Internet ads getting more invasive

As many websites grapple for income, they are becoming more bold in how they use ads to force your attention rather than leaving it to chance. These ads either take over a significant portion of the browser or the entire thing. To be clear, these type of ads typically happen on machines that run full, non-mobile browser versions.

Now I do appreciate that ads provide much needed funds for many of the news websites and online magazines that I frequent. However, I think websites are starting to edge their way over the acceptable line and are starting taking their cue from TV shows which blast viewers who don’t have DVRs with 50 – 70 ads per hour.

The challenge for the internet surfer and the reason why I decided to write this post is advertisers are working diligently to make it harder, if not impossible, to avoid some of these new “style” internet ads because you can’t just zap them away with a Dish Network Hopper. Some browsers do a better job of blocking these full screen ads than others. Firefox combined with Ad Blocker Plus does a commendable job while Chrome, on the other hand, seems to let just about all of them through like Black Friday shoppers rushing into a Macy’s store.

If you haven’t yet experienced these ads, here’s an overview of the types that have been interrupting my recent surfing experience. All of these are triggered when you first go to a website, or sometimes they occur when you simply open different pages within the same site. Some of these have been around for a while and I’m starting to see them show up on more websites:

  • Full screen ad with a small hyperlink that you can use to bypass it.
  • Full screen ad that won’t let you click out until after a certain time period has passed.
  • Full screen ads that take over the browser for 5 or 10 seconds and then automatically shrink. These ads don’t let you click out.
  • Video ads that automatically start when the web page loads, then you have go hunt for the video player to turn it off.
  • Ads that float over the content of the page, block a significant portion of content and don’t go away unless you click the close button or click on a suspicious looking link. These ads can also hover in the same place even when you scroll the page up or down.
  • Very large ads that automatically popup if you accidentally move the mouse cursor over ad links embedded within the content on the page. I’ve started calling these “land-mine” links because you typically aren’t expecting them to popup as you move your mouse over the web page.

What to do? You have do have some options that can partially help, so here’s a handful of suggestions. If you are on a desktop or laptop you can move to a browser like Firefox that has add-ins like Ad Blocker Plus to significantly reduce the number of ads. You can stick to using a mobile smartphone browser and only visit mobile versions of your favorite sites. Mobile sites typically have less invasive ads (so far anyway). But personally I think that surfing gets tiring after looking at a tiny phone browser for extended periods of time. You can vote with your feet and simply avoid sites that annoy you, but that’s not a viable option for some people. You can stick with RSS feeds, but then you lose the richness of a full web page. And, you can also send feedback to websites whose ads you find particular invasive, because they won’t know unless you say something.


Spam and Web ads are annoying but much better than TV ads

For now my blog will continue to be ad free. Full disclosure: I’ve had two offers in the last month to expose my visitors to ads. The presumption is that I would make some (albeit small) amount of money. However, I’ve done the homework and know that the advertisers make the big bucks and not the advertisees.

Ads in all forms continue to plague the earth because some surveys consistently show that they work. The math is stark and the math simple. Someone is responding to spam email, even the icky ones. Someone is clicking on those web ads, and someone claims to be watching TV ads and even going so far as saying they are effective. Gasp! I will reluctantly agree that some ads are useful for communicating new products or features, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them.

I recently read about a survey claiming that 53% of online consumers said a TV ad had influenced them to purchase a product or service in the last twelve months. My heart nearly stopped. Yikes! Who are these people? Speaking on behalf of my own brain, it automatically shuts down within 30 milliseconds of an ad starting on TV or Hulu, or YouTube. Sometimes I can barely read a news article because my brain automatically blurs out 3/4’s of the page where presumably the evil ads are lurking.

Here’s a fact. When you watch prime time television you will be brainwashed and turned into a zombie through the constant exposure of 50 – 70 ads per hour. I’ll repeat that in case you missed it: 50 to 70 advertisements in a single hour. I can tell you this with certainty because I sat down one night and decided to convert percentage of ad time per hour into a meaningful number that anyone could understand. If you watch two TV shows back-to-back that’s possibly 100 to 140 ads that have soaked into your sleep addled brain. And, these are the actual ads and the numbers don’t include embedded product placements that are getting increasingly brazen.

After I had a grasp on the level of digital bombardment we were receiving from TV ads, I was able to take some of the full page, online, take-temporary-control-of-the-entire-browser ads with a bit more perspective. I also said a silent praise for DISH Network’s Hopper.

Maybe I’m writing this blog post because an ad told me too.