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.