Annoying Ads Will Be The Death Of Publishers

The recent explosion in conversations about ad blockers shows that the public’s discontent with digital advertising is a major problem. Interestingly, most of the comments I have been reading about ad blockers focus on their impact on consumers and on the advertisers: Ad blockers are bad for advertisers, who “lose money” by paying for ads that are not shown. Consumers suffer because they have to put up with advertisements that interfere with whatever it is that they are doing.

But what about publishers? Some have pointed out that ad blocking is bad for publishers because it can cut one of their major revenue sources. Others have complained that the publishers’ focus on revenue is at the root of this problem, because in their desperation to generate advertising money, they are pummeling readers with unwanted, intrusive, distracting ads. But ultimately, do the publishers really suffer as a result of annoying ads?

The answer is a resounding “yes.”



A few months ago I wrote about a research experiment that was able to quantify the economic cost of annoying ads. That particular experiment focused on the immediate, negative impact of annoying ads for publishers.

I now believe that greatest danger of such ads for publishers is the long-term damage to their brands — and the impact this will have on traffic, reader loyalty, and ultimately on their survival.

Several years back, I was involved with a predictive analytics project for a large telecommunications company. We aimed to explore strategies — a combination of prevention and intervention — that would minimize the impact of viruses on mobile devices.

At the start of the project, I mentioned to our client my surprise that they would put so much effort into a problem that was entirely due to the hardware and software, which they did not control. The client pointed out that, unlike personal computers, where consumers blame the hardware or software manufacturers for viruses, in the wireless world consumers blame the carriers. For instance, if my mobile phone stops working because of a virus, I am more likely to blame Verizon or AT&T than I am to blame Samsung or Apple, or even Android or iOS.

In my opinion, a similar situation exists in digital publishing. If I am reading a digital publication and I get really annoyed about an ad, I will instinctively feel annoyance toward the publisher, not toward the brand.

In the last few months I’ve noticed a few publishers that do excessively aggressive advertising, and I've put them on my blacklist. This includes one that uses long pre-roll ads on videos with no opportunity to opt out after a few seconds, and another publisher that auto-plays video ads with the audio on. I know exactly what publishers they are — and I avoid them like the plague.

I believe that I am not alone in this sort of behavior. We form emotional associations with brands on the basis of our experience, and these associations become stronger with repeated exposure.

The repetitive bad experience in the case of annoying advertising rests entirely with the publisher, not with the advertiser. The unwanted audio or the unstoppable pre-rolls will showcase different brands — but the publishers forcing these annoying ads upon me remain the same, and my dislike for them will grow.

This post was first published in September -- but makes a point worth repeating.

2 comments about "Annoying Ads Will Be The Death Of Publishers".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 19, 2015 at 2:56 p.m.

    Well worth repeating, Paolo, but will they heed your advice?

  2. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, November 19, 2015 at 3:07 p.m.

    Having published well over a billion pages on our website with handful of banner ads locations per page, here are a couple of thoughts.  With junk ads, much of the problem begins with Google since they are the biggest ad distributor. Many times I would get a junk ad and we would block it.  Then the same ad would come back using a completely different domain name. I have blocked one ad maybe 10 time legitimately. This gets old fast.... The answer is to get Google to also block the ad banner and not just the domain name.

    Second, at least with this publisher, ad blocking programs might actually help us.  The reason is we don't need the banner, just the URL link to the sweepstakes.  We index, tell our members about the sweepstakes and turn the advertisement into native. Our members know what they are clicking onto, knows the sponsors and other information.

    Our sponsors are telling us this method of advertising their sweepstakes is far more effective. How effective?  Sweeptakes Today produces more Facebook sweepstakes entries than Facebook.

    The point here is simply being smarter and trying new ideas can overcome some short comings.

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