Five years ago, Web advertisers were engaged in an ever-escalating competition to grab our attention. Monkeys that asked to be punched, pop-ups that spawned still more pop-ups, strobe effects that imparted temporary blindness - these were legal forms of assault.Exactly right. Be relevant, not annoying.
The most brazen advertiser of all, hands down, was X10, a little company hawking security cameras, whose ubiquitous "pop under" ads were the nasty surprise discovered only when you closed a browser window in preparation for doing something else.
Today, Web advertisers by and large have put down their weapons and sworn off violence. They use indoor voices now. This is a remarkable change.
Thank you, Google.
Without intending to do so, the company set in motion multilateral disarmament by telling its first advertisers in 2000: text only, please. No banner ads, no images, no animation. Just simple words.
If the ads are well targeted and interesting, people will stop ignoring them. When I search for products on Google, I often skim over the ads as well as the web search results. The Google search ads are useful, often a link to exactly what I need, as relevant as much of the other content on the page.
But, most ads still are targeted only using the content on the page. This works okay for search, when I'm on a focused mission, but less well for content sites like news or weblogs. We can do better.
The next step is to personalize the advertising. Sites need to learn about me. Pay attention to what I'm doing and what I like. They shouldn't waste my time with things they know will be irrelevant to me. Content sites should show me ads for things I might actually want.
See also my previous posts, "Make advertising useful" and "The content should find you".