Blocking Ads Or Buying Netflix: It's All The Same

A new report says over half of Americans have used Netflix in the last 12 months, which is no giant headline. The last time RBC Capital Markets asked the same question, in May, it determined that 50% had. A 1% gain isn’t stop-the-press news.

But the story made me stop and think, not about the quality of Netflix content, but its lack of advertising. Lately, as I’ve watched Netflix competitors, Hulu and Crackle specifically, I’ve been fascinated, in a bad way, about how repetitive and careless advertising is on those services.  

The clumsy lumps of ads within Crackle’s new “The Art of More” particularly--how many times can I see the same Infiniti ad, or stop from gagging at the obvious product placements--made it unlikely I’d come back for another episode. And unthinkable I’d ever consider a binge session.



And I don’t consider myself the most hard-to-please viewer out there.

But if people are gravitating to ad-free models like Netflix or You Tube Red, or even Hulu’s ad-free option, the message seems clear enough that ad-supported models and advertisers themselves should be getting wise. Make better ads, put them within better content and display them in smarter ways.

Or, suffer the consequences that now sends a steady trickle of viewers to Nerflix and repels them from lots of advertising messaging, now and in the future.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Joe Marchese, the founder of true[x], asserts that he wishes everybody would install ad blockers, just to wake up the industry to shoddy ad practices on shoddy sites. (To me, this is a little bit like rooting for Trump or Carson, just so that you’ll shake up enough sentient human beings to get serious about the presidential race.)  

Marchese’s not talking about ordinary commercials that you know are going to pop up. He’s talking about bots and odd-sized ads and online ads that come at you from every known direction — and lots of places you don’t see.

But the cumulative effect is the same, to a consumer. A bad ad experience is a bad ad experience, even if it’s seeing the same message at every commercial break. I don’t think consumers distinguish all the ways commercials irritate them, but I think they know it when they see it.

And all of that is to the benefit of Netflix or Amazon Prime or even just the DVR.

Marchese sizes up the publisher-consumer relationship like this: “A consumer gets valued content in exchange for explicit permission to borrow their attention. If the publisher abuses this, asks for too much attention, or degrades the experience too much, then the consumer will find another path.” That's the problem.

And maybe it's too impossible to fix because greed and avarice inevitably beats down the greater good.

2 comments about "Blocking Ads Or Buying Netflix: It's All The Same ".
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  1. Tobi Elkin from MediaPost, November 25, 2015 at 2:20 p.m.

    Great column PJ.... I, too, saw Marchese's column in the WSJ. Agree with you, a bad ad experience = a bad experience. Regarding the lumpiness of the ad blocks in Crackle's The Art of More. I spoke with Eric Berger, evp at Crackle and you should direct your comments to him--this is an ad ops issue and affects the viewing experience.

  2. Joe Marchese from true[X], November 28, 2015 at 4:35 p.m.

    Well, not sure I'd compare it to supporting Carson or Trump, because the stakes are far, far, far lower, and I do think that increased adoptoin of ad blockers will be a good thing, can't say that about ther other. But certianly apperciate you furthering the conversation. 

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