For a few years, I used ad blockers religiously. I had a glorious view of the Internet. Some pages looked a little weird, because there were empty boxes where ads would have shown up.
But, mostly, it was a happy, carefree time I look back on fondly.
I look back on it because someone pointed out to me that as someone who worked online, I probably should see websites as most people saw them, so I could understand what they were experiencing. It was an excellent point, and I disabled the adblocker that afternoon.
I re-activate my Ad Block Plus from time to time, to give myself a break from the onslaught of pop-ups, screen takeovers, ugly wallpapers and horrible auto-play ads that expand and contract, moving the text on my screen without my having any ability to change that.
It's no wonder that people desperately want to block ads.
Advertisers and publishers have no one to blame but themselves for this.
For years, digital advertising has been regarded as a cheap, second-class form. Banner ads, interstitials, Adobe Flash for the love of all that's holy! I brought up the specter of ad blockers at a conference five or six years ago and was pooh-poohed by the learned gentlemen on the stage. "No one uses those," I was told. "But they will," I countered. They stared at me as if I were an annoying mosquito.
We're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore.
I did a virtual table flip when I read what Marissa Mayer had to say Monday at an Advertising Week event in New York city:
"I think that for anyone that uses their browser's incognito mode and starts getting untargeted ads or no ads at all, the experience on the Web becomes a lot less rich," she said, according to Digiday.
I've argued the point with friends. I've argued the point with acquaintances. Heck, I've probably argued the point with enemies.
I have been a writer and editor practically my entire life. I spent 20 years in newspaper newsrooms, where I knew my paycheck depended solely on the advertising the newspaper reps could sell.
But online advertising is broken.
It doesn't have to be that way. Once upon a time, people bought glossy fashion magazines such as Vogue and Glamour almost as much for the ads as for the articles. People still watch the Super Bowl to see what new creative ads have been thought up.
We're talking quality advertising. And not even "native" advertising (which, by the way, is not even remotely new - advertorials and special advertising sections have been around forever). We're talking about advertising that entertains. Advertising that pleases the eye. Advertising that shows the readers something new.
Instead of getting upset about ad blockers and fighting them, we need to do better. We need to solve the problem instead of pretending the only problem is that people are blocking the ads.
Are users potentially causing a problem by blocking ads? By causing publishers to make less money, which in turn makes it harder for them to produce quality content? Sure. But that's the last problem in the chain. Saying, "You can't do that" isn't going to stop that behavior.
Why do people block ads?
Because advertising--as it is now--makes the web experience worse. It increases page load speeds, knocks content around, blasts sound from your computer when you're not expecting it. Chrome tells me what tab is home to the sound that's playing, but the other day I went to that site and couldn't even find where on the page there was anything auto-playing. And I'm a relatively computer- and web-savvy individual. I could not find it for the life of me.
So I closed the tab and Googled the topic, and read the article on another site.
Marissa Mayer is wrong.