Apr 11

Thanks for the ads, but no thanks

Confession: I’m an advertising guy who doesn’t like advertising.

Don’t misunderstand. I love great ads. I get that advertising is what keeps the Internet humming — and I’m kind of attached to the Internet.

What I’m saying is that if I had a choice between seeing a page with ads or no ads, I’d go for the clean look. That’s only because the really great ads are few and far between. The rest, we mostly endure.

I thought Apple was right with me when they added the Reader feature to Safari. Now I can make the ads fade away with a click. It’s a nice way to read.

Over the years, we’ve achieved a level of balance. Ads have proliferated, but people generally accept the necessity for them. I’m fine with that.

What gets me steamed is when a company acts like they’re doing me a favor by putting ads in front of me. Trust me, I have yet to wake up in the morning eager to see today’s ads.

The people call Google to the witness stand.

Google is now testing ways to improve the relevance of ads they serve up in Gmail. A friend of mine recently reported that when she made a joking reference to a mustache while composing an email, she saw an ad for the Shick Hydra.

Google may call this “increased relevance.” I call it creepy. I’d feel like I was being stalked.

As I understand it, you can turn off the relevance thing. Nonetheless, Google serves up this type of thing as a “feature” rather than a new way to annoy you.

Relevant or irrelevant, it’s an ad. You live with it to get free email — you don’t get free email to see the ad.

Sit back down, Apple. You’re next.

iPhone was a revolution — and apps were the revolution on the revolution. Apps also gave Apple the opening to get into the advertising game. With iAds, they could sell ad space inside their apps, where Google could not go. iAds are more interesting than typical ads, because Apple enforces creative standards.

Having built up a number of advertisers now, Apple has now seen fit to introduce the free iAd Gallery for iPhone. Technically, it’s an app. But it’s really just a collection of the iAds intruding on people in various real apps.

Over at Scoopertino, we sometimes invent imaginary products from Apple. We usually start with something Apple-like, then exaggerate it into an absurdity. When I first saw the iAd Gallery, I was crushed that we hadn’t thought of it first. I could just see the headline:

“Where’s the app? Apple releases new app that’s 100% ads.”

The only thing that could have made the story funnier would be if Apple was offering an ad-free version for $2.99.

Obviously, the iAd Gallery will be useful as a tool for agencies and developers to sell their clients on the idea of putting iAds in apps. But one can’t help but get the feeling Apple thinks they’re doing us a big favor by letting us see the fabulous iAds.

So thanks, Google and Apple, for doing your part to bump up the relevance and quality of ads. But if I pay you, can I just turn them off?

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  • qka

    The VCR allowed people to skip the ads in television shows.

    There exist various ways of blocking ads on the Internet.

    The people trying to avoid ads and the advertisers trying to expose us to ever more ads will be an ongoing battle. As for the ads themselves, the good, useful, or interesting ones are tarred with the same brush as all the undesirable ads.

  • Micah

    For what it’s worth, if you use the words “dead” or “death” in an email, Google will not show ads in Gmail. Of course I can’t think of a natural way to incorporate “death” into an email signature but you’re a copywriter right?

  • ken segall

    I love that! Thanks for the tip.

  • Peter

    “With iAds, they could sell ad space inside their apps, where Google could not go.”

    Actually, many could and did via AdMob, etc. But when Apple released iAds, they pretty much put the kibosh on that.

  • Ian

    Did you wake up on the wrong side of bed today?

    Look with iAds an App gets ads if the developer whats ads in his app and the types of Apps that a developer would want ads in are Apps that are free. So you do get to pay to turn them off. What is missing is that when one browses the iTunes App Store there isn’t an indication whether an App uses iAds or not.

    The same applies to Gmail — you can pay for it by using Googles Apps for business.

    So in both cases it’s your own fault you get confronted with ads. Its just too bad that paying for content such as buying a printed newspaper or magazine does not ensure that I can avoid ads all together.

    Now as to the iAd Gallery App it’s no different from people watching the best of advertising shows on TV, traipsing thru YouTube to check out the Superbowl ads, visiting TBS’s veryfunnyads.com to get a laugh or two and even visiting kensegall.com/blog to get your opinion or comments of adds from time to time.

  • ken segall

    Sadly, that’s the same side of the bed I wake up on every day.

    I wouldn’t say it’s our “fault” that we’re confronted with ads. As you say, we can’t really tell where the ads will be until we get there. And I’m all for developers including ads to keep their apps free, or charging us to remove them. That sounds fair.

    My post criticized those who act like they’re doing us a favor by finding new ways to put ads in front of us. They’re not. They’re doing it for themselves. They’re putting their own potential profit over the quality of the user experience.

    I’ve worked around people who had a genuine feeling of responsibility, who felt that certain lines could not be crossed in the search for new customers. I’ve also worked with some whose lust for “more clicks” took precedence over all else.

    With all respect, I think the iAd Gallery is way, way, way different than sites that show off the Super Bowl ads or TV shows that highlight the funniest ads, etc. Have you looked at the iAd Gallery? It is hardly a “best of” advertising show. It’s a stretch to call it entertaining. It’s just a demo of a lot of ads I’d personally rather pay to make go away.

  • Ian

    Ken, thanks for your opinion of the iAd Gallery. Unfortunately — or maybe not ;) — the app is at present not available here in the German iTunes Store so I am not capable of judging it.

    I too am disillusion with the information media. My job is to support companies whose purpose of existence is to get people to place ads in their publications or broadcasts to persuade other people to buy things they do not need. Sometimes I wish that I did open a New York type greasy spoon joint.

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