If marketing listened to markets, they’d hear what ad blocking is telling them

What follows is my comment (the first one!) under Confusion Reigns as Apple Puts the Spotlight on Mobile Ad Blocking, in AdAge. I’ve added some links.

Bury_your_head_in_the_sandMarketers should be looking at what the market wants, and why.

The market is customers, and they are speaking to marketers today by making ad blockers the most popular browser extensions, and by telling survey after survey that they dislike having their privacy invaded by unwanted tracking (TRUSTe, Pew, Customer Commons) and that they are resigned to a status quo they don’t like (Wharton).

In other words, the “key link between brands and customers” that customers sever with ad blocking isn’t a link at all. It’s a pain in the customer’s ass, or they wouldn’t be severing it.

Apple knows ads and tracking are pains in the customers’ ass, because Apple is a B2C company that speaks every day to customers, on phones and on the floors of its stores. Apple sees there is a clear and obvious demand for Content Blocking, and want to be first to market with it. Serving that demand doesn’t hurt Apple outside of iAd, which accounts for a whopping 0.01% of Apple’s sales. (And what will Content Blocking add to Apple’s device sales? You can bet that Apple is running those numbers.)

Meanwhile marketing doesn’t speak to customers, because marketing lives in a B2B echo chamber where the voice of the customer (hello!) is inaudible or ignored. [Later: Iain Henderson has some excellent push-back on this characterization, plus some helpful guidance, in his comment here.]

Sure, marketers *think* they know what customers want, because they have Big Data and Big Analytics telling them, up to the second, what a customer might want to buy. Three problems with that: 1) there is no direct and conscious two-way interaction with customers; 2) most of the time customers aren’t buying a damn thing; and 3) guesswork based on all that data and analytics is wrong 99.x% of the time, thanks to #1 and #2.

Denying and fighting what customers want is doing huge damage to marketing and advertising, and it will only get worse as long as it continues.

Look at the damage already done to plain old impersonal brand advertising, which customers could appreciate because it wasn’t creepy and obviously helped pay for the magazines, newspapers, radio and TV shows they liked. (And none of which they thought of as “content,” by the way.)

Today we live in a dysfunctional marketing world where advertisers have been taught to want every ad to perform — while customers want every ad, and the tracking that aimed it, blocked. (AdAge should do a research piece on how direct marketing body-snatched advertising from Madison Avenue. If you don’t, your body has been snatched too.)

The only way to fix this is from the customers’ side.

What kind of ads would a customer opt in for? (No, don’t kid yourselves about “Ad Choices.” It’s just another ludicrous conceit that only makes sense in the echo chamber.)

Would customers accept ads that obviously aren’t personal (based on tracking), and clearly pay for the online goods they want and appreciate? Is there still hope for that baby?

Only if we can snatch it from the bathwater that customers’ ad blockers are throwing out.

Can we create standards-based ways for customers to express their friendly intentions regarding tracking, advertising, subscriptions and the rest of it, to marketing systems that can actually listen?

In fact there are developers working on those ways. Here’s one. (Check him out. He’s non-trivial.)

If you’re interested I can show you some more.

30 responses to “If marketing listened to markets, they’d hear what ad blocking is telling them”

  1. Doc,

    Is this really so hard for marketing people to understand? I feel like we’re talking to a bunch of people with a collective IQ equal to their shoe size. The best advertising is relevant content AND proper context.

    Example: I read a lot of beauty blogs. I expect to see ads from cosmetics companies on these blogs. I do click on ads from cosmetics companies. But I do not want to be interrupted by pop up ads or autoplay video ads because I’m busy reading the articles. I especially don’t want to see these types of ads on a mobile device!

    I also read a lot of tech blogs. I do NOT expect to see beauty ads on a tech blog. But sadly, I do see beauty ads because some cookie is placed in my browser that tracked my previous visit to a beauty site or merchant like Sephora. So I see a Sephora ad on a site about wireless networks. Isn’t that stupid? The ad isn’t related to the content of the site Doesn’t the site want to show me an ad related to wireless networks?

    What if Vogue suddenly started carrying ads showing the latest wireless access points? What if Men’s Health magazine began carrying ads of Estee Lauder’s latest lipstick? It’s inconceivable in the paper magazine world, but online you see it all the time. The reason is: it’s dirt cheap to just stick an ad in your face online. Marketers don’t care one way or another. They like to ambush us, like a bunch of digital banditos. That’s why we have to use Ghostery and Ad Block Plus to protect ourselves.

    1. Thanks, Esme.

      As usual, you nail it. 🙂

  2. Your post is on the mark, Doc.

    These marketers don’t seem to realize the notion of brand can be negative as well as positive and that their actions drive the brand they’re working on in the wrong direction.

    When my father died I did a bit of searching on urns on my iPhone. There is now a car company and a fast food company I will not do business with. To make matters worse urn ads appeared for the next month or so.

    I ad block on my laptop and will asap on my iPhone.

    1. Agreed, Steve.

      Great point about branding. I’m reminded of what a (literally) old friend said to me, long ago (I was in my twenties, and committed a manners error): “Friends are so hard to make, and so easy to lose.”

      Creating a strong brand is expensive. Spamming people with bad adtech is cheap — and damn near inevitable when brands are looking to personalize every ad, and cause a click.

  3. FYI – your link to Darren Herman’s twitter account is wrong – add “76” to the end of the handle and it’s corrected. 🙂

  4. Thanks, Stephen.

    Darren already pointed it out. I know better, but I can’t go back and correct a tweet.

    Somehow I’m reminded of this old Onion story. Why do I remember that and not what I had for lunch yesterday? (Probably another Onion headline there too.)

  5. But, but Doc…

    They’ve got to win their awards and stuff, don’t they? They don’t have time to listen to the markets. 🙂

    I don’t pay much attention to the ads themselves (because I’m not “shopping” … that I do on SHOPPING sites, for another perspective), and when they pop up on a website right in the way of what I’m trying to look at … I delete the page or go to a new one.

    No article is important enough for me to be interrupted by an ad.

    But even if an article WERE important enough to be interrupted, how dare these marketers think I want to see even a related and contextually – correct ad pop up in the way of what I’m trying to read?

    Would these advertisers, out on the street, walk up to someone reading a book and stick a flyer in the way of what they are reading? (So, they could get punched in the face?)

    No, I don’t think they would. THAT is how they should be thinking. And that’s why I use ad blockers (btw, I don’t read articles on mobile devices).

    I would rather pay a penny, a nickel, or even a dime for full-length reporting (long reads, maybe a quarter for feature-level, non-hype, real-value articles).

    Nicely written Doc.

  6. As a freelance CD & writer, every time a brand hires me to do a banner campaign, I die a little inside. I still take the assignment, of course – especially if it pays well. 😉 But I do so knowing that at best, people (consumer & B2B) are banner blind, and at worst, they HATE the ads & the brands that insist on running them.

  7. Well done, Doc.
    Marketers have created a collection of online intrusive advertising systems that have a negative and positive aspect. The Internet was supposed to be free, yet we have to pay for access. On the positive side, popup ads within apps provide some revenue to the authors of the apps without them having to charge for their apps. If I find an app (I will limit this to iPhones and iPads, even though the problem is rampant) that I will use multiple times on an ongoing basis, I will purchase it. There really aren’t that many. With that said, on the negative side, many apps that require a cash purchase have now incorporated banner and popup ads in them. Notice to marketers: I will not pay for an app that includes popup or banner ads. There are competing products available.

    Imagine looking at a product online and then purchasing it online or at a brick and mortar store, only to be bombarded with ads for that product on social networking sites or that large online retailer that starts with an A. Hey marketers! I only need one in my lifetime, and I already have it. Stop the ads, you are wasting money. However, if you are make, try this and see if you get the same results: Visit Victoria’s Secret and see if you get ads from them displayed in your browser while on FB or other social media. The answer is likely no. You are being tracked and catalogued and are giving up your privacy. Deleting cookies will help, but just how long will it be before your cookies are stored by a third party and even deleting them will have no effect? If I asked this question, the marketers are probably already doing it.

  8. I work in ad tech, and this is a pit we’ve dug ourselves into as an industry. In theory, better targeted but less invasive ads should, in a vacuum, provide the value to user, publisher and advertiser necessary to power the “free” content creation of the Internet. Unfortunately, up until fairly recently, targeting to a person’s interest was just not really a thing… so it was a question of winning with volume and winning with annoyance.

    We have a framed piece of art on our wall in the office that says “If you talked to people like advertising talks to people they’d punch you in the face,” and that’s been true, by and large, for the past several decades.

    Our CTO, Sim Simeonov, wrote an article in BostInno today talking about how ad tech’s addiction to volume has created this situation where we’re scrambling to deal with an increasingly empowered user base who has been treated as commodities for so long that the resentment may be impossible to overcome.

    I’m curious if we’ve entered a space where people are unwilling to consume advertising – period – to fund online content, or if there’s still a place for companies like mine (I like to think) to work on a system of ads that are targeted like Google’s SERP ads (which nobody ever seems to hate) and unintrusive (yet visible).

    The whole industry is in a challenging place. For my own sake, I’m hoping that we can win back as much of the trust of users as possible and climb out of this pit we as an industry have dug.

    Thanks for the great article.

    1. Thanks, Daniel.

      Here’s the Sim Simeonov piece. I love how you and he are both working from the inside to reform an industry that has run afoul of the marketplace, and I appreciate you sharing what you’re dealing with here.

      While there is no doubt that adtech has poisoned itself in the ways you and Sim talk about (me too), and the resentment may be impossible to overcome, there do remain some media where advertising is still welcomed. Trade and fashion publications come to mind.

      In this post I talked about the risk of throwing out baby of non-tracking-based brand advertising with the bathwater of adtech. But the better metaphor might be wheat and chaff, which I visited at length here. Curious to hear your thinking on that one.

  9. I just wrote a very long reply before reading your linked wheat/chaff post. Stupid of me. Excellently written post, by the way.

    It’s interesting to me that a few years ago, whenever privacy concerns arose, it was enough to tell people that you aren’t collecting personally identifiable information. Yes, you had a certain amount of browsing history, but people weren’t as worried because your name, location, employer, etc. weren’t part of it… you were anonymous but targetable.

    As you point out in the other post, though, a major problem with that is the opacity. For those who are interested in knowing what information is informing their ads, it’s very difficult if not impossible to know for certain.

    I am intrigued by your idea of the users themselves separating wheat from chaff in their (and I know people hate this term, but it’s kind of ingrained in my brain at this point) advertising experience. If people don’t trust the data aggregators but agree with the concepts that advertising is necessary to pay for the content we consume and that some measure of signal of interest is necessary to deliver ads that are reasonably targeted, having adjustable, informable ad blockers that are tweaked on the user side is a good way of doing that. And I think Ghostery comes closest to that functionality right now.

    However, a few questions arise: as you noted, things like the AdChoices logo and AdBlock’s “good ad” curation aren’t doing the job, so who plays the role of gatekeeper and determinant of what is wheat? Would this effectively be machine learning within the browser itself? Something like a 3rd-party tracking cookie, but locally stored and unavailable, that starts letting through ads based on your browsing history (and later your ad interaction history)?

    That could be interesting.

    But my second – potentially more important – question is, you state that “I think most of us can agree that encouraging wheat production is a good thing.” I’m not sure that’s the case. I think far too few people actually draw that line between ads and the paying for the free web, and I’m not sure that the vast majority of people wouldn’t just turn the settings to “Block All,” as they are doing now.

    Of course, that might not be a problem if clicks are still the currency of advertisements… we’ve seen enough studies that show that a total of 2-ish percent of people click on ads.

    Eh… I fear I’m beginning to ramble. I enjoyed the wheat/chaff article a lot, and appreciate that the conversation goes much deeper than just “Ads suck, block ’em all,” which has become the prevailing perspective in many cases.

    I hope my comment has been interesting. We have to figure out a way to rebuild the trust of users and provide ads that benefit advertiser, publisher and user as much as possible.

  10. @daniel Once consumers, particularly on iOS9 devices learn all ads can be turned off with a single click then they will do so. Consumers don’t have sympathy for advertisers.

    For a consumer, the Internet is not free because they pay a bandwidth subscription fee at an average of $40/month which is not cheap for the majority. Today, a hefty percentage of the $40/month is used by ad traffic. Again, consumers have no sympathy for adtech.

    As the uptake of ad-blockers increases, it will be interesting to see if the ISP’s start blocking ad-traffic because it is essentially going nowhere and just clogging up the pipes.

  11. Why is no one talking about the fact that the advertisers aren’t the ones who design a publisher’s website?

    Of course, if the ad space is there, someone will buy it.

    Consider the rise of those dreadful inline pop-in video ads over the past year. It’s easy to add for a publisher, higher value than a banner ad, and only needs a few seconds to constitute a view.

    More money for publishers, more ire at advertisers. It’s just another example of journalistic immunity.

  12. @Yerbury, I don’t disagree with that… consumers certainly do not have sympathy for ad tech, and yesterday’s article on BBC (I think) about the breakdown of ads vs. content in page loads and thus data consumption underscores your point.

    However, someone has to pay for the content. Subscription fees pay for the access, but how do you pay the content creators if not with ads? People have, by and large, been unwilling to pay subscriptions on top of their access fees, and with most users (I think) consuming content from dozens of different sites per day or per month, convincing them to pay each one is nigh impossible.

    Ad tech at the moment deserves no sympathy, but the question of “how do we pay the content creators?” needs an answer. One alternative is massive consolidation into a small handful of media networks with shared subscriptions, which may be appealing, depending on your perspective.

    ISPs may need to, rather than block ad traffic, stop counting it against data usage; it’s in their best interests to ensure that the access they are selling is to as valuable a world of content as possible.

    Oddly, ad traffic may be their “in” to getting people to drop net neutrality opposition. Just a semi-random thought, may not be grounded in anything.

    1. Some context.

      The Web we know is only 20 years old. Everything on it is provisional. It’s just scaffolding. That includes all business models and methods.

      But some sites, services and methods are more sturdy than others. It’s a pretty safe bet, for example, that the non-business entities on the Web (.orgs, .edus, .govs, etc.) are going to be stable-ish for the duration, because their business isn’t business. They stay alive for other reasons. Retailing is solid, because their business selling stuff directly to customers.

      Ad-supported media, however, are on shaky ground. The ones with massive scale, such as Google and Facebook, are in good shape. But publishers that serve as an attack vector for adtech are dealing with a marketplace where the victims of attack are rejecting advertising in general and adtech in particular.

      Here’s another fact to consider: nobody “has to pay” for anything. If the market doesn’t support something, it dies. This has been a rule of commercial life for as long as we’ve had it. Look at the stores along any city street. In five or ten years half or most of them will be gone.

      I’m a “content creator,” by the way, and I’ve hardly been paid for content in years. I don’t get paid for writing here, or even in Linux Journal, which used to pay me very well. But I still make money, and it’s not from advertising. Ways can be found.

      It’s a huge conceit by the advertising business that theirs is the only way publishers can make money online. It’s not. On what adtech calls the “demand side” — the advertisers (rather than the customers, which economists still call the demand side) — advertising is optional. It’s a line item on the expense side of the balance sheet. For that matter, so is the CMOs, which business got along without for almost the entirety of its existence.

      The biggest issue, by the way, is privacy. Just like Nature, the Net and the Web came without it. And, just as we did in the natural world, we will create privacy technologies on the Net and the Web: the online equivalent of clothing and shelter. Once we do (and we will), it won’t be easy, or even possible, for adtech to plant tracking beacons in personal spaces (such as apps, email clients and browsers) without permission.

      So now would be a good time for adtech to think about what kinds of tracking, if any, people will opt into, consciously and voluntarily. And for what reason. If its just to get a better “advertising experience,” it won’t fly, except perhaps with shopaholics.

      Here’s what I would recommend for adtech: work with the #VRM developers of the world on better ways to listen to real signals of actual demand from customers. One real lead is worth more than a thousand random clicks by who-knows-what-or-why.

  13. Part of the issue, too, as Steven alludes to with his comment on the ad space being there, is that ad slots are static and have to be filled. There’s no real scenario of not seeing ads because there’s nothing you’re likely to be interested in among the inventory; if you’re not likely to click anything right now, the countless networks will just try to figure out some esoteric indicator of something you were potentially interested in six months ago and bid three cents where all the backfill generic ads bid two.

  14. Sorry for the long response, weekend of clearing out for open houses will do that to you.

    My fear is exactly what you say – if the market is unwilling to accept advertisements, much of what I, personally, have come to enjoy on the Internet, will simply cease to exist.

    I certainly don’t think the advertising business is the only way that publishers can make money online, but that opinion is relatively commonplace in the industry. But it does have arguably the most momentum. The thought of changing monetization strategies, I believe, is a frightening concept for a lot of publishers – they’ve used ads for twenty years, and alternatives, as of now, appear murky and potentially less lucrative.

    I’m curious your take on the mobile app model; as privacy concerns are more and more in the forefront of people’s minds, I’ve seen Google’s app store move towards a much more informative structure of telling people what an app they want to install requires. It almost feels like it’s become white noise, and yet it technically constitutes opting into tracking, depending on the app.

    I do think, too, that as we come up with better ways of determining immediate intent within the context of a pageview, we can provide ads that are relevant and timely without defaulting to tracking. That’s one of our goals as a company, and I hope more of the industry is seeing that it’s a necessary evolution.

    Thank you for the link, and the informative and interesting conversation.

  15. Thanks for keeping the thread going, Daniel. Here comes an even longer response. (Like Mark Twain, I’d make it shorter if I had more time.)

    Lots of what all of us have enjoyed on the Internet has already ceased to exist, or has been buried in crap. For example, blogging, which peaked in the early-mid ’00s. I still do it, but most of the blogs I liked and read back in the decade are gone. Some of their authors still write elsewhere, or tweet, but it ain’t the same.

    Again, there are varieties of advertising that ought to be distinct but are so conflated that all we have for painting pictures is one broad brush. That’s why I wrote Separating Advertising’s Wheat and Chaff.

    There needs to be a clear distinction between non-tracking-based brand advertising and the tracking based kind we call adtech (even though we know it means other things).

    The former supported all commercial media for a century and a half. The latter supports a lot of websites, and has being doing so the current way (with profusion of tracking methods and back end systems for aiming personalized ads at people) for a half-dozen years. The latter has also poisoned the well for both.

    My immodest and possibly impossible goal is to highlight the benefits of innocent brand advertising, in hope we might save it (and have it continue to support publishers), while killing off unwanted adtech.

    That adtech is popular and normative with publishers at this moment in time does not make it right or lasting.

    As for mobile, I’m more familiar with the iOS world than the Android one, and the significant thing about iOS is that Apple appears to care more about providing ways to meet market demands for less or no advertising and tracking than it does to sell more iAds.

    While I salute your efforts to provide relevant ads that aren’t tracking-based, I’m not sure it’s possible to do that without signaling something about the difference. See On taking personalized ads personally for my learnings on that front. In the course of writing and revising that piece, and participating in the thread here on Facebook, I was schooled on how Facebook actually works, or is said to work. Seems (if I read the responses right) that Facebook isn’t getting personal with me in its advertising. It’s simply being relevant to the type of person I appear to be. Or something like that.

    The question is, How can getting fully relevant not creep people out? Also, what’s the difference between non-tracking based relevant ads, and tracking-based ones? On the surface I suspect nothing, and that too is a problem.

    And how relevant can any ad be for somebody who isn’t buying something?

    For example, on Facebook (where I went with that last link), I see an ad that says “CA Homeowners Are Paying Next to Nothing For Solar Panels
    Deals.Solar-California.org Thinking about getting Solar Panels? NOW is definitely the time. California Residents may…”

    Facebook has correctly identified me as a California homeowner, and somebody who believes in solar power where it’s possible to install. Do they also know that there’s a possibility that our roof profile and property might welcome some solar panels? (I don’t know if they do or not.) What they don’t know is that the chance that we’ll buy solar for our house in the next few years is close to zero. But already I’ve spent a small amount of psychic energy being a tiny bit creeped out by wondering how much Facebook’s robot knows and how it knows it.

    There is also no economic signaling power in that ad. The name of the company has scrolled out of the window here, and I don’t remember it. Wouldn’t the company be better off paying to sponsor a site that specializes in solar power? Or at least advertising there with messages that help readers remember their name? Adtech sucks for branding, but advertising rocks for it. Yes, it costs, but that’s what keeps publishing going.

    By the way, another value-subtract for that ad is the truly awful nature of too many other Facebook ads. For example, I often (as a sports fan) see “espn.go.com” ads (talking about Tom Brady or some other bait). Yet the URL itself is dishonest clickbait, because the advertiser is a dishonest no-name.

    So I think the best hope for advertising, and the publishers it supports, to clear out the creepy adtech crap and go back to brand advertising that sends clear and high-grade economic signaling. It’s old fashioned, but it might be the only way.

  16. […] experience as rewarding and fulfilling as possible for their users — as opposed to the adversarial relationship created by much modern advertising, where websites are trying to fool users into clicking, or just […]

  17. You might want to update Darren Herman’s twitter link; he’s @dherman76, not @dherman

  18. […] Searls: If marketing listened to markets, they’d hear what ad blocking is telling them (2 min […]

  19. […] Actually, it’s called Content Blocking, and it’s only for supporting developments of apps that add selective forms of blocking to the Safari browser on iOS 9. Still, it’s one form of chemo for the cancer of adtech. (Bonus link on 18 September. Evidence of what I said here.) […]

  20. Hi Doc,

    I feel the need to push back a little bit on this post.

    For my sins, i’ve been in marketing ever since a brainwave I had in 1982 which told me that if I made Marketing my business degree specialism i’d have more time to spend in the university bar. My day job is still CRM (i.e. marketing, sales and service), located in the marketing function. All that said, you know that i’ve been a proponent of VRM since day 1, or before – much of the logic behind that coming from what I could see in my marketing roles.

    In any case, the point that jarred ever with me in your blog post was:

    ‘Meanwhile marketing doesn’t speak to customers, because marketing lives in a B2B echo chamber where the voice of the customer (hello!) is inaudible or ignored.’

    I don’t actually believe that is true; marketers have never had a broader set of tools available for direct customer dialogue than they do now. I use them, as does virtually every other marketing department I know. Most often that would come under the banner of market research, but it could equally well be product or proposition development work.

    I’m not saying marketing is perfect; it’s not by a long way. Different industries will have different profiles, but in our case (B2B2C financial services), less than 5% of our budget would go into what one could see as being impacted by ad blocking. That makes for an awful lot of people, money and process getting lumped under the generic ‘marketing is bad’ banner. I also think it is incorrect to assume that all marketers buy into the big data angle. Sure, if you read the hype of the vendors trying to sell ‘big data’ then of course none of us can live without it. The practical reality as I see it is that where ‘big data’ adds more value than it takes away we buy it, where it does not, we don’t. Moreover I would contend that for the sub-set of marketers that thrive on data, ‘big data’ is hardly a new thing; the logic, upsides and downsides of buying into it now are hardly different to when Teradata and the like were pitching ‘customer data warehouses’ in the early 80’s. Yes, data volumes and complexity have grown and some new possibilities have emerged through data aggregation across sources; but beyond that it’s more akin to business as usual than something new. (John McKeans book, The Information Masters from 1999 or so makes that clear).

    The second point that occurs to me from the post is that far from see-ing marketing as the enemy, VRM would do well to consider marketers as the bridgehead which VRM solutions are most likely to cross to gain traction within organisations. Technical, data driven marketers are very fast adopters of new technologies; you only have to look at the number and range of vendors pitching to marketers for validation of that.

    That takes me to your next point – ‘The only way to fix this is from the customers’ side.’ Absolutely, i’m with you 100% on that; but the implication of the above paragraph is that we VRM’ers have to build something that is worth the marketer buying – do that and we’ll be all over it.

    Why would marketers be all over it?

    1) Because there is pretty much no viable room left in the ‘build out from the sell side’ space. The ad-blocking stats are testament to this, as is the near saturation and standardisation of the CRM market in large organisations.

    2) Because the vast majority of us marketers would be delighted to have standards based means of understanding genuine customer intent – not least because it would enable us to finally move beyond the 99% and above failure rate in our campaigns (above or below the line). And intent is only the tip of the iceberg, there are 101 other things we’d wish to engage with customers on – on the customers terms (a nuance that is nowhere near as important to the marketer as it is to the VRM’er).

    3) Because we all need to find ways to differentiate our offerings and customer experiences; even if only for short periods of time until our neighbours catch up.

    So, my contention is that far from being the enemy, the marketer is likely the closest ally that VRM has within organisations (as evidenced by the number of marketers on the list). Sure there are bad actors around; the confusopolies and those that shape and enable surveillance; but by my reckoning that still leaves several hundred million organisations worldwide to talk to.

    What would VRM’ers talk to marketers about that would have them ‘all over VRM’? I suspect that’s the same now as on day 1 of Project VRM; we need open VRM standards. Those might be data standards around intent, user side terms, data control (consent receipt, UMA etc) or any one of the hundreds of other options. From the marketers perspective, a single, straightforward standard with an easy adoption path would be more impactful than a hundred promising VRM start-ups whose solutions are ultimately silos.

    Delivering that is in the VRM’er remit, not the marketers. But we should look to invite marketers to the VRM standards development table, not reject them because a relatively small number of them behave in unhelpful ways.



  21. Iain, thanks for the push-back, the corrections, and the usual wisdom about what do to next. Your comment is a post in itself and great guidance for everybody who cares about bringing VRM and CRM together, or just making marketing better. If readers just arrived this comment here, and haven’t read Iain’s yet, go do that now.

  22. […] Searls (@dsearls) wrote absolutely the smartest thing I’ve seen on this controversy: “If marketing listened to markets, they’d hear what ad blocking is telling them.” And if people are telling you, “we don’t want you, go away,” you’d […]

  23. […] If marketing listened to markets, they’d hear what ad blocking is telling them (8 September 2015) […]

  24. Iain hit the nail on the head, but left out the biggest fact, the internet was built to enable companies to do business and make money.

    Therefore, everyone’s options are:

    1) Pay to not be tracked while getting free content or services
    2) Get tracked and shown advertisement while getting free content or services

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Someone has to pay for hosting, server administration, content generation, software development, etc. So it’s either you, or the advertiser trying to reach you, who is going to pay.

    The whole point of tracking is to attempt to serve better ads for things you actually have an interest in potentially buying or using. Without the tracking, we would be back to 10 years ago when everything you saw was an ad for a diet pill or an antivirus program.

    Without ads, everything will move to a paid model and the internet will get a lot more expensive for everyone. Personally, I think ad-blockers move the internet backwards.

  25. RJ appears to be misinformed, the internet was NOT created to enable companies to do business and make money.
    It was built originally to allow communications to be able to withstand a nuclear attack which would do great damage to the national infrastructure. Later on it was used to provide effective communication between universities and government to allow research to be conducted on a distributed level.

    When did we all allow our vision to become so small and petty – to reduce our greatest inventions and ideas into cheap tawdry commercial activity.

    No company would ever have ‘built’ the internet as there was no ‘usage and monetization’ model available back in the 1960’s to justify the expense. Only the governement could have funded it. American socialism at it’s very best!

    Similarly, push ads and other intrusive communications are unwelcome, unwanted and unacceptable. Anyone who even suggests that adblocking is theft is simply wrong.
    As for the claim that the internet would become more expensive is a fallacy. I already pay for my internet connection every month.. does RJ believe that these ads are subsidizing the price I pay? That’s a nonsense.

    And are we to be reduced to mere ocular receptacles for ‘targeted’ advertising? How dreadful. Anyone who ‘tracks’ me in order to sell me a product has instantly lost my business. I have too much self respect to allow myself to be treated with such condescension.

    1. Agreed, DP.

      The problem with “Anyone who ‘tracks’ me in order to sell me a product has instantly lost my business” is that it’s nearly impossible to look up the Niagara of advertising and tracking flowing at you on ad-supported commercial websites to see who is tracking you and who is not.

      But we can fix that.

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