Pervasive advertising and digital sharecroppers

Thursday, 21 January 2010


Does pervasive advertising still work on the internet? As some of the big guys work hard to make a profit from their current business model pervasive advertising has crept onto pages and across screens. We've been led to believe that traditional methods of advertising are dying out; so why the full page ads, auto play video and pop-up like overlay advertisements? The simple answer is pervasive advertising works and still delivers a certain percentage of click throughs that can be depended on and on sold to clients. But internet advertising is a complex beast and one that big companies are struggling to make a profit from.


Digital sharecropping is a dirty word, but in the end who really cares? In Nicholas Carr's own words "What's being concentrated, in other words, is not content but the economic value of content.". But, again, who cares? Part of everyon'es big obsession with Web 2.0 is the celebrity status, if you were at all concerned that Twitter was making big bucks out of onselling your tweets you would blog in your own dark corner of the web. Youtube didn't drag you to their site or link to your video without your permission. So it is reasonable that they should be able to cash in on their traffic. The traffic that is the pitter, patter of millions of satisfied content creators and viewers.

What is interesting in the past five years of the internet, despite the large volumes of traffic flowing through Youtube, Twitter and other social sites, they are still finding it hard to come up with a successful model to compare with that made by the companies fund them (think the cost of buying Youtube to the profit made so far). Digital sharecropping aside, we have received a hell of a lot of joy in return for sharing our meager thoughts and content with these sites.

Social sites are just like reality TV, some people are willing to participate for free in hopes of celebrity, while a larger company sells advertising on their television network.

What's interesting to see is the way the big guys have gone about trying to get the best out of their clients advertising dollars. Like this example from yahoo:



Note, I didn't even click on this thing it just pops out at you and engulfs the entire screen. These type of adds are regular on yahoo's site and occasionally clicking on close will either redirect you to the sponsors site or just doesn't respond.

This next example from myspace is even better. The only thing worth looking at on myspace is the band pages, and the only thing on those pages is the music player. So clever myspace place the add directly over the music player. After closing an add it is replaced approximately every couple of minutes with a new one.



But the most memorable advertisement recently has to go to Digg with their Dragon Age full page advertisement. That caused a storm so big the instructions on how to remove the add reached the front page of Digg's own site. Have a look at the add below:



The Digg community went crazy with many threatening never to return. As the backlash reverberated around the halls of Digg HQ and at the risk of losing their beloved linkers (farmers?) it prompted this response. With full page adds never to be repeated since.

I'm sure we won't be seeing the end of pervasive advertising on the internet, but advertising in the internet is different to advertising in the real world. Most people tolerate advertising in return for entertainment. But on the internet, especially where users are giving up some of their own time and effort they are not willing to let the experience be degrade by advertising that interferes with the experience.

Sure we are willing to be sharecroppers and sure you can have advertising on your site and you can keep your traffic and we'll keep our 15 minutes of fame. By try and interrupt that experience and there might just be a workers strike.
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