Reinvention, not reinsertion

In this week's ad blocking news, the Adblock Plus people are all butthurt that Facebook is reinserting ads by editing HTML instead of paying for whitelisting. I'm not sure who's winning right now, but by the time I put this up the current state of the "cat and mouse game" (when have you ever seen a mouse buy stuff from a cat?) will be different. So go follow Lara O'Reilly and Jack Marshall in your news recommendation tool of choice if you really want to keep up.

Anyway, the web advertising debate is about Adblock Plus the way that the online music debate was about Napster. Can we turn down the long-playing drama and pay attention to the important stuff here, for 23 minutes and 36 seconds at least? What will web advertising look like when the ad blocker fades into the background, the way that spam filters are a background concern for email newsletter senders?

Dr. Johnny Ryan, speaking at the Advertising Research Foundation (watch the whole thing) has a good part of the answer.

There is a big question over whether it is a good idea to restore all of the tracking functionality that might infringe on the user's personal rights, and that actually might take away from the value of the ad.

It's not just the user's rights. When an ad medium makes it harder to target individual users, it gets better at signaling. Context matters. There's no free lunch. Everything we know about how ads work in context tells us that the average web user is a pretty good applied behavioral economist.

That's where reinvention, not reinsertion, comes in. What does web advertising look like when it works with the user's mental "reputation coprocessor" and not against it? When advertising turns into a game that you can win with a sustained signal of quality, not with targeting tricks that have to change every time the users figure them out?

Watch the whole thing.

Don Marti · #