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But wait, there's more.

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Doug vs. Japanese Snack Foods: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

rant is where the heart is

diaryland: entry for 2005-02-25 (13:52)
In which our plucky young hero never clicks through.

You know, I remember when an animated 468x60GIF was the annoyingest thing ever.

And I remember when a 468x60 Flash animation was the annoyingest thing ever.

And I remember when a window that automatically opened to show a large ad was the annoyingest thing ever.

I wonder what the annoyingest thing ever will be tomorrow?

See, whenever I read about advancements in ad-blocking technology, I am always reminded that I've never actually expressed, out loud, Sheppard's Laws of Internet Advertising, to wit:

1. Advertisers will always chose the least-instrusive method you provide them for showing an ad that you actually look at.

2. Advertising methods that are excessively intrusive will be put into cold storage for a while.

3. An advertising method that nobody looks at will be put out to pasture, and one of those cold-stored methods from point #2 will be brought out in its place.

To see what I mean, compare the state of online advertising with that of, let's say, television. If you asked someone ten years ago how ads worked on television, they would say "Advertisers buy commercial time from broadcasters, during which they air short product-promoting films." If you asked them twenty years ago, they'd say "Advertisers buy commercial time from broadcasters, during which they air short product-promoting films." (Admittedly this does not generalize as well as it could. If you asked them sixty years ago, they'd say "They pay Bob Hope to mention the damn product every six minutes.")

Why? Because on television, commercial buys are the least-intrusive method that still works. And it's no coincidence that product placement in shows has emerged at the same time as easy, consumer-grade commercial-skipping technology has finally hit the market.

Now compare that with online ads: static image to animated image to Flash animation to pop-up to pop-under to interstitial to floating

element all in the space of ten years.

Why has this happened? Why are we now being annoyed eighteen ways from Sunday every time we visit any random web site? Because we asked for it.

Read the laws again. Ad technology will only be used as long as people look at the ad. When it doesn't work anymore, advertisers aren't going to get out of their business and open a yarn shop instead. They're going to go back to their evil mad science laboratory, find that aborted experiment from two years ago that made every member of the focus group kick in their monitor, and deploy it now that it's not so bad, compared to the current state of the art.

Ad filters always work to kill off the most primitive, least obtrusive technology first, because it's easier to block. An ad proxy that rejects all 468x60 GIF images is much less complex than one that needs to identify DHTML code that may indicate the presence of a floating ad banner.

If you kill off the animated-GIF banner market (not that it needed much help near the end, as I can sadly report) you are not killing the advertising market, you're just finally laying the groundwork for the 468x60 Flash animation ad banner market.

"But don't these people understand that we are trying to not see ads? Cannot they comprehend and respect that the reason their banners no longer work is that we do not want them?" you ask. And the sad truth is, they understand this completely. They just don't care, because at the exact moment that you stop engaging them on the business terms they've set, you are by definition no longer their customer.

And just as Pizza Hut has no obligation to replace the flat Cokes of someone who got their pie and pop from Domino's, a web site whose ads you aren't reading owes you nothing.

So what's the answer? I'm not sure. But I know what the answer isn't: another arms race to find a way to block the ads that are currently the least-intrusive way of penetrating to the greatest number of users. Because that's a fight that cannot be won by the user. The content providers and the advertisers, the ones with the goodies you want to consume, will always have a weapon bigger than your shield, and if all else

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