I have no objection to companies like Google advertising to me. If that’s their model for providing a free email service and all the rest of it, fine. I don’t need to click on the adverts. Ever so occasionally, I do, and have even been known to buy something. Similarly, I don’t mind seeing ads on friends’ posts and hope they don’t mind seeing them on mine. My LiveJournal is a permanent account which is ad-free. My Dreamwidth account is ad-free anyway. My WordPress account is free and may have advertising. I really don’t care. Facebook doesn’t bother me, either; I just scroll on by. I don’t mind having to wait till the end of an ad to access YouTube content.
However, I do have some serious issues with online advertising. My main problems occur on sites where I have paid for my content, like my daily online copy of The Guardian. I accept that to provide me with good journalism, sites like The Guardian need more than my annual subscription. In printed newspapers I am used to seeing adverts and as with social media I can choose whether or not to read or take any notice.
I have some slight visual problems. I have a ‘frozen’ eye that gives me two somewhat irritating issues. My pupil doesn’t contract, and I find it impossible to re-focus quickly, so I am badly affected by both bright lights and flickering and rapid scrolling. As a result, some adverts are a nightmare and actually prevent me from reading the page I am visiting. The use of these ads strikes me as discriminatory. I object quite strongly. The ones I object to most are the ones that are at the side of an article, and cannot therefore be ignored. They have changing images – scrolling or flickering. They are almost painful, and I feel intense resentment towards the advertisers. . I have written to The Guardian stating my feelings. I did not get a reply.
The very worst online ads, for me, are the ones that open a video, with sound, as I scroll down the page. This happens more often on American media sites where friends have linked me to articles of interest – it can be for goods that are not available in UK or it can be linked articles or new video. I use my laptop in our lounge, where other family members might be watching TV, listening to music, or simply talking. I might be alone, but then I will probably have music playing. Unexpected and unwanted sound is, for me, a total invasion of privacy and usually results in closing down the page altogether in a knee-jerk reaction. Even when I manage to see that there is a small discreet close button and I just get the ad/vid switched off, I still feel offended.
I also have a sense of annoyance at the ads that interrupt Spotify. I listen to radio programmes (especially in the car) which have the inevitable ads before the news, and I just sigh and ignore most of them (except when they include a sound like a car horn or other car sound, which is to my mind dangerous). Just occasionally they are interesting and I will Google the company when I get home. I accept that Spotify, like the radio programmes, needs advertising to fund the service. Not a problem. But sometimes the ads interrupt a track, or interrupt me while I am trying to save something. That annoys me big time and is quite counterproductive because whatever the ad is for, I can guarantee I will not follow it up.
Another set of adverts I hate are those on DVDs. Invariably, they are for films I have already seen or do not wish to see. They try to tell me something is ‘coming soon’ when actually, it came a few years ago. I would almost prefer cinema-type ads for luxury goods and services. At least I could just ignore those and not get so irritated.
Note that all the above applies whatever the ads are for. In fact, I’m usually so affronted I don’t even notice what they’re trying to sell me. Indeed, all these are likely to be a turn off. So why do they do it??
You’d think advertising would be designed to attract the reader…