Mar 11

Death to the YouTube pop-up ad!

Completely ignoring the complexities of life, I’ve managed to lump everyone I’ve ever met in marketing into two distinct groups.

1. Those who believe advertisers have a degree of social responsibility.
2. Those who believe it’s their holy duty to cram an ad into every available space on this planet.

For years, things have remained in relative balance simply by the force of nature. On occasion, ad agencies and clients would get too pushy — and negative reactions would make them take a step back.

However, there’s a disturbance in the force. These days, the rewards of being annoying can be so great, advertisers and their enablers are more willing to “tough out” the criticism just to keep the cash flowing. Maybe we don’t protest loudly enough, or we get tired of complaining. Whatever, we start to see excessive advertising as a necessary evil — even if it isn’t necessary at all.

Case in point: YouTube pop-up ads. Oh, how I loathe them.

Amazingly, they manage to offend on multiple levels.

Right at the moment you’ve chosen to be passive — watching a video — a pop-up ad forces you to take action. When it materializes, it’s like an annoying fly. You can try to ignore the distraction or you can take the time to swat the thing. Even if you swat, you’ve already lost a few seconds of pristine video. To see the whole video unblemished, you have to go back to the start.

If this technique is supposed to “personalize” my advertising experience with ads relevant to what I’m watching, it ain’t happening. In fact, Google Adsense pop-ups make little sense at all.

I watch Pink Floyd (still frame above) and I get an ad for the Ford Edge. I watch a video about sushi and get an ad for the Dell Inspiron. I watch Peter Gabriel and I’m invited to an Express Oil Change at Riley Car Care. No kidding. This is just advertising pollution, and someone should be very ashamed of themselves.

These ads operate on the same principle as junk mail. Show the message to a few million people, and a few may actually click. There is no respect for the customer here.

I once thought Google to be above such things. The creator of the world’s sparsest search page would seemingly have the good taste not to throw such garbage at their audience. Obviously there are minds within Google that value advertising revenue more than the user experience.

If you search around on the topic of YouTube pop-ups, you’ll find that they are hated by many. Sadly, the offended aren’t hating loudly enough. Rather than pulling back, Google is pushing forward, providing new self-service tools that make it easier to spread pop-ups far and wide.

I have a great love for advertising. My only problem is advertising that poisons the environment. Does Google have other choices? Of course they do. They could just as easily surround videos with ads that can be clicked or ignored without aggravating anyone. But they don’t.

Other sites (and some YouTube videos) simply show an ad before your video comes on. At least this makes some sense. Ignore the commercial and ultimately it will go away. The YouTube pop-up can’t be ignored. It’s like the Terminator. It will relentlessly pursue you until you kill it.

Google built a legend with its “don’t be evil” mantra. Maybe these days that’s too grand an ambition.

Personally, I’d settle for “don’t be annoying.”

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  • I don’t mind ads. Actually I find ads interesting most of the time, personally and professionally.

    Can’t say the same for YouTube’s in-video ads. By far the most annoying and LEAST efficient ad ever.

  • BDD

    Adblock for Safari (and Firefox, I assume) has a built-in YouTube ad blocker. It’s beta, but it seems to work most of the time.

    I don’t mind most ads, but I’d rather not see them in videos.

  • Micah

    I wasn’t even aware that these existed as I use an ad blocker that takes care of them. How annoying.
    As a former ad man yourself, are you opposed to blocking ads or do you not block them so as to have new material for the blog?

  • qka

    I have modified my hosts file to block not only most advertising sites but also many malware sites. All I get is a little blue box with a “?”, if I get anything at all.

    See http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/ as one source of such a file, and how to install in Windows. I use a Mac, so I use their file but had to find out how to install from other (now long forgotten) sources.

  • ken segall

    Hey, watch it with the “former” stuff. I haven’t been drummed out of the business just yet :)

    I’m not at all opposed to blocking ads. To each his/her own. The fact that these blockers are widely available just makes it all the more urgent for advertisers to come up with new ways to get their messages seen. For some, that means coming up with innovative ways to make us actually want to interact with them. For others, it means annoying the hell out of us.

  • Jadtur T

    MartinHill says: 
Fri Jan 21 13:56:00 PST 2011

Brennon, why lump iOS and Android together in terms of insecurity? 
Android is far more insecure than iOS by design, though not necessarily because of its open source nature and is already suffering the fallout despite having half the installed base worldwide.
The proof is in the pudding. It is Android and the Android Marketplace that has suffered multiple malware outbreaks such as:
- More than 50 Android mobile banking apps in the Android Marketplace each targeted at a specific financial institution whose true purpose was phishing and identity theft.
- the Geinimi botnet app that is infecting numerous Android apps on Chinese app stores and spreading around the world.
- Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.FakePlayer.a, the Russian “Movie player” app that surreptitiously sent premium SMS texts from unsuspecting users
- the new Soundminer Credit-card number stealing trojan proof of concept
- Brand new HTC Magic phones infected with the Mariposa botnet and Conficker and a Lineage password-stealing Trojan that attempt to infect Windows PCs when connected over USB.
- Mobile Spy and Mobile Stealth apps in the Android Marketplace
- SMS Message Spy Pro and SMS Message Spy Lite spyware apps also in the Marketplace
- The 45,000+ spamware apps clogging up the Android Marketplace (as noted by Appbrain)
In contrast, despite hosting over a third of a million apps and 10 billion downloads, there have been Zero pieces of malware come through the iOS App Store. A 100% safety record. Not bad, and good reassurance for a public tired of virus-riddled PCs.
Then of course there is the side-loading of apps with absolutely any nasty thing being possible in Android and no review of apps at all in the Marketplace and we are talking a completely different level of insecurity and exposure. In addition, the Soundminer Credit-card number stealing trojan proof of concept demonstrates some of the risks inherent in Android’s far more un-restricted multitasking model.
iOS requires signed code and enforces strict sand-boxing and provides hardware encryption all of which Android lacks. Instead Android throws up a Vista-like screen of permissions for each app which the average user is not necessarily going to read or understand. 
All developers on the iOS store have far more stringent monetary and ID checks to post apps so the chances of mischief are so much less as to be negligible in comparison.
ps. Of course if you jail-break your iPhone, all bets are off.

Also, I neglected to mention that in terms of vulnerabilities, Android is a particularly bad offender:
”A shocking number of high-risk security flaws in Google’s Android smartphone OS have recently been discovered by security firm Coverity.
”We found 88 high-risk defects in Android,” it says in the firm’s 2010 Open Source Integrity Report. “25% of the Android defects discovered, including memory corruptions, memory illegal accesses, and resource leaks, are considered high-risk with significant potential to cause security vulnerabilities, data loss, or quality problems such as system crashes.” 
The report is based upon the source code analysis of the Android kernel 2.6.32 (code named “Froyo”), and they have discovered 359 flaws in total.”

  • Micah

    @Ken haha, sorry about that, please forgive me.
    You’re right too; there would be no need for these ad-blockers if advertisers made more ads that were relevant to people rather than creating nuisances.
    One of the worst recent examples (and one that somehow slips past my ad-blocker) is the awful automatic drop-down ads on the the Gawker Networks sites since the re-design. I only access Gizmodo from my iphone now where the mobile version is ad-free.
    Also, kudos on the site. I work in the industry as well and your insight and analysis is always spot on.

  • rd

    Mr. Segal,

    “degree of social responsibility”

    Have you seen the BBC documentary
    “The Century of Self”, you can see it
    if you search in video.google.com.

    Having seen it, Advertising is
    one of the worst professions in the 20th
    century that gave us Smoking and Diamonds.
    Using peoples fear to market to them is what
    advertisement business is all about.
    Basically giving Politicians and Corporations
    fascist tools to control people.

    Review of the documentary.

  • Ian

    How ironic. An ad for Andriod from Jadtur T popped up in the middle of your comments . ;)

  • Marian

    I didn’t bother installing an ad-block plugin until I encountered extremely annoying ads (for example those that take you from your page and shows you some b.s. ad for 15 seconds).

  • Paula

    On one side, I agree with you, Ken, when you say that the really annoying pop-up ads are the ones that shoulod be barred. Those that cannot be easily removed from your screen.

    On the othe side, I assume that marketing is nowadays necessary for business success and that advertisers have to be more and more creative in this competitive world.

  • ken segall

    This is my point exactly. Marketing is absolutely necessary for business success. (Look at Apple.) And there are some — not all — who put that success first, and the quality of the consumer’s experience second. “Being creative” is indeed the mission. However, being creative does not mean finding new ways to fill every inch of our screens with advertising, and it does not give advertisers the right to bother us when we don’t want to be bothered. The best agencies and clients recognize their responsibility not to pollute the environment (virtual and otherwise) with their messages. With some brains and creativity, companies can succeed wildly without annoying customers in the process.

  • Graham

    Opera internet browser also has a great extension ad on called ‘youtube adsfree’

    works like a charm.

    I have never bothered with popup blockers or ad blockers til the annoying youtube popup ads.

  • Chris

    Advertising is a virus.

    Even sites like this ask for your email address, and some will ultimately sell thos for email advertising.

    The reason ad blockers exist is advertising is been abused.

    I dont care for non animated banner ads and text banner ads, they fine. What bothers me is the following.

    Large animated ads.
    Popups and Popunders.
    In videos ads.
    Forced ads before video clips that cant be skipped.
    Ads that slow down the loading of a webpage.

    Of course the issue is it seems advertisiers dont like friendly ads, they want to deliberatly distract us which leads us to install adblockers.

    Sites I regurly use that have friendly ads I will whitelist in adblock plus.

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  • Jack Strait

    Was I the only one to try to close the ad in the picture before I realized I couldn’t?