Thursday, November 06, 2014

Thinky Thoughts: Can One Become Immune to Advertising?

One day I was struggling with my once average-to-sub-par internet connection to watch a video series on Youtube. Every video in the series took a while to load up, and that was after inching through an irritating non-skippable 20-odd-second ad. After the fourth video, I had enough - I also finally realized what the ad was actually for. Despite sitting through the ad stuttering and replaying who knows how many times, I had no idea what it was even advertising because I just don't pay attention to ads. Even now, I struggle to remember. Something about a high school Youtube original? About video games? I don't know; I only remember the rage of trying to get through the stuttering ad to watch a Let's Play Series.

As a denizen of the internet, I've seen online ads go through several stages. I remember horrifying pop ups, banner and sidebar ads that tried to get you to play a game before clicking through, auto-play music ads, etc. But some time over the past five years or so, I've just stopped paying attention. Ads? What ads? Oh, this clip I have to wait through before a video plays? Oh, this blind spot on the side of a web page? This commercial I rarely see because I hardly watch regular TV? They started disappearing from my consciousness.

A little over a year ago, Tumblr was bought out by Yahoo. I've been on Tumblr since 2010 or so, so I know the uproar it caused at the time. Much later, I saw people complaining about the ads that Yahoo started popping up on Tumblr. As I read through the rants, I had to stop and think: what ads? Where were they? I had to go and search to see the ads that I completely ignored, as if by instinct. I had no idea what they were selling because my eyes just glossed over it.

This is probably the most evident with clickbait titles. You've seen them often enough: "10 Vacations Spots That Will Blow Your Mind" or "You Won't Believe What One Chicago Mother Did to Her Car" or "What One Man Did for His Uncle Will Warm Your Heart." Clickbait is full of promises of fulfillment and human joy that cynics like me obviously aren't exposed to enough on a daily basis. But, I've seen the formula so much, it's turned into a meme. Does anyone really believe that this "One Weird Trick" will help them lose weight or improve their skin? Who actually clicks on such ads?

What do you think? Can people who use the internet enough eventually learn to ignore advertising? What does this say for those who earn money based on advertising clicks or views? Is company-wide social media, which is what I tend to use to choose products more than advertising, the better way to reach people? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time, stay gold.

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