Whiting Out the Ads, but at What Cost?: This is an interesting article on the AdBlock Plus controversy. We talked a couple weeks back about the guy blocking Firefox because of their “support” of AdBlock Plus.
The article concentrates on the taboo question: what if the Firefox-blocking guy is actually right? I mean, what if this ad-blocking thing takes off like crazy, to the point where the Internet advertising business falls apart? That’d sure be interesting.
From that perspective, the program is an unwelcome arrival after years of worry that there might never be an online advertising business model to support the expense of creating entertainment programming or journalism, or sophisticated search engines, for that matter.
There’s a point there. I wondered about the same thing after the first time I downloaded a TV show via BitTorrent. The show was in HD, and all the ads had been removed — it was, for all intents and purposes, the perfect viewing experience. But in the back of my mind, I knew there was no free lunch, and the piper had to be paid somewhere. My mind started to extrapolate…
So I can watch TV with no ads? When does that start to matter? Will advertisers suddenly feel their ads are no longer effective? Will they scale back advertising budgets? Will TV networks start feeling the loss of advertising revenue? Will they scale back their production budgets? Will I start to think, “Man, TV shows kind of suck these days”? Then, in a fit of self-awareness, will I suddenly realize…mediocre TV is the thing I created?
Obviously, I went a little far with that. What’s probably going to happen is you’re going to see ads get more integrated into other information. FM has been big on their “conversational marketing” with things like the FM Battle Royale (I’m still totally winning). Sure, it’s advertising for Toshiba, but it’s interesting beyond the sponsorship, and it’s relatively unblockable. More importantly, I don’t think anyone would want to block it, because it’s kind of interesting.
And that’s an important point that the creator of AdBlock Plus seizes on:
“There is only one reliable way to make sure your ads aren’t blocked — make sure the users don’t want to block them,” he wrote. “Don’t forget about the users. Use ads in a way that doesn’t degrade their experience.”
This is happening all the time in TV. It started with product placement, then those little in-show ads at the bottom right corner of the screen. But it keeps getting more and more pervasive.
Shows are starting to incorporate thinly-veiled ads directly into their content. I mentioned the thing with “American Heiress” a couple months ago, but I’ve noticed it more and more on “MadTV” of all places. That show went four straight episodes once with someone saying the phrase “Toyota Yaris.” The car itself appeared in two or three sketches.
Even more blatant, they had a sketch set in a video store, and one of the characters went off on a tangent about the release of “Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj.” Later, she talked in-depth about the plot of “Turistas,” and what appeared to be the entire trailer to the film played in the background.
I welcome stuff like this, I really do. Like it or not, advertising is the currency of media. Unless you want to pay for everything you watch, read, or hear, advertising is going to have to be somewhere.
Risking a really bad analogy, it’s like a terrorist movement, — if you successfully block its traditional methods, it will just come out in more subversive ways. It’s up to us which method we let stick — but one of them will have to stick, trust me.