For two hours, Google’s ad servers were suffering a software glitch. What happened next was celebrated on Twitter. People took screenshots of “what the Web looked like without ads,” haling it as something worth cheering for.
This experience, which became known as #DFPocalypse, echoes the use of tools like AdBlock, which deter some newbies from entering the digital advertising industry. Ads aren’t vanishing from the Web, but they must adapt to user concerns if advertisers hope to continue being profitable.
Consider the average user’s complaints about ads: that they follow us everywhere or that they demand too much of our time. Television shows run minutes of commercials on TV, billboards are placed all throughout major American cities, and radio and newspapers are full of ads. Those are not given the level of scrutiny that an ad on a prominent Web page would be.
Something about the immediacy of the Web drives this outlook.
Expectations fuel demand, however. The Web, its pages and the technology that drive the ads have gotten faster. Users now load fewer assets on a Web page, which speeds up ad and content delivery.
The idea of “free content” is an illusion. YouTube, blogs, Twitch.tv and every other prominent website serves ads that require a user’s time. This time is exchanged readily because the benefits of content served far outweigh the time wasted watching a pre-roll video or seeing a banner ad.
Advertisers are instead treated like a nuisance, a gatekeeper to free content. This is a problem of perception. Advertisers are in fact sponsors of content around the Web. They allow content to exist, thrive and grow. Even a sporting event on basic cable, another phenomenon that’s becoming increasingly rare, is plastered with advertising to help cover the costs to put on such a spectacle.
Ads help support independence in journalism in the same way that marketing once stifled voices. In the past, losing sponsorship was detrimental and had long-lasting consequences, including closing the publisher’s outlet. Today’s bloggers have less to fear because they have a nearly endless pool of advertisers willing to pay for placements that convert. That lack of fear encourages debate, which is part of a healthy democracy.
Without ads there are no blogs. The Web would not be as interesting, as engaging or as utilized. This amazing tool we have for communication and commerce might have remained a tool for moving 1s and 0s around had it not been for advertisers taking a chance on a new form of media.
Bio: Ted Dhanik, the CEO of engage:BDR, is an advocate for digital advertising and the technology behind it. Ted Dhanik is passionate about the user experience, and engage:BDR develops technology that better serves non-intrusive ads to users who wish to see them. Ted Dhanik has also guest blogged for AdAge, Venture Beat, MediaPost and others.