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Prep for the return of classified advertising

Notes for a post on online ads. — If surveillance advertising is made impossible (unlikely, but desirable) then contextual advertising (ads based on what you’ve chosen to view rather than your browsing history and a host of inferred clues as to your intention/identity at any given time) would be an improvement. But, best of all would be the return of classified advertising, i.e. up front ads hosted on websites made for the purpose of advertising various services (aka Craigslist).

(But – I want to flog you some trainers. You’d love them! How do you find out about them?)

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I once came across a good post about how ads used to not be so disagreeable, although I can’t remember where I read it or if I have it bookmarked. The author had mentioned almost taking pleasure in seeing some of the more creative ads in newspapers and in magazines. They didn’t try to disguise themselves and they were easily avoided—he could simply not look at them or just flip to the next page. No flashing lights, no popups, no tracking or data mining. The ads might have been competing for his attention but they weren’t inhibiting him from reading the main content of the periodical.

Before the web, some ads actually seemed useful. They might have increased awareness of an actually useful product that you wouldn’t have otherwise discovered. There’s no going back though. If there’s an opportunity to increase sales even if it means exploiting people, someone somewhere will cease it.


Yes, there was an apparent golden age of print advertising:

!1960S ad for a mustang car

(Although the nostalgia may add to our appreciation of these.)

Ads work better in print for the reasons you state, and I’d like to explore them in a post. There’s something about intrusion, control and even etiquette – inserting an ad into a web page is just plain rude (especially on a mobile), but is generally OK in a newspaper.

There have been online attempts to make less rude, “tasteful” advertising, but these have failed. The Deck was a kind of artisinal advertising network for trendy sites.

Jeremy’s idea for contextual advertising is more ethical than surveillance advertising (and is basically how Google search ads work, I think), but you still have the problem of inserting ads somewhere on a web page without annoying the reader, or misleading them by not displaying them as adverts. I know Google makes zillions of dollars a year from search ads, but I’m not really convinced they actually work that well.

Maybe in an ideal world the only online advertising we’d have is the up front, classified site such as Craigslist. But I think that only really works when you have a very specific requirement (I need to find a plumber, a second hand sofa etc.) You wouldn’t get Nike advertising on Craigslist.

In a way, the web itself is one huge advertising network…

So how would Nike advertise its trainers online? I guess advertising could have moved from the product supplier to the user, via review sites, blogs and social media, or to high profile users. Get someone like Ronaldo to do something on Instagram. (My idea for a post begins to breakdown here 😃).