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Advertising is killing the internet

Andy Murray has a new range of tennis kits out and I thought I’d take a look to see how bad they were in the traditional style of celebrity endorsements. So I checked out the website and was pleasantly surprised at the quality, price and class of the products.

Excellent, but I have no intention whatsoever of buying any of these items. However, over the next couple of days I have been unable to escape them. Castor is stalking me around the internet.  

It used to be that you could look up some information on the internet and that would be it. Now that advertisers have moved in en masse (which is what they do) because the costs are so low, it has become a morass of ‘targeted’ messages.

Once crisp newspaper websites have become impossible to read, with ads popping up to obscure articles every time you click. As you try to read something about the latest research into vaping, up will pop a sneakily inserted ad for Castor. Actually, most of them hover over a crucial piece of text, perhaps with a cross in the corner to click on to erase, but which invariably opens a window into the advertiser’s inner thoughts, which are execrable.

Some newspaper websites (I’m looking at you Newsquest) will have the article next to an accompanying picture; you click on the body of text to open and are taken into some spurious ad. Advertisers are told these are cost effective, but they are anything but. They are paying for that click and all it achieves is a level of antipathy in me to their product I never believed previously I could attain.

The more targeted an ad is to you, the more intrusive it becomes and an advertiser can achieve the precise opposite of what it wants. ‘Targeted’ advertising is trolling on a massive scale. If you troll someone online, they often get upset because you are insulting them and are anonymous.  No advertiser wants to be anonymous, but adverts targeted on personal information are invidious.

When I buy a newspaper there might be an ad on the opposite page to the article I’m reading, or a smaller one inserted in the copy; pretty innocuous really and it pays the paper’s bills. Now, however, an online ad can appear from nowhere and swoop down onto the actual words you are reading. Advertising online is a necessary evil, but it could be done in a less obtrusive way.

And don’t get me started on something I have already bought. If I buy, say, a coffee table online, I will be followed around for weeks by other purveyors of rectangular MDF at precisely the worst moment. They are wasting their money, my time and any goodwill I may have to the newspaper in question.

When the money goes from creative advertising (TV and print) and migrates to the internet, creativity is lost to the overlord of number-crunching (and the results are often unmeasurable and inaccurate) and the best minds are lost from what was one of the only truly creative industries left.

Such is the paucity of ground-breaking advertising today, we are all spoon-fed Christmas blockbusters by John Lewis, Sainsburys’ and Iceland, as if they are the pinnacle of creativity, events to be anticipated, when only a decade ago they would have been dismissed as sub-standard stocking-fillers.


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