Attack of the Autoplaying Ads

Over the past year, it seems that invasive advertising is on the rise. So what is invasive advertising, anyway?

Invasive advertising is when you’re browsing the Internet, and out of nowhere — it seems — an advertisement starts playing, and there’s no way to disable it. If you want to view the content that the advertisement is obstructing, you have no choice but to let the ad finish. Advertisers see this is a valuable opportunity for consumers to get an up-close look at the product or service that they’re trying to sell. They’ve essentially taken the quintessential pop-up advertisement and made it more interactive. The problem is that the advertising is forced onto the reader, and it becomes a noisy distraction for anyone who is used to browsing the Internet quietly.

Social media platform Facebook has started to roll out autoplaying video ads, which they’re referring to as “Premium Video Ads.” These ads are videos that appear in users’ newsfeeds, and start to play automatically once a user hovers their mouse over them. A Facebook rep told Adweek magazine, in March, that the ads won’t play sound unless you actually click on the video itself. The rep told Adweek that Facebook “wanted to create a captive, but not [an] interruptive experience.”

That’s not exactly the case.

Users are starting to complain about these video ads, which start playing with sound. The good news is that users can actually stop the video. The bad news is that Facebook is turning into a social media platform for advertisers, not users. Users on mobile devices are complaining that these autoplaying video ads are inadvertently consuming their phone data. Most telecommunications carriers have data plans that are capped, and users who exceed the cap are required to pay more for their usage. Users who use lots of data are disproportionately affected by autoplaying ads. Some “captive experience,” right?

I went to online news and entertainment website Salon.com to read an article about autoplaying advertisements and the browser add-ons that are required to combat them. I arrived at the article, but was swiftly greeted by a video advertisement that appeared. The screen went dark. The ad started playing, and I was told — not asked — to wait thirty seconds before I can read the article about autoplaying ads. This is irony in motion. I decided to stop reading Salon.com. Before this instance, I was bombarded with autoplaying ads on the same website at least on five occasions. At this point, I would rather be left with a paywall, requesting that I pay a subscription fee to see content without further obstruction.

But I realize I’m quickly running out of websites to browse without interruption. Popular websites including YouTube, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times and ESPN are running autoplay advertisements. Content marketers are smart. They know which sites to target. They know the demographics. They’ve done their research.  They know that websites need revenue. Video advertising is expensive, so publishers are left with little choice but to bring in advertising that has caused 84% of users from age 25 to 34 to abandon them. The 25-34 demographic is too large to dismiss as collateral damage.

If websites want to be less invasive with advertising, they need to bring in video ads that users can enable on their own. If an advertiser’s brand is recognizable and the ad concept has built-in interactivity, users will click on the video. Users shouldn’t have to resort to Google to find anti-autoplay add-ons for their browser. Users shouldn’t be forced to appreciate and engage in a product or service that may or may not relate to their interests. Advertisers need to understand that the best advertising is the kind that is seamlessly interwoven with the content. It’s about relevance, relevance, relevance.

So for the love of Kraft’s Macaroni & Cheese that’s now served in conveniently tiny snack bowls, leave us alone!

Charter Sends a Bad Signal to Customers

Stock down, service very down.

Charter Communications is rated as one of the fastest Internet service providers in the country. It is also the fourth largest cable operator in the United States with more than 4.7 million customers. However, Consumer Reports in February 2008 cites that Charter is the “worst among the largest service providers for bundled television, internet, and phone service.” Charter has also ranked very low in the publication’s television, internet and phone ratings. In San Luis Obispo County, Charter customers overwhelmingly agree.

Continue reading Charter Sends a Bad Signal to Customers