The NYT describes how Google has changed the look of on-line advertising:
FIVE years ago, Web advertisers were engaged in an ever-escalating competition to grab our attention. Monkeys that asked to be punched, pop-ups that spawned still more pop-ups, strobe effects that imparted temporary blindness – these were legal forms of assault. The most brazen advertiser of all, hands down, was X10, a little company hawking security cameras, whose ubiquitous "pop under" ads were the nasty surprise discovered only when you closed a browser window in preparation for doing something else.
Today, Web advertisers by and large have put down their weapons and sworn off violence. They use indoor voices now. This is a remarkable change.
Thank you, Google.
Link: How Google Tamed Ads on the Wild, Wild Web – New York Times.
I’m still amazed that this advertising model works for Google. I used Gmail for months before I remembered one day that it was ad-supported. I finally looked and there they were. They’re so unobtrusive that I had never noticed them. More and more web users must also be learning to block out ads subconsciously.
Fewer pop-ups is certainly a good thing, but it still seems like the overall level of advertising on the web is increasing. The trend is towards unobtrusiveness, yes, but probably also towards tighter integration between content and advertising, as with TV, which I think is uglier.
Jerry Mander, in his classic book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television argued that television, by its very nature, is first and foremost a tool of advertising. It’s inevitable that corporations control it and use it to persuade. (I’m paraphrasing badly here.)
His argument could apply even more to the web. Who was it who said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from advertising? Oh wait, maybe I’ve got that wrong…