What's the Buzz?

Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like a perceived threat to one’s livelihood, which may explain the flurry of I-Advertising posts about the legality of ad blocking software.

The debate kicked off a week ago when I-Advertising Moderator Adam Boettiger posted part of a wired article on the topic. The brief prompted Scott Lynn to wonder if ad blocking software is legal.

“Ad blocking software companies are ‘profiting’ from modifying content. ‘My’ content,” Scott wrote. What if someone offered to strip all the ads out of the New York Times?

Laura DiFiore agreed, arguing “Ad blocking software is modifying copyrighted code and interfering with the transmission of the content of a web site. If they were simply turning off your images, then there would not be as much of a controversy But they are modifying my code.”

Nuh-uh, Rob Frankel responded. It’s okay if the blocking occurs at the point of signal reception and is voluntary by the recipient. That’s why ‘channel zappers’ are legal. “If you blocked the signal at the source of transmission, then you’d be correct.”

A couple of attorneys entered the fray but neither came down hard on either side. Then David Doggett, apparently not an attorney, offered his own take on the copyright argument. “Imagine you buy a book, start reading and quit after the first page and throw it down in disgust. The copyright police jump out of the bushes and arrest you for creating a derivative work by not reading the entire book,” he wrote.

Robert Lema took a different tack. “Ad blocking is not a fad. It goes to the core of the Internet experience — freedom of choice,” he wrote. “The question shouldn’t be, ‘is it legal?’ [but] ‘Why do people want it?’ Address the cause, not the effect.”

But where would the Net be without advertising? asked Gary Wien. “Do you really think that an average person wants to go ‘surfing’ through nothing but unadvertised news groups and using systems like GOPHER to find information? The large majority of people understand the need for advertising on the Internet If this wasn’t the case, ad blocking software would be a top-selling product.”

Responding to Gary, Steve Loney wrote: “The majority [of users] are simply resigned to wading through the ads to get to the content they desire and will avoid sites saturated with banners whenever they can find an alternative site.”

Jeremy Swinfen Green’s advice is to “accept that some people will block ads on principle but get others to look at ads by making them attractive in some way.”

It struck Muhammad Lee as funny that “some of the people on the list seem to think that the average Joe wants to see their ads, or should be forced to. Let’s get real here outside of the Internet Advertising community who likes online advertising? Complaining about ad blocking technology is a waste of our collective cyber breath. We should be attacking the problem that necessitated the need for blocking technology in the first place.”

Third-Party Ad Servers

Miffed at the dearth of responses to Eric Bozinny’s post a week ago about third-party ad servers and discrepancies in counting impressions, Adam Boettinger repeated the post. This time it drew several responses, including one from Tom Hespos in which he outlined the reasons for discrepancies, and one in which Joe Schreiber presented three issues for publishers, agencies and clients to think about.

Clicking Elsewhere

Other topics on I-Advertising included the email “client war,” click-through rates in the UK, whether to sell online ads, how to sell them, targeting people who leave a site, how to demo rich media, “deep linking,” measuring branding campaigns, banner positioning and projecting online ad revenues.

Word of Mouth

During the thread that Jeremy Swinfen Green kicked off on online ads a week ago, Tim Smith raised, perhaps rhetorically, the question of opening an .exe file from a non-trusted source. No way, wrote Mark Welch last week. He generally rejects any file attachment in other than HTML or PDF format. “Unless you have a Mac, never, never open an .exe file that you can not substantiate,” agreed Ade Stuart.

The more sanguine Bob Rosen kind of likes clever little .exe files. He got one from his accountant. If the files are done well enough, they multiply through email channels much the way jokes do, he wrote. It’s a great guerilla marketing tool that won’t be so great once everyone’s doing it, so do it now is his advice.

“These files are sent to you by people you know (hence the ‘word of mouth’ analogy) and who have, presumably, opened the file themselves otherwise they wouldn’t bother to send it on to you,” Jeremy wrote. He asked if there is a way to determine how many times a file has been forwarded.

New Product Marketing

Bob Atkinson responded to Spencer Quinn’s plea of a week ago for tips on how to grab media planners’ attention. Seems Bob’s come up with a “win-win-win” concept for marketers, partners and sponsors that he says, “looks like a postcard, acts like a web site, moves like a car.”

“Bribery works wonders,” suggested Gregory D. Morey (he was kidding). Seriously, understand prospects’ online marketing goals, then try packaging bulk and targeted impressions in an averaged CPM (cost-per-thousand) rate.

Rate Cards

Kevin Frazier applauded the advice Larry Chase gave Evan Thomas a week ago that Evan expand his sales efforts. Kevin added that an automated sales system can be very effective for advertisers on tight budgets. He’s familiar with such a system and explained how it works, but he omitted his URL so as not to seem overly self-promotional.

Randall Vlahos seconded the advice that Robert Gordon gave Evan, which was to look to the magazine world for inspiration, but he warned that everyone’s a “publisher” on the Net, ergo, there’s a lot of noise out there.


“I was too hasty in bidding ‘hasta la vista’ to Alta Vista,” wrote David Yancey. “This thread apparently has a life of its own, a seeming determination to get us to some useful result, which is more than I can say for certain search engines!” For Matt da Silva’s benefit, David elaborated on his earlier reference to alternative search tools and services. Susan Murray, a notary public, explained why the notary model isn’t adaptable for electronic content.

Newspaper Says No to URL

Wayne Kessler reported that the leading newspaper in his market refuses to include URLs in local ads. He presumes it’s because clients with web sites are buying less print space. Anybody else have the same problem?

Elsewhere on Online-Ads

Other topics discussed on Online-Ads included Starbucks’ new “portal,” auctioning space, capturing email addresses, banner positioning, click-through rates, online ad couponing and the quality of online ad research (yucky, in Tim Lee’s estimation).

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