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Where Marketers Go to Grow

October 23, 2013 // 11:00 AM

Dear Advertisers, Everyone Hates You, Please Go Away, Okay Thanks

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91138159This is an opinion piece by Dan Lyons, executive editor of Up and to the Right. Follow Dan on Twitter here.

Hey all you awesome companies that run advertisements on the internet -- here’s some news that is really going to make your day! According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center you are not the most hated group on the internet! 

Nope, the crown for that goes to hackers and criminals.

But hang in there, advertisers, because when it comes to groups that people most desperately want to avoid online, running you’re a close second.

That’s right. According to the survey, 28% of Americans say they’ve taken steps to avoid online advertisers. Some 33% said they’ve taken steps to avoid hackers and criminals.

Things look even worse for advertisers when you factor in demographics. Among respondents aged 18–29, 34% said they’ve tried to avoid advertising online. And remember, children are the future. And apparently children are tuning out the ads.

“The backlash against advertising has only just begun,” writes Leo Mirani on Quartz. This comes on the heels of a previous story by Mirani titled, “Over one-fifth of people use ad-blocking software – and it’s beginning to hurt.”

Who's to Blame?

Mirani writes: “All this is pretty grim news for online publishers and service providers that rely on ads. But they are hardly innocent victims. As online ad rates decline, publishers often use annoying, invasive ads that auto-play video or audio, bounce about, or cover the entire screen and follow readers around. If they want their users to stop using ad blockers, perhaps websites need to stop subjecting them to a barrage of color and sound at every step.”

Keep in mind, however, that just below Mirani's stories Quartz had placed ... wait for it ... that's right, a bunch of ads. And not just any old ads, but big huge moving ads, including one for Boeing that occupied almost the entire width of the browser window, with planes zooming across the screen and landing and taking off.

Then came an ad for Harvard Business School that was animated so that it appeared as if you were floating down the Charles River as Harvard buildings scroll sideways. Then came a huge glossy campaign for Siemens trains.

Well, at least the Quartz ads don’t take over your screen, or bounce around, or follow you.

But they’re also impossible to avoid, since they’re presented as “native advertising,” meaning they’re placed right into the news feed. Ahem.

Wanted: A New Business Model

Signs of the rebellion against advertising are everywhere. “Everyone agrees that advertising on the Internet is broken,” Till Faida, the CEO of Adblock Plus, tells Salon.

This is incredibly bad news for the ad industry, of course. It also does not augur well for the media business, which remains dependent on ads.

Some in the media business are searching for new ways to make money -- for example by incorporating e-commerce into news sites. One site doing this is xovain.com, a spinoff of xojane.com, where you can read a review of styling cream and then put that product right into your shopping basket and buy it, with xovain.com collecting a fee on the transaction.

A gadget site called The Wirecutter makes money by recommending products, steering readers to online stores to buy them, and collecting an affiliate fee. The New York Times praised the model as an innovative take on gadget blogging.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who recently bought the Washington Post, told the staff there that he doesn’t want the newspaper to be 100% ad-supported. Bezos hasn’t said how the paper should make money other through advertising, but given who he is, commerce would be a likely candidate.

Nevertheless, don’t expect those pesky ads to go away anytime soon. Facebook, in fact, wants to jam even more of them in your face. Last month Facebook once again aroused the ire of privacy groups, this time by introducing a new policy that would let Facebook use people’s names and photographs in advertising. Not to be outdone, now Google is doing the same thing.

Also, Facebook recently announced it would start putting ads onto Instagram, its mobile photo-sharing app, in the near future. Wah.

If these companies keep this up, someday soon advertisers could steal the top spot on the list of the internet's most hated group. Watch out, hackers and criminals -- the advertising sharks are coming for you!

Photo: Thinkstock by Getty Images.

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