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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


To AdBlock or not to AdBlock, that is the question

To AdBlock or not to AdBlock: that, for some reason, seems to be the question.

While most of us are usually happy to block to our hearts content, there is a growing regiment of Internet users eager to point out the positive nature of online advertising and the dangers of ignoring it completely.

It is true: Online ads keep our clicks unhampered, our surfing smooth, our cat videos free of charge. But the world of online marketing is in many ways still an enigma, a beast that few have been able to tame.

As a result, the Internet is now burdened with some of the most obnoxious advertising techniques known to man, so much so that the online experience is severely weakened because of it.

For instance, while making my way through my weekly guilty pleasure trifecta of “The Flash,” “Arrow” and “Legends of Tomorrow” on the CW app, I am forced to endure about 20 minutes of advertising per hour.

This is no different than watching on an actual television during the original air date, but the online experience has become one of not only being forced to watch ads, but of being forced to watch the same individual ad over and over again. As if by the time I hit “Legends of Tomorrow,” I’ll be so bombarded that I’ll just break down and sign up for GEICO insurance.

In a report for Marketplace, writer Tracey Samuelson actually researched this phenomenon and found that demographic data on Internet viewers is scarce enough to where most advertisers actually steer clear.

Additionally, the average advertiser is somewhat picky about what kind of programming his or her content appears next to—think scripted series over cute baby video.

Therefore, the number of advertisers actually interested in buying time on something like the CW app is relatively small and when they do buy, they buy everything. One must endure 20 minutes of that DirecTV “Settlers” commercial (which I admittedly kind of liked before I was forced to watch it 30 times in a row) as a result.

Worse are landmine ads, those hyperlinks found in bits of text as you scroll through whatever article is currently holding your interest. We have Vibrant Media to thank for that, a marketing firm that deals in both premium advertising but also broader content marketing.

Vibrant Media’s website suggests that they “allow brands to connect with consumers in real time through viewable, engaging solutions,” which is clandestine corporate speak for, “We make sure that content people didn’t ask for is constantly pushed on them through links they didn’t mean to click on.”

Even creepier are companies such as DoubleClick, a tracking firm owned by Google. It’s the goal of entities like this to build profiles about you as an Internet user, and to make that information available to potential advertisers.

Have you noticed that banner advertisements on Facebook try to sell you things you recently looked up on Amazon? Or that movie spots on YouTube start to play in Spanish after you spend a couple nights Googling lots of Spanish phrases for some homework?

Welcome to the future: It’s creepy as hell.

With such offensive and often bizarre advertising strategies, many are led to ask: Does any of this shit actually ever work?

While attempts to answer that question are somewhat varied in methodology and overall effectiveness, the resounding answer seems to be: usually not, but enough to get people to keep trying. With the Internet being as vast as it is, if only one out of every 10 users clicks on an ad, it is considered a success.

What makes this all so disappointing is where it’s taking place. Television advertising was always an “other.” It was something separate that you invited into your home by way of compromise.

The Internet always promised to be something different, something you could personalize to yourself, something in which you carved out your own little corner. For advertisers to take that freedom and harness it to create yet another opportunity to push their products feels like the commoditization of thought, choice, possibility and freedom.

Why anyone would then want to defend such a process is initially confounding, though none of us wishes to see our favorite free content end up behind a pay wall. What Internet users don’t realize is that a rather heavy moral decision, whether to pay for the content they want or get it for free at the cost of privacy and convenience, has already been decided for them.

To quote a professor of mine, “AdBlock is your friend … AdBlock is your friend.”

Follow Greg Castro on Twitter.

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