Reader Experience – Do Online Ads Suck?

Last week at Code Conference by Re/Code, Mary Meeker unveiled her Internet trends report. Ads were a part of the overall presentation. Re/Code even posted a post called “Mary Meeker is right — most online ads suck.” As a reader of sights I have to agree.

I read a lot of sights on a regular basis. They range from marketing, entertainment, technology and anything that strikes my interest. There are sites, who will remain nameless, that drives me crazy when I have to go there. It makes you want to throat punch the person who made the decisions. More on that in a minute.

Mary released stats relating to Millennials, but many of these will correlate to other age ranges. She also noted that Millennials were not anti-advertising and would share ads they liked. But this is the current state ofMillennials, from Mary Meeker:

  • 93 percent will consider using ad-blocking software
  • 81 percent mute video ads they find irrelevant
  • 62 percent are put off by a brand that forces pre-roll viewing.

Before I get into ads and what I find annoying, let me explain my philosophy about blogging and sites. As you can tell by this site I value the reader experience. Things that get in the way of that should be limited when possible. Also, readers need to know that advertising is a must for sites to make money. It takes money to create content and content producers should be rewarded for their work. If they aren’t given monetary support through ads, many seek members supported sites.

What we need to improve on as marketers:

Video Ads that slide open in content – There is nothing that annoys me more going to a site and about 4 lines down an ad magically appears to slide open. I don’t mind ads at the top or side but I draw the line when it’s in the content I want to read. What makes this worse is some sites have this type of ad with another inline video ad below it.

Preroll Video – The perfect example of this is when I wanted to see a commercial. I went to YouTube and was forced to watch an ad before I got to see the ad I wanted to see. If you are going to implement preroll, have it so you can skip the ads.

Pop Up Ads that take up the screen – Pop ups can be an ad for a business or for the site itself. I have two examples of this type of ad. The first is I went to a news site. The ad at the top slid open and then stayed at the top of the window as I scrolled. It left me about 2 inches of viable screen space to read the content. I gave up on trying to read it. I couldn’t see the photos and had to constantly scroll. The second is an ad for the site you are on. The prime example are “Sign up for our newsletter.” Email marketing is important, there should be a place to easily sign up. However, every time I go to a site it comes up. I will not sign up for your news letter. I will rarely come back and read your site.

No way to mute video ads – In the land of annoying ads this is worst offender. When a site has a video ad, they usually have the audio muted or a way to mute ads as they play. I have come across a few sites where there is no option to mute or stop the video. A recent example, I was reading a page, had to go to Facebook to respond to a message, and an ad started. It threw me for a second. If Chrome didn’t have the tab notifications I would have no clue what site was the offender. I with out hesitation click the close X on the tab.

How we can make ads better:

There is no easy way to solve this problem. Its going to take changes in the marketers side and the consumer side. I have two suggestions for improving ads.

Intersticial Ads – This is more for audio/podcasting. If you are familiar with TWiT network. A lot of their ads are apart of the content. This is like the shows in the 50’s, where there is a short break where the hosts talk about the sponsor. One of the most interesting ones are for Audible. A lot of the panelist are subscribers (outside the podcast sponsorship) and will share interesting and new books you can listen too. It’s mixed into the content. This may not work with print but works great for video or audio.

Targeted Ads – I’m not talking targeted as the person but the content in the ad. Its important to get the demographics of the site you are wanting to advertise on and see if it’s a fit. You wouldn’t run an ad featuring the new Samsung phone on an Apple site such as iMore or 9to5 Apple. We need to tailor ads to the audience of the site it runs. Which is not easy if a site doesn’t have accurate demographics.

We will have to see how the ad world will turn out in the next few years. Ad blockers are becoming more popular and we will need to find new ways to reach consumers.

Tim is the founder of Element33. A social media agency specializing in education, management and strategy for small businesses. He comes from a traditional marketing agency but has embraced all things digital. He considers himself a marketing nerd and believes that all marketing is tied together. This means no matter what silo you are in, social, email, seach, etc, changes in one will affect the other!

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