U.S. Online Advertising Is Booming

Thank the gods for Firefox+Adblock, because spending on web advertising in the U.S. hit a new high in the 3rd quarter of 2007, pushing the total for the first 9 months of this year to $15.2 billion, up more than 3 billion from the same period in 2006. Says an exec at Interactive Advertising Bureau, which helped prepare the report, “Marketers large and small have come to accept digital media as the fulcrum of any marketing strategy.”

The boom in online advertising has driven media and technology companies to build up their online advertising businesses, partly through acquisitions.

Among recent deals, Google Inc agreed to pay $3.1 billion for ad serving and tracking company DoubleClick, while Microsoft Corp bought online marketer aQuantive Inc for $6 billion.

“Web spending hits new record in third quarter” [Reuters]
(Image: Getty)

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  1. timmus says:

    Marketers get to see the fulcrum of my Adblock plug-in if they start up with distracting Flash crap. And I’m glad reputable sites have stopped using popups… these days when I see anything try to launch a popup, I stay about 15 seconds to get the content I want and get the hell out of there.

  2. Bladefist says:

    when the ads load slower then the site, and im locked and waiting for the ads to finish, is when i hit the X button.
    Happens all the time.

  3. Riddar says:

    Is this a suggestion to use Adblock on those awful Gawker Artist ads stuck in between stories on the Consumerist? Absurd, in large numbers, and covering more screen area than text on many stories?

    Something in me stops me from using Adblock, but if it’s your suggestion for other sites anyhow that solves the moral dilemma.

  4. @Riddar: I feel Adblock is a personal choice each Internet user must make on his own. And that’s all I’m saying on the matter.

  5. iamme99 says:

    Adblock can be turned off/on for specific sites if your conscience bothers you.

    At work, I am forced to use IE with no mods. It’s hard to believe the number of ads on some pages. Yet I’ve never clicked on an ad in IE. Thankfully, with adblock, I don’t have the clutter at home.

  6. junkmail says:

    There are ads on the internet now? Really?

  7. linoth says:

    The irony is that the advertisement for my Consumerist feed appeared right under this article.

  8. BigNutty says:

    I too say slow ad load, the X button cometh.

  9. Anjow says:

    It is strange, as an Adblock & Greasemonkey user I don’t see any adverts – when I used a friend’s computer with IE I was astonished at how bad it’s got now.

  10. weave says:

    I don’t mind ads and sometimes they influence my purchases. It’s the pop-up/under windows that drive me to adblock a site for good. Otherwise I let the ads through.

    I even bought a Honda Fit due to an online ad I saw about it. I never saw an ad for that car anywhere else (I don’t watch much TV)

    Sites have bills to pay and I can appreciate that, but popup ads that get around popup blockers using various tricks *will* drive me to adblock those sites.

    btw, never understood why ad companies don’t just funnel ads through the back-end of a site so they are served from the site’s server. ie, a call for an image on consumerist.com goes through a script that pulls the ad on the back-end from the ad server and then sends it to the client. Now that would add considerably to the site’s own network traffic but that would get around adblock, so if that gets too popular, expect to see that happen. :(

  11. earspasm says:

    Hi all — my first post here.

    Let me ask you all a quick question, and I know I’m setting myself up to be flamed: I work for an ad agency in NYC and am in charge of developing (read: programming flash) all of the online advertising for 7 really big clients you all have heard of.

    (No, I don’t produce the crap like lowermybills.com — what an embarrassment for the industry. But, believe it or not, those are some of the highest performing ads on the internet.)

    My question: would you be more inclined to accept online advertising if it was a) less hideous, better programmed and more engaging?

    b) more targeted, and would learn from your behavior *if* you were to interact with them?

    c) more web 2.0 (e.g. user-submitted content straight from the banner)?

    I’m not doing market research; I’m sitting drinking coffee in my kitchen before going to work and thought to ask, that’s all.

    I’d love to hear you comments, good and bad, about how to make this stuff better — it’s my livelihood.

    Thanks

  12. earspasm says:

    Oh and one more thing.

    Sites generally load all of their content before allowing any advertising to load. What’s slowing down your viewing is usually site content. I can tell you from my experience that sites won’t allow banners larger than 40k (usually 30), and even the rich media banners (read: video, interactive stuff — anything high-k) are always required to be a “polite downoad” where they load 5-10 seconds after the page loads… Just an FYI.

  13. jeffjohnvol says:

    I have a simple way to block most of those sites, especially doubleclick.net which tracks your usage (including this site! – hover your pointer over your back button and you’ll see a link to ad.doubleclick.net).

    You can alter your hosts file and redirect all those advertising links to a local address. Instructions as well as a huge hosts file can be found at [www.accs-net.com] . Some of the items I found I had to remove (buy.com stuff) if a link you are trying to go to doesn’t work, but overall, my online browsing has been much quicker.

    Note, when you use, you may see little windows of “cannot find server” on some pages, but that means the redirect is working.

  14. jeffjohnvol says:

    edit: if a link you are trying to go to doesn’t work, you may need to find it and remove from hosts file.

  15. Snakeophelia says:

    I love Adblock. It’s a bit of a pain to use, since many ads aren’t right-clickable – you have to use the drop-down menu and block them one-by-one (although you can use the asterisk to get a lot of them at once if they’re all coming from the same URL). But it’s totally worth it.

  16. ncboxer says:

    I associate my use of Adblock with with the No Call Directory for telephones. I have no interest in clicking on ads on web pages, just like I have no interest in receiving telephone solicitations. Therefore, why should I see them? I know sites have to make money somehow, but since I am definitely not going to click on the links, why bother seeing the ads? And it saves bandwidth for me and the ad server. I use Flashblock to block Flash ads.

    I have contributed before to sites I really like (and have asked for paypal donations).

  17. bohemian says:

    I use adblock on everything now. There are just too many content providers that abuse good page design. Our local newspaper is running multiple horribly done flash ads in the side bar. Each one with some blinking or lots of movement type animated add. You get them all going together and it is enough to give anyone a seizure.

    Most people don’t mind a few ads as long as they are not intrusive like some animated ads or the huge pop up or pop under ads.

    What the article doesn’t state is if these figures include opt in newsletters. There has been a significant increase in the companies that offer them and the quality of the technology used to create them. If those are included they could make up a good percentage of the increase.

    The ad I hate the most, those dancing mortgage rate ads.

  18. StormyBkln says:

    @weave:

    It’s called pay-per-click. If you host my ad, there’s a counter that ticks every time someone pulls your ad from my page. I get paid by you for each counter. Remember, these companies advertise on many websites, and have to keep track of who’s displaying their ads.

  19. Amelie says:

    Adblock is great, but ScriptBlock is a wonderful addition. My default is to not let a site use scripts. They can’t annoy you with flash or do much of anything else without it.

  20. Amelie says:

    I wonder what the percentage is for people using Adblock. Most people I know don’t seem to know a whole lot about computers and put up with all sorts of malarky.

  21. Rusted says:

    Adblock is great. Far too much distraction. Still, if something could be done about some people who hijack us to a splash screen……

  22. csdiego says:

    @earspasm: I’m too much of a Luddite/lazybutt to use Adblock, and I’ve actually been known to click on Web ads sometimes. That said, the only kind of ad I can tolerate/will click on is a static image, for a product I already have a decent opinion of. Anything animated or porn-flavored will make me not just surf away but resolve never to buy that product.

    For video ads that I have to watch before the video content on some sites, it depends: if it’s not too loud/flashy/annoying I’ll watch it, otherwise I’ll open up another tab to watch something else and/or hit mute until the content comes on.

  23. dwarf74 says:

    @earspasm: Personally, I don’t mind ads, so long as they’re not obnoxious. The ones that jump around, flash, tell you to click on the monkey, or (oof) make noise bug the hell out of me. So I guess, (A) from your list.

  24. jeff303 says:

    @earspasm: Personally I will never “accept” any advertising of any form as long as current technology allows me to block it. I am also willing to pay a nominal subscription fee in lieu of seeing ads for some sites.

  25. AstroPig7 says:

    I make a point of avoiding any site that loads advertisements with automatic audio (especially the kind that can’t be disabled). These advertisements and MySpace are annoying reminders that some people thought the embedded MIDI craze of the late 90s was a good thing. It was a lot easier to avoid when it was restricted to Geocities sites!

  26. anonymouscoworker says:

    @earspasm: I want online ads like I want ads on TV: not at all. Tivo lets me skip ads, Adblock lets me skip ads. I’d much rather search the product out myself when I need it than be constantly bombarded with the suggestion that I should purchase something.

    I realize that you need to make money, and I encourage and support your doing so, but I can’t honestly say any of your options appeal to me. Though some combination of all three would be better than nothing.

  27. nidolke says:

    @Riddar: “Something in me stops me from using Adblock.” Oh honey, that’s so cute. I, on the otherhand, have come to embrace and love adblock for all it has done for me. Soon you’ll see the light too, just wait.

  28. shoegazer says:

    @earspasm: I want a), but please god not b) or c). This whole web 2.0 thing is just America’s Funniest Home Videos writ large on the internet. It’s nearly as bad as reality TV.

    For ads that are better made, consider the very best print ads. The Web is still a print medium, after all. I hate ads that try to “engage” you, because 99% of the time they end up enraging you instead – I REALLY don’t need a car advert blocking my view of the text I came to read, any site that tries that quickly gets adblocked and no-scripted.

  29. JayDeEm says:

    @earspasm: No annoying, attention-grabbing gimmicks (SOUND, excessive animation, pop-under/over, inline text) will ever get my business. Flash ads that overlay the page content, forcing me to find the close button are a guaranteed no-click. Static, non-intrusive images or AdWords style text ads fine.

    Web site operators need to pay the bills and I understand that. I have even clicked on plenty of ads and in rare cases found something useful. But because of the tactics mentioned above, I have also joined the Firefox/AdBlock club and never looked back.

  30. Mojosan says:

    I love popups.

    Really. I do. :)

  31. earspasm says:

    @shoegazer: I hear you, and I’d like to reply specifically to your comment about engagement.

    How about this scenario: Say you were at a car site (edmunds, cars.com, etc), and there was a banner atop the page where you saw an ad that showed you a car you were interested in. You roll over it and it drops down into a configurator where you could customize the car (rims, color, interior, etc), and based on your input, could show you dealers in your area that have matches for your configuration (based on an ip lookup or info you entered into edmunds).

    Or, this scenario: You see an ad for a sweater you want to buy. Instead of clicking on that sweater, going to a home page and finding it yourself, you could either deep-link into the site where you could buy the sweater, or even (gasp!) buy it through your banner (one that supports SSL, which is technically possible).

    Or: You see an ad for a laptop, and you can configure it in the banner, then click through to purchase it from an online retailer.

    None of these ads would be bait-and-switch (e.g. hit the monkey and win a prize), but really geared toward provding the best experience for the end user.

    We who make this stuff are internet users too, and are keenly aware of the annoyances of BADvertising. (And, there’s so much of it out there!)

    Since advertising is a necessary evil — and most of you recognize this — wouldn’t it be better if advertising online were at least a more relevant experience? Billboard advertising, as it now exists on the web, is completely useless one-way communication between an advertiser and you. If advertising were more relevant, I’d be willing to bet that you’d hate it less. (Note: I didn’t say “like it” — just hate it less).

    I also would bet that intrusive advertising would decline, because when you provide a relevant ad, you don’t need to be intrusive!

    Thanks for your posts!

    -ear

  32. @earspasm:
    I don’t like highly animated ads on static websites. My brain is trying to parse text and is basically treating the page like a print layout, and having a box of wiggly things competing for attention is incredibly distracting. Adblock really helps me tune out distractions so I can focus on content–so I guess I’m saying if ads were less intrusive and more print like, they’d have a better chance of not getting blocked by me. My one exception are ads that are interactive after you choose to interact with them. I think those are cool. But they should remain static unless you click somewhere in them–activating with merely a rollover (which is often unintentional) is a cheat and earns my Adblocker stamp.

    Deal-breakers: audio and video. I tend to surf with multiple tabs open at once, so things can load in the background. Hearing a commercial start playing feels so intrusive that I actually get angry for a few seconds.

    I’ll accept temporary pop-over ads if they’re for the actual site–e.g., “subscribe today!” types of ads. Any other type of pop-over ad gets Adblocked, because again I feel it’s too intrusive.

    I don’t care where the content comes from–web 2.0, customer-created, whatever–as long as it’s good content. So long as ads remain relatively passive and try to entice me with good design and creative copy–or better yet, with useful information–then they’ll stay, mainly because even if I read them I don’t put them in the same category as all the annoying junk.

    Pop up ads are devils sent from hell. Only I should control my browser. I try to keep a mental list of pop-up advertisers so I know who to never do business with in the future, but thankfully I almost never see them anymore.

    And btw, thanks for asking!

  33. pestie says:

    I use a combination of Adblock Plus, Flashblock, RefControl (for denying/forging referer headers that tell site A that I just came from site B), and NoScript. Yes, sometimes it’s a hassle (particularly NoScript, although its “temporarily allow…” function is awesome) but it’s totally worth it. Pages load much faster and I’m not bombarded with attempts at mind control.

  34. earspasm says:

    @Chris Walters:

    Another industry FYI (we’re actually quite restricted/regulated, even though it doesn’t seem like it)

    95% of sites (well, ones that we deal with anyway) restrict audio to occur *on user click only* — so you will NEVER hear audio on coming from your banner unless you want it. Regarding video, you’re right, we’re allowed to run video withough users clicking on it, as long as the audio is muted.

    And I agree – popup ads are awful. Popunders too.

    …Though those Orbitz games are really well done from a flash-technical perspective. But I think you have to be in the business to appreciate how elegant they are…

  35. iamme99 says:

    Another good reason to block ads:

    Rogue ads pushing malware — how it works

    On Monday, eWeek wrote an article about DoubleClick displaying ads that promoted rogue antispyware. The article quoted our work.
    To clarify – it wasn’t DoubleClick that was spawning the ads (well, it was, but it wasn’t). DoubleClick sells a system called DART, which websites (called “publishers” in the world of advertising) use to manage their advertising. So if you’re looking at the URL in a packet capture, it looks like it’s coming from DoubleClick . You can see this in a video that Roger Thompson made:

    [sunbeltblog.blogspot.com]

  36. casey451 says:

    I got one of the first Replay TVs years ago (and paid dearly as an early adopter) BECAUSE they promised to skip automatically through ads on recorded shows. It worked beautifully. Never understood why they didn’t catch on. The netwowrks were freaking out, and Replay finally caved, agreeing to remove the “automatic” function, meaning you had to use the remote to fast forward through ads. So I stocked up on the models that were not yet compromised (pre 5500 series) which by this time had dropped dramatically in price. So I am set for life; no highdef, but good enough. That is the level of my commitment to no ads. On my Mac, I use the Camino browser which kills ads of all kinds dead, and permits detailed involvement with the cookie-setting function. I can deny, allow, or allow for session each cookie that is sent my way. Camino remembers these decisions, so if your roaming is relatively limited, you are not having to decide about cookies all the time. Doubleclick doesn’t know me from Adam.

    Do I feel guilty about how sites make money and how the nice Mr. earspasm survives? Never! If advertisers want to appeal to me, they will have to figure out how. It is not my job to make myself available to them. The networks and cable producers should not be able to force engineers to dumb down their creations so that advertisers can do things the way they’ve always done them. Time for everybody to compete in the same time and space. For the web I suggest that sites find corporate underwriters. If site visitors think highly of the site, they will respond to contribution requests. I’ve done this happily in the past. No problemo. If visitors are generally unconscious of the real estate given to advertising on the sites they visit, or the time they spend waiting for uploads, they deserve to feast on all the ads the site can shove at them.

    Google alternative browsers. Never have to blink furiously at those dreadful little flash dancers again.

  37. Riddar says:

    @nidolke: I have used it, as a matter of fact, but stopped. Why? Because I am a webmaster, and hosting costs money. Even without my actively spending my time giving content I pay for people to use it. It is equivalent to piracy, the way I see it – meaning yeah, you will get away with it. You have no chance of being caught or convicted. Hey, it’s probably not even illegal. That makes it moral, right?

    It’s a victimless crime if you don’t get hurt, right?

    Anyhow, a website content-producer suggesting this is downright low. To the point where I WOULD feel justified in using his advice.

  38. casey451 says:

    Let me guess, Riddar – you prop your eyelids open with toothpicks and turn up the volume on the TV when the Headon ads run, for fear you will blink or otherwise miss some precious content because you have convinced yourself, like the most abject fundamentalist, that to do so will land you in at least Purgatory if not worse, since that is the price you must pay for the “free” content appearing before you. Should mute buttons be outlawed? Do you want channels to be locked in place until the ads are done? If you do follow these procedures and believe these measures should be taken, then you are being consistent, and I take it all back. If, like normal people, you turn away from these ads in disgust, wondering what the world is coming to, then you should get a job where you are not punching your blood pressure up by thinking malevolent thoughts about people who feel free to pick and choose what they wish to see on their computers.

  39. KJones says:

    I view advertising on web pages the way I view panhandlers on the street.

    If a panhandler stands on the side of the sidewalk with a tin cup, I’ll ignore him or occasionally, when I’m feeling charitable, toss in a few bucks. But when a panhandler walks into my path and blocks my way, he/she gets no pity. I ignore the panhandler and (usually) walk _through_, forearm up, unless the person is too dirty. Giving to a shelter is the best way to help a panhandler, not do it on the street. But if one is on the street, _they_ are assaulting _you_ when they move in front of you and block your path. Too bad the same (ie. elbow to the chest) can’t be done with web advertisers.

    Advertisements that are banners or pictures within the page aren’t annoying; in fact, I don’t even bother with adblockers, though I often browse with images off in Opera. But what cheeses me off are the embedded flash animations and noise, plus the java or other scripts that block the screen and content; either you close the page or press reload.

    A person shouldn’t have to physically confront an advertiser or a panhandler. They should both be easy to ignore if you want to. (And pop-up ads are akin to telemarketers, annoying you when you’re doing something else.)