are spending way too much money on this form of advertising when most people are just annoyed with their ad being displayed on the website they are trying to use. I know when I am using the internet the last thing that I want to see is online advertisements, those advertisements always tend to “pop” up at the most inconvenient times and just annoy me. Advertiser need to think of new ways for advertisements, it is said that we are exposed to approximately 3000 to 5000 ads in one day. If I am exposed to that many ads in one day, shouldn’t I be able to remember at least one? Normally by the end of the day I can’t think of one ad that I have seen or can remember any details about the ad. If online advertising continues I think there needs to be a limit, these advertisements need to stand out and encourage the user to click on the ad, but when we are exposed to so many and nothing stands out to me this doesn’t grab my attention, it makes me want to an adblock. Thank you for this interesting and informative article, I wonder where online advertising will be in 5 years?

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