Posts Tagged ‘Advertising’

Intrusive ads are counter-productive – at least with me

February 6, 2014

I must be representative of some consumers since I do buy stuff.

I even buy quite a lot of stuff on-line. Tickets of any kind (theatre, airline, museum, train, football, hockey bus ……), books, music, electrical and electronic gadgets and a host of small articles capable of being delivered by post. We book hotels on-line and sometimes pay on-line as well. We generally don’t buy food or clothes on-line but we do sometimes (at least my wife does) respond to the flyers dropped into our letter box by local retailers. Nearly all automotive products or materials for house repairs are bought physically and not on-line though we may have searched on-line.

But what I observe is that when I buy-on line it is from sites that I know or for which I have searched on-line. Never by clicking on an ad at another site. Even when I search I always hop over the paid ads which show up at the top of the search results. For a store to show up in a search result is much more important in getting my custom than in their advertising having been seen on another site. I cannot recall a single instance in the last year of buying something in response to an on-line ad. But what I also observe is that there is some threshold level of intrusiveness which leads me to remove sites from my bookmarks. If a site directs me first to full-page ads which I have to click away – and especially if they make it difficult to find the “close” button – then those sites get removed from my bookmark lists. I don’t watch videos on-line if their ads don’t disappear within 5 seconds. If my mouse, when hovering over text, brings up too many intrusive ads then the entire site gets onto my “black-list”. I don’t mind registering for some services at some sites but if that process takes longer than about 30 seconds (perhaps a minute) then that site never gets visited again.  Of course it could be that some of the on-line ads are having a subliminal effect and reinforce my perceptions when I search for on-line stores – but it is not very likely.

Even on TV and especially since the break for commercials is so long (in Sweden a commercial break lasts 6 minutes and there are not many ads of high quality), the commercial break either leads me to surf other channels or to go do something else. In the last year or two I notice that there are more TV programmes that I watch only up to the first commercial break because I then go and do something else and never get back in time to watch the rest of the programme. If it is a sporting or political event, then I may well return to the programme – after the commercial break. In any event the people paying vast sums for making and airing the commercials do not capture my attention. If anything they create a resentment in me since I am either a “captive audience” or am being coerced to view their “nonsense”. And it is the resentment which leads to the content being classified in my mind as “nonsense”. I never watch TV shopping channels but they clearly don’t have me as their target audience. The very existence of the commercials is leading me to strategies to avoid them!

My behaviour is surely influenced by the presence of ads on-line and commercials on TV. However, the behaviour engendered in me is nearly always counter-productive from the viewpoint of the advertiser. Maybe I am an untypical consumer – but I doubt it.  Which makes me wonder how effective some of this advertising is?

Certainly advertising agencies and the industry in general will never admit that there can be too much advertising. They get paid for exposure (or apparent exposure) and not for sales achieved. They don’t suffer any penalty for resentment caused or customers driven away. But I would suggest that there is a threshold – very low in my case – at which on-line advertising and commercials on TV become counter-productive.

I get virtually no text ads on my phone. I stopped using Facebook and Twitter some months ago so at least I am not harassed by their ads. But from what I hear, the intrusiveness of the ads on the social media are now leading to some people reducing their use and, in some cases, ending their use of social media. Social media and their business models are still evolving but the assumption that advertising revenues can keep increasing forever is fundamentally flawed.

BBCTwitter reports $645m loss for 2013

Microblogging site Twitter has reported a net loss of $645m (£396m) for 2013, just three months after its flotation on the New York Stock Exchange. The loss was expected by analysts, who highlighted Twitter’s revenues, which rose 110% last year to reach $665m.

But a reported slow growth in user numbers was a bigger concern for investors. Twitter averaged 241 million monthly users in the last quarter of the year, up just 3.8% on the previous quarter. That represents a slowdown compared with a growth rate of 10% seen at the beginning of 2013. Timeline views were down nearly 7%, suggesting users were refreshing their feeds less often.

“What this report will do is it will question how mainstream is Twitter as a platform,” said Arvind Bhatia, an analyst at Sterne, Agee & Leach.

Shares fell as much as 12% in after-hours trading on Wednesday.

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Facebook and Twitter are “publishers”, not merely “couriers”

July 30, 2013

Social media like to claim that they merely provide a “platform” or  are just “communication enablers” or only provide “communication media” and therefore that they are not responsible – and should not be held responsible – for the content they disseminate.

But they protest too much.

It is quite wrong to compare Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn to a telecommunications enterprise or a postal service or a courier service or an e-mail service provider. In all of these a specific identifiable “sender” directs a communique to a specific, identified “receiver”. The carrying of the communique to the specific receiver is the service provided by the communications enterprise and is not in any sense “publishing”. The service provided by the social media is more than just the provision of a soap box in Hyde Park (a platform) or the provision of a Board or a Wall in a town square onto which a newspaper could be appended. Any website could be a platform for comments but the website owner must take ultimate responsibility for the content published on the web-site.

Facebook and Twitter disseminate their users communiques to a general audience without discriminating as to who may receive the communique. Their business models rely on this audience being as large as possible. Their advertising revenues depend upon the dissemination being as wide and as “indiscriminate” as possible. They are not so different to a radio or a TV broadcast where the broadcaster tries to reach as large an audience as possible. The broadcaster is clearly responsible and accountable for the content of the broadcast. A free newspaper being distributed at all Metro stations but where revenues are dependent upon advertising also has a responsible publisher. Any advertising revenue accrues to the publisher.

The clincher for me is that the placement of advertisements based on circulation is decisive proof of the existence of a publisher. All published material does not contain advertising. Not all advertising is proof of the existence of a publisher. A billboard or sandwich-board owner for example, is not a publisher. But the mere existence of advertising based on circulation numbers or “reach” or any similar parameter is conclusive proof – I think – of the existence of a publisher. And it is the person or organisation responsible for the circulation who takes the advertising revenues and in consequence must be the responsible and accountable publisher.

Freedom of speech does not really enter the argument. The publisher may choose to publish whatever he pleases. He may refrain from “censoring” his users if he so wishes. Or he may – at some cost – ensure that the content he publishes meets criteria that he sets himself. But he remains responsible and accountable for what he publishes. Facebook and Twitter cannot abdicate their responsibility because they choose not to exercise the quality control they could.

It seems to me to be self-evident that Facebook and Twitter are not “billboards” or “sandwich-boards” but are full fledged “broadcasters”. And a broadcaster is a publisher. They could take responsibility for the content they disseminate if they wanted to. It just costs. They can be held accountable for what they indubitably do publish – and they should.


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