Monday 26 September 2016

Swipe left and repeat: a millennial’s guide to digital ads

How does a ‘millennial’ consume digital ads? 21-year-old Irish Independent intern Karen Aria Lin explains what works, what doesn’t and what gets blocked

Karen Aria Lin

Published 13/08/2015 | 02:30

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Social media user
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I’m no stranger to blocking things online. Recently, my roommate showed me a handy Chrome extension called “Kill News Feed” for Facebook, which I installed. Now the extension loads a message that says “don’t get distracted by Facebook!” instead of endless news feeds. The result is that I’ve minimised my activity on Facebook, using it only to message friends, invite others to events, or send photos

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It’s a mixed bag when it comes to advertising. Digital marketing is effective when done smartly. But if ads are intrusive in the wrong way, people reject them before they have a chance to read it. Hopefully, the obnoxious, seizure-inducing pop-up ads will give way in favour of visually appealing, well-designed ads. The world of marketing depends on it. Here is how I generally approach different forms of advertising online.

1. Adblock – to use or not to use?

I’m often conflicted when it comes to using AdBlock, the browser extension that prevents advertisements from showing up on a webpage. For online newspapers and blogs that don’t generate revenue from print, ads are an important source of revenue. On the other hand, ads are annoying. Fortunately, I can tell AdBlock “Don’t run on this page”. This way, I can allow ads through whenever I want to support a site. Some small websites will beg visitors to “please turn off AdBlock for us,” and I’ll oblige out of guilt.

2. Email ads

Email ads go straight to my promotions tab in my Gmail account, and I occasionally give them a cursory scroll before ignoring or deleting them. Many ads are from sites I rarely visit, but don’t mind receiving emails from.

3. Banner ads

I hardly give a glance to the big, bold pictures that line the top and sides of websites. Some of them look like they were designed in the previous century, which is just lazy. Others are eye-catching or animated, but I don’t feel the need to click on them. If they show up often though, I might remember the name of the company and eventually search it up. 

4. Video ads

The more desperately I want to watch a YouTube video, the more annoying the video advertisement that plays before my video seems to be. The longer ones allow me to click “skip ad” after a couple seconds. The shorter ones force me to sit through the whole thing before allowing me to watch my real video. If I’m lucky, the video ad will be interesting or have dogs in it. Otherwise, it just wastes my time.

5. Phone ads

The “close” button on mobile phone ads are usually too tiny for my massive thumb. Half the time, I accidentally click the ad itself when trying to close it, prompting the ad to open up a new window in my phone browser.

The most effective way to get me to watch ads is to give me rewards. My favourite phone game offers two bonus tokens for every video game advertisement I watch. Lo and behold, I actually sit through them to earn my tokens at the end.

6. Google Search ads

Google Search Ads make me scroll down past several links to ads before I can access my actual search results. Many times, I’ve accidentally clicked on an advertisement link instead of the actual website I want. I find the ads mildly annoying, but only because I’m not careful enough to read the link descriptions. Fortunately, these ads only appear once in a while.

7. Overlay Ads

Overlay ads pop up on many websites, asking me to enter my email and subscribe for content. Usually I just click away or hit the X button. But some tricky ads attempt to manipulate me with words by asking something along the lines of “Want to be happy?”

The only way to get rid of the ad is to click a button that says something like “No, I’ll stick to my sad, sad life.” I get a good chuckle out of these ads, but they are still a minor annoyance, since AdBlock does not block them.

The most effective way to get me to watch ads is to give me rewards. My favourite phone game offers two bonus tokens for every video game advertisement I watch. Lo and behold, I actually sit through them to earn my tokens at the end

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