I don't like sneaky people.
And one of the things that bothers me about online advertising is the unprecedented degree of sneakiness.
In traditional advertising, there is usually no question about what an ad is or what it is intended to do. We are out to sell you something and there is rarely any doubt about our motives.
You may not like the idea that we are trying to sell you something, but there is no confusion about our purpose.
You know what an ad looks like, sounds like and smells like. You can choose to pay attention to it or not.
But online advertising is different.
- Is a tweet really from a satisfied customer or is from an intern being paid to impersonate a customer?
- Is an update really from a friend or is it "sponsored?"
- Is a review from a real person? Or a real jerk trying to either pump up his own ratings or kill a competitor's?
- Is a Google search result a true reflection of the best response or is it the result of someone having paid for a keyword? (Unsurprisingly, without the right hand column, almost 50% of people can not differentiate paid ads from organic search.)
- Is "content" real or is it product propaganda?
- What kind of "black ops" are online ad hustlers up to that we don't even know about?
Yes, traditional advertising is often annoying and witless. But it comes by its imperfections honestly. It does not pretend to be anything other than what it is.
Online advertising may not seem to be as tiresome or irritating. But, on the whole, it is considerably more insidious and disingenuous.