Advertising, offline and on

2004-08-07 20:03 - Opinion

Advertising is a great thing. Usually. Unfortunately, advertisers want to grab eyes, or ears as the case may be. How do we do that? Make the ad somehow jarring, so that you can't look away, or can't not hear it.

This means loud. Loud colors, loud sounds. On television, it's at the point that most networks play ads at an uncomfortably loud level, when the shows are set to my preferred listening volume. To the point where I have to turn the volume down for every commercial break, which is a pain. I should get a tivo so I can really put TV commercials in the past for all my TV viewing.

Online ads are another thing altogether. Advertising has probably existed from the day there were two competing companies. The thing that has changed with online advertisements is that now it's not blind. Old style advertising was simply buying some air time / print space, that was mixed in with things people wanted to see. So, logically, they see the ads in between! Thing is, it's impossible to count how many people see an ad in a newspaper, and decide because of it to buy something. When the ad is online, things are all computerized, and the advertiser can count exactly how many people clicked on the ad.

As soon as the numbers were so easily available, it became obvious (to anyone not smart enough to know it already) that advertising has a phenomenally low response rate. That's ok, there's a lot of eyes out there to see it. That's how spam works. Even if 0.1% of spamees respond to the ad, that can be a lot if it's 0.1% of a million or ten million people. Pretty soon, the online advertising market started drying up anyways. With a number-of-clicks available, one can quickly estimate how much revenue an advertisement brought in, and can directly compare it to the cost of running the ad.

On the losing end of that comparison, there's only two things to do. Quit advertising, or try to make more people notice your ad. Lots of companies have tried the latter. This is where pop-up ads came in. Thank goodness that the technology that drove the advertisers to those lengths was also able to let the viewers swiftly say, "No thank you!" Popup blockers are common, of course, and come bundled with almost everything these days.

So the pop ups are gone, are they? Well, welcome to the animation. Animations are bad for web pages. Except the most artsy, and certain truly good designs, web pages shouldn't move. Readers don't like it when flashing and strobing advertisements get in the way of the stuff they're trying to read. Of course, the advertisers want you to notice the flashing strobing ad. And click on it and buy something.

Enter technology again. Numerous solutions exist to block advertisements in web pages. It's quite an ethical question to decide whether they are good or bad. But, they're there, and I use them. I use AdBlock with Firefox. Suffice to say, AdBlock is very powerful. Over time, I've custom crafted a very nice set of rules to use with it. And I'm going to show you them! But let me say one thing: These rules were built with goals in mind. Namely, flashing, moving, annoying ads are bad, and should not exist. Plus, Google's ads are good. Google has simple, text ads. Plus, web sites can define what colors they show up in, to blend in well. Not to jar the user out of a good viewing experience. So they should not be blocked. On with the rules! Please note that line breaks for formatting have been inserted where the


Updated filters
2004-12-26 20:13 - arantius
I've, of course, constantly tweaked my rules over time. My newest rule set will periodically be saved here: adblock filters
New filters
2005-02-28 11:14 - arantius
My filter list linked above has been updated again. Now, it includes much of the same but instead only three whole hosts are blocked, the first rule is much smaller. There are more variations on "ads" and "banners" and added is some variations on "popup" and "click". Quite effective overall.
This is a good thing to check out also though: How To Block Ads & Web Bugs Without Extra Software. Catches a lot of the privacy type stuff that I have purposely not included in my adblock filters.

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