December 23, 2015Banner ads aren’t entertaining, and that’s why they must die

With iOS9 offering ad blocking baked in, it seems like people are finally catching on to ad blocking.

I’ve been blocking ads on my desktop for five years now, so I notice it most strongly when switching between my iPad and my Android phone.

The iPad is a joyous experience – while hideous, misleading banner ads on every web page have made Chrome in Android almost unusable (and frequently unstable).

I don’t care about your ‘moral’ argument about how banner ads pay for the content I read. Because I have never, ever, ever willingly clicked on a banner ad. I am actually doing you a favour by switching them off.

Firstly, you’re wasting your time – and money – serving them to me. Spend your money elsewhere. Maybe on a nicer brochure website or a press ad, or even TV if you’ve got the cash.

Secondly, as more and more of us refuse to put up with the essentially broken web experience banners foist upon us – slow load times, unacceptable bandwidth draws, pages crashing due to bad plugins, content misleading or obscured – it forces you to rethink your business model.

You can’t annoy a person into buying your services.

If you cold called me and I politely said “no, I never buy from cold callers” (I don’t), do you really think ringing me up another seven times a day for the rest of my life would persuade me to buy your product?


Because that’s how banner ads work.

Annoy, annoy, annoy. Pester, pester, pester.

Is it really any wonder nobody clicks on them?

Which is why I read this article about a new ad blocker that allows certain ads through in exchange for payment – that’s right – paying you to watch ads – with interest.

You’re paying me to watch your ads now?

Now, you could argue that this is the beginning of a more sensible, opt-in business model – creating a value exchange for being shown ads that goes beyond the content (which is often thinly veiled advertising itself).

Or you could argue the opposite. It’s the beginning of the end. The last desperate gasp of an advertising model that’s completely failed.

It’s still the pester, pester, pester of the constant cold caller – only now he is paying you a few pennies every time he calls.

Does it change anything?

Maybe it makes up for the inconvenience, but I’m still not buying.

You’re still just pestering me with crap.

A couple of years ago, copywriters started telling everyone they were “storytellers”. But the truth is the best creatives – and indeed, the best salesmen – are entertainers.

They amuse us. They move us. They excite us. They make us feel good about ourselves. And that makes us pay attention for long enough to listen to a product message – and maybe buy something.

Paying people to watch ads isn’t the answer.
Making ads that people want to watch… is.

When I was little I used to love the ad breaks – they were the best thing on TV. We used to recite the funny little catchprhases in the playground.

Wondering if this was just nostalgia for my own past I went back and re-watched some of those ads earlier this year. I found I enjoyed them just as much – they were ads made to entertain, to raise a smile, to tell a joke.

These ads were your friend you could share a laugh with down the pub – not a persistent cold caller who won’t take no for an answer.

But this isn’t mere nostalgia.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine in New York excitedly sent me a link – a lengthy Volvo ad of a four year old girl tearing up a race course in a huge articulated lorry.

A day later, another friend back in Britain shared the same link. “Bravo, Volvo,” he said. “You just made me watch a two and a half minute ad and I didn’t even mind”.

This is the same Volvo that let you experience a test drive using Google Cardboard last year.

Citroen, meanwhile, have been bombarding me on Instagram – where I can’t adblock – with the same image of a new car for days.

Look at the car. Buy the car. Look at the car. Buy the car. Look at the car. And so on.

They’re wasting their time – and money.

Good advertising is entertaining. That can be true of a piece of content marketing. It can be true of a TV ad. Hell, people loved those Geico ‘unskippable’ pre-rolls.

Banner ads are none of these things. And even if you pay me to start watching them, sooner or later they will die.

The first rule of advertising. Be entertaining. Or die.


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This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015 at 2:40 pm and is filed under Advertising, Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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