Ad blocking

It’s a few years old now but I just came across this series of posts by Ad Block Plus  in which they surveyed users of their Adblocker about the service. One of the questions asked why people used Adblocker. The results are quite interesting.

They gave respondents 7 possible reasons and forced a choice through a four point scale (ie there was no ‘neutral’ option). Forcing choice in this way can distort results as it, obviously, forces people to express an opinion on a matter they might not care about.

I think we can group 3 items as ‘content issues’ (distracting animations and sounds, offensive or inappropriate content and missing separation of ad an content); 3 items as ‘provider issues’ (security concerns; privacy concerns and page load times); and one as a personal issue (ideological reasons). If this was done more robustly we might separate each of these items out into multiple dimensions and see how they inter-relate. But it wasn’t.

Just eye-balling it, it seems that most of the motivations for Ad Blocking relate to a lack of trust – provider issues.  This is followed by content issues. Although ideological reasons motivated about half the sample (and given the selection bias you’d expect this is an over estimation), that leaves about one-third of the sample who block ads not because they are “anti branding” but just because they don’t trust advertisers to act responsibly and because their ads are kind of annoying.

If I were a brand I’d find this very hopefully as these are much easier to fix than overcoming ideological opposition to ads. In fact, the same problem has already been solved on other media through regulation initatives (see my other blog on advertising governance).


Originally published at

Google’s YouTube Battles with Big Brands

Here’s a short article I wrote for The Conversation on Google’s current battles with brands… More on this to come I think.

Originally published at

Google: the critical marketing company

It is funny how things turn out – a point made movingly by Steve Job’s before his death. This is why I’m always skeptical of people who say business research has to support and congratulate business to be productive. And believe it or not there are plenty of people (often highly paid in top universities) who do say this. It is one of the reasons any academic research label “critical” gets marginalised.

But wait.

Google is an incredibly successful company. As is made clear in its recent corporate re-structuring, it is also predominantly an advertising company. Perhaps it is the most successful advertising company ever. Yet, ironically, it began as a critical marketing project.

In their paper which introduced the Google search engine, Brin and Page were highly critical of the influence of advertising on the web. In fact, this is listed as one of the key motivations for developing a new search engine. The very first paragraph of the paper tells us that they set out to overcome: ‘some advertisers attempt[s] to gain people’s attention by taking measures meant to mislead automated search engines’. They go on to critique the effects of an ‘advertising business model’ on the quality of web searches. They even stated that ‘advertising income often provides an incentive to provide poor quality search results’. And concluded that ‘advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers … In general, it could be argued from the consumer point of view that the better the search engine is, the fewer advertisements will be needed for the consumer to find what they want’.

In this case, the freedom to critique and question the advertising business model allowed Brin and Page the ability to understand it better and to exploit their understanding. Why do we not see similar arguments in top marketing journals?

Originally published at