Television was exciting in the 1950s. Families would gather around this new gadget and stare at it together in absolute fascination. It began a love affair with technology that hasn’t ended. It has, however, evolved to become a more individual experience, with earbuds, tablets and smartphones. A recent CSI episode (old-school television) captured it perfectly in an opening scene – a family of four is seen on a typical evening, each one engaged in a different immersion experience. Dad is watching sports on a laptop. Junior is playing a video game on his tablet. Mom is at the desktop computer paying bills. Daughter is checking email on her smartphone. New tech, new disconnect.
Yet some things never change. Advertisers, for one. Back in the day of TV, viewers would hear “We now interrupt this show to bring you a message from our sponsor…”. We assumed, rightly so, that advertising was part of the offering. The word “commercial” speaks for itself.
So it’s not surprising to see the massive distraction that advertising has become on the Internet. It’s like trying to enjoy your favourite meal while swatting flies out of the way – after a while, you just want to give up. If someone invented a mosquito net app that caught ads, I would buy it in a nano-tech-second.
Content providers were very careful to create the perfect slippery slope – first, we had to grow accustomed to seeing ads on the side and below our content. Flies in our peripheral vision, if you wish. We had to get used to having animated GIFFs jumping up and down and performing acrobatics to get our attention. Messages that “popped” up to surprise us, or crept along the screen to engage us. And as readers fled in annoyance, the advertisers got more clever. How can they annoy us the least and still get our attention?
Enter the creepy stalker ad bar. Front and centre, there’s no escaping it. You have to hop over it to keep reading. It’s been 25 years since the Internet opened up our ability to communicate with a world of interesting people. I just wish that quality content providers would find another way to be rewarded for their efforts. And I wish advertisers would stop following us around like creepy stalkers.