Myths of the internet: Gewgaws and gizmos
So much web advertising plain stinks. It annoys. It disrupts, like TV ads.
April 4, 2016
By the editors of Media Life
Digital advertising is poised to pass TV as the biggest advertising medium over the coming two years. But there are still a lot of misconceptions about internet advertising. Media Life will take a look at each one in our five-part series, “Myths of the internet.” Below is part two of the series. Click here for part one, “The worth of click-throughs.”
If surfing around the internet you’ve come to think something is terribly wrong, you’re right.
Wherever you go, it seems you must navigate around layers of annoying ads to get to the content you want.
The web of today is all about disruption.
It is a disruptive experience, and it serves no one’s interest, not the user, not the content creator, not the publisher, and especially not the advertiser, who’s paying for it all. The advertiser’s getting the worst deal of all.
At issue is not just whether there are too many ads on top of one another. It’s bigger than that.
The core web advertising model is all wrong. It’s a major force in holding the internet back from becoming a first-tier advertising medium.
The web ad model is based on the television model–on disruption. We are forcing the user to break his or her attention in order to receive an ad message. Typically it’s a message that’s of little interest to the user.
The nature of disruption
Television gets away with disruption because it can, or could before TiVo and other ad evaders came along.
And in any case, television has no real alternative. It must disrupt. The best alternative, product placement, is a pretty weak one.
When it comes to the internet, disruption comes with a hefty price tag, as we are learning, starting with ad blockers, which are increasingly common.
Ad blockers threaten the future of the internet. If enough users adopt them, it could destroy the very economic foundation of the internet, the flow of ad dollars. Users are adopting them for the sanest of reasons: exasperation with disruptive web ads. You can hardly blame them.
Why is web advertising so disruptive?
Because it’s so easy. It’s so easy to sell clients on gewgaws and gizmos that pop and bounce about and explode in color. It looks so cool. And it draws the user’s eye into the ad, even cooler.
But easy is also lazy, and with the web now challenging TV for the largest share of ad dollars, it’s time to transition internet advertising toward a smarter ad model.
The smarter ad model
That is the magazine ad model.
It makes total sense. The web was set up as a magazine to be read, and to this day, even with the rise of video, its pages are still laid out as magazine pages.
But more importantly, the magazine ad model is not disruptive. It is complementary. Advertising complements and pairs with content.
It worked for magazines because they were typically a targeted medium. The publisher attracted a certain readership and then used that readership to attract advertisers intent on reaching that audience.
The internet is very much a targeted and targetable medium, unlike TV, which is a mass medium.
It too can pair users and advertisers–and far more effectively than magazines.
Consider magazine advertising at its best. Say it’s a fashion ad in Vogue. The ad and content are totally compatible, crafted for the reader, and for that reason the reader reads the magazine as much for the ads as the editorial.
Another classic example: A fly fishing magazine. Ads and content are totally compatible, and the reader reads the magazine as much for the ads.
It’s the finest sort of branding.
We expect to see a lot more of it in the coming years, as advertisers and publishers realize that gewgaws and gizmos don’t work and come to appreciate the internet as a branding medium. Media Life will begin profiling sites that excel at creating branding environments.
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