How did the vast majority of digital advertising become such a hated disaster?

Digital… digital… digital…

How did it come to this?

I know there are some really great examples of online advertising, but like those of the offline variety such examples are few and far between.

But fucking hell… how did the ad industry mess it up so badly – and why does it continue to do so.

Let me start by stating the ghastly, obvious truth: nearly all digital advertising is either ignored or clicked off the second it is possible to do so.

The first category takes into account all the banner ads and pop-up that populate the pages and videos you were actually looking for. When did you last click on one deliberately in an attempt to find out more? My own personal research (sample size: 1) comes up with a single occasion last year. That’s right: out of all the thousands and thousands of paid for digital ads that have appeared on the pages I’ve browsed only a single one has ever caught my attention. Your own number might be higher, but if it’s in double digits chances are you can’t count. And the bloody things are supposedly targeted at you carefully enough to hit the kinds of bullseyes a TV ad can only dream of. I occasionally shop on the Matches clothing site; as a result I am inundated on a constant basis by further messages from that company. Amazingly enough I actually find this too be both irritating and creepy. How odd of me. Imagine if I popped into Tesco for a Twix only to be followed around by the representatives of that chocolate bar until I agreed to buy another one. The mentality behind all this seems utterly deficient in one way or another. The mind boggles at the degree to which the reality has fallen short of the intention.

The second category includes all that delightful ‘pre-roll’ stuff, which appears just before the YouTube video you want to watch. Have any five seconds ever seemed longer than the ones that count down before you get to that vintage Neil Young clip? Have you ever failed to click on that option within a nanosecond of being able to do so? Possibly, but again I’d hazard that the occasions that has happened are fewer than 10. And that’s also fucking crazy: does no one involved in any of these think that the first five seconds are utterly critical? Do they not think about making those five seconds slightly more compelling than the usual first five seconds of an ad? After all, let’s be clear here: these are almost always TV ads that have simply been placed online. But that’s a very important change of location: the mindset of the viewer is completely different; the 5-second mechanism is like a ticking time bomb that will destroy your ad; and the interruption will most likely leave your brand hated (get in the way of my TV show? No problem. Do the same with my video of a Russian man falling over in the snow? Fuck you, you piece of shit). Don’t those circumstances make the ads worth a reappraisal? Millions of people are paid millions of pounds to create things that are loathed by the exact same people they want to please. As they say online: WTF?????

Last week Vic of Sell! Sell! tweeted the following: 90% of online ad clicks are generated by people trying to close them out of the way of their dodgy football stream. #madeupstat

To me that sums the whole thing up perfectly: hoodwinking, annoyance, interruption, bullshit…

And that’s where our industry has positioned the greatest advertising medium to arrive in the last fifty years.