about two weeks ago, jordan mccollum reported on an interested study conducted by nielsen that found that online ad-blindness is worsening. if you look at the following heatmap from studies tracking the areas where most users focused on a webpage, you see that ads get little-to-no attention.
the reason for this is not that users hate all advertisement, it’s that users hate how you’re advertising your product. for example, ads with flashing colors, or animals jumping around, and those that are generally distracting or annoying will be noticed by users but will deter 90 percent of them from clicking on the ad or buying a product advertised therein.
no wonder the firefox plugin that wipes ads clean from websites – adblock plus – has garnered so much attention. most people are happy to block out these advertisements because not only do they range from intrusive to obnoxious, but they also take longer than the rest of the content on a page to load, causing you to wait unnecessarily. as noam cohen wrote in the nytimes, adblock plus may soon become an ‘extreme menace to the online-advertising business model’. in fact, the backlash has already begin, with some people blocking access to their content for people using the firefox browser (because it implicitly endorses adblock plus) and for communities whose members use firefox.
what comes as a surprise is that while other business dependent on the viability of the online advertising model are worried, google remains unshaken. in fact, rather than reacting against it, google (which probably has the most to lose) continues to support the development of, and work with the firefox team. perhaps it’s because google remains committed to providing ads that are truly useful and believes that if an ad is useful enough, the users will take it upon themselves to not unblock it.
while the adblock plugin has found millions of friends (and is adding hundreds of thousands as we speak), steve lambert is taking a different approach. unsatisfied with simply blocking the ads, lambert has decided to replace them with artwork from contemporary artists.
replacing annoying and obtrusive ads with some eye candy, turning them into their exact opposite, is a consequent continuation of what adblock started — making the web endurable and enjoyable.
but who says we cannot achieve a compromise between adblock’s goal of making the web ‘endurable and enjoyable’ and lambert’s goal to do so by replacing ads with art, without sending the entire online advertising industry into complete disarray? in fact, the gawker network of blogs has managed to do exactly that. they offer their unsold ad-space to artists (free of cost) to display their artwork.
their decision to do so, coupled with my desire to see this artwork (while i’m browsing their content) not only makes me keep my adblock plugin disabled while i browse some of their less popular blogs, but also gets me to click on the artwork to read more about it. if we were to take this model a few steps further, to the point where we’re not just advertising products, rather are ‘artvertising’ them, perhaps we can get more people to stop blocking the ads and start appreciating them.