Dear Dirty America


NYT Declares Online Ads Maddening

NYT Declares Online Ads Maddening
December 07
07:16 2015

I sent the following news article to my friend and exiled cultural philosopher, Hubert Humdinger, because I knew it would get his goat.

As reported by the New York Times:

Ads pop up and play automatically, daring readers to shut them down with feats of fine motor control. The ads commandeer the screen. They expand and contract. They cover the text and refuse to budge.

And then there is the dreaded X — the one that invites you to close the ad yet seems impervious to repeated clicks of the cursor or the jabs and thrusts of even the most powerful fingers. (Perhaps you have tried a hammer?)

Sometimes the ads dance and move across the screen, forcing the user into a hot pursuit of the X.

“How many times have you hit the X and it doesn’t work?” said Tony Weisman, the chief executive of the digital agency DigitasLBi North America. “Now it’s just a cruel joke.”

Online advertisers and consumers have tried to outmaneuver each other since the early days of the web — with sellers continually finding ways to prolong engagement with ads and users trying equally hard to avoid them. But the cat-and-mouse game has reached a critical point, especially as devices have gotten smaller: Ads have become so annoying, consumers and industry executives say, that they could sink the Internet if they were not also helping support it.

“Ads are getting more pervasive and more difficult to easily get past,” Mr. Weisman said. “We are just destroying the user experience.”

On desktop computers, ads have turned web pages into mazes. A recent visit to, for example, meant fending off expanding banner ads and navigating video ads that played automatically. Sponsored posts and animated display ads filled each page.

On tablets and smartphones, the problem is more acute. Ads dominate the smaller screens, and many ads are not formatted correctly because of out-of-date technical language. The X button can be so tiny that clicking it requires a fair amount of luck. Industry executives often cite a 2012 report that said up to 50 percent of advertising clicks on mobile were accidental.

The exiled old philosopher, who only owned a smartphone once in his life, and for one day only before he returned it and tried to sue the company who sold it to him for “extreme irritation and promoting a decrepit lifestyle” said in return, “Tell these yahoos to spend more time reading books.”

[header is History of Advertising by Henry Sampson 1841-91]


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