Thursday, August 23, 2007

Look at Our Ads... or Else!

Mary Schmidt wrote about one of the more butt-stupid things to turn up lately online - a web site that blocks Firefox users because some of them (not many, I'm guessing) use a plug-in to block ads from appearing.

They say that they are being robbed, and since a small number of Firefox users aren't viewing the ads, all Firefox users are blocked.

This is extreme, but it's a story that's been going on for a long time in online advertising. People started blocking and ignoring pop-up ads (because they're annoying) so sites came up with new interstitial formats that get past the blocking software. When someone figures out how to block those, somebody else comes up with another new format.

The question that doesn't get asked is, "Is it a good business practice to spend all this time creating content that users hate and figuring out how to keep them from avoiding it?"

Meanwhile, people flock to YouTube to watch product ads because they're entertaining, people set up fan sites for brands they love, and generally show an amazing eagerness to consume advertising - when they get it the way they want it, and they enjoy it.

The Firefox blockers are a bit like spammers who say, "Okay, 'viagra' triggers the spam filter, so now we'll write "v1agra!'" Only stupider, because they are then announcing to the world that their desire to annoy people who don't want to be annoyed makes them the heroes of the tale.

I don't know what the original web site is that Firefox users aren't allowed to see, but my guess is that nobody cares anyway. After a mention on Slashdot, the "Die, Firefox user, die!" page is probably the most popular bit of content they've got.

Here's a clue for marketers who want to be effective: create content that people find useful, interesting, entertaining, or otherwise desirable. Give people tools to create their own content. Talk to people, don't try to pry their eyeballs open and force them to pay attention. It's amazing what engaging people instead of browbeating them can accomplish.

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