As the quality of Google ads got better, users started to discover that Google ads were actually useful and relevant, and they got in the habit of looking at them.We are all bombarded by advertising in our daily lives. Junk mail, ads in magazines, TV ads, it is all ineffective mass market noise pummeling us with things we don't want. It is a useless waste of time, a missed opportunity to capture a fleeting glimpse of attention.
Ads are content, and they're a lot more effective if they contain information people actually want.
With a little ingenuity, TV networks could be using devices like TiVo the same way Google uses click-through statistics: as a way to gather data on user attitudes toward different ads.
Display a different set of ads to each viewer, with the ads chosen based on the individual viewer's show-watching and ad-skipping history as well as some basic demographic characteristics. For example, users who frequently skip car ads would be shown fewer car ads. Viewers under 40 would never be shown ads for adult diapers, and all-male households would never be shown ads for feminine hygiene products.
Viewers would find ads more useful and less irritating, while advertisers would be willing to pay higher rates for ads that were precisely targeted at relevant subgroups ... Show users ads they actually find entertaining and useful.
Things change if we view advertising as content. Advertising can be useful information about products and services we actually want. The advertisements we see should be helpful and interesting, not annoying and irrelevant.
Personalizing advertising -- targeting to advertising to individual interests -- can make advertisements relevant, useful, and helpful. By learning from what each person likes and does not like, personalized advertising can use that fleeting glimpse of our attention to show us something we actually might need.
Please see also my March 2005 post, "Personalized TV advertising", and my Nov 2005 post, "Is personalized advertising evil?"