Can advertising pay for everything, especially when ads don’t work on me?

How much have you paid to run searches on Yahoo!, YouTube or Google? How much has it cost you to use the services of mySpace or facebook? How much have you paid to read articles on CNN, or read this blog and several thousand others?

If you answered $0, then you and I have at least one thing in common. Our web world is almost entirely paid for by advertising. More to the point, it is probably paid for by investment or acquisition funds because you represent a user who will ultimately attract advertising dollars.

Ads are everywhere on the web and I’ve got a secret. Be it instinct, the ability to focus, or lack thereof, I have never clicked on a text ad. Never. While I know, somehow, that nearly every free site I visit has text ads of some sort, I never have clicked on a single one, let alone even read them. I don’t know if it’s their placement, dullness, inability to jump out at me or what, I just pass over them as if they were a broken pixel in my LCD display. People must be clicking on them. Site/content owners must be making money from them. Whatever the benefits, they are completely lost on me. I don’t think I’m alone here, but clearly I must be a minority online.

Another type of ad approach that is totally lost on me is the art of mobile ads. I know mobile displays and devices represent the largest single group of users world-wide, but in the 47 seconds at a time I spend actually looking at my phone (and this includes browsing on the 2.5 inch display) there is no way I am ever clicking on an ad… especially when it has the balls to take up half of my screen in the first place. Mobile advertising is dumb.

I can’t recall many ads online that are effective to me. There was an ad that greeted me on Yahoo!’s home page… and I have to admit this one caught my attention — so much so that I took a screenshot of it…


Beyond the web, I can think of a few ad approaches that work for me, or more to the point, on me. Highway billboards. Those work. Even when they are placed at weird angles or partially hidden by trees. I can’t help but see them. Seeing company logos and their messages in big bright letters works like charm on me.

I think ads will get smart, more dynamic and compliment what I’m looking for. I’m sure there’s some sophisticated ad network on the way… one that knows that the last time I visited Amazon, I was looking to buy a DVD. The ad, appearing anywhere, could suggest to me other DVD’s of that genre, or suggest movies currently in the theaters that may appeal to me. Or how about a way my car could communicate to this ad network that I need to get gas or Chinese food on the way home. That ad would be a map showing me where I should/could stop, with coupons and everything.

We’ll get there soon, I believe. Ads will get better, and then maybe they can continue to pay for everything.