Not a trendy POV, especially for the younger net-savvy crowd. After-all, what kind of dumbass doesn’t have ad-block installed right? That will ‘stick it to the man’, and make your life easier right? Well frankly…some sites may as well have a huge banner that says ‘INSTALL ADBLOCK’, because they have flashing strobing monstrosities designed by people who have no idea how proper 21st century ads actually work but hey…don’t tarnish all ads with the same brush.
I’d suggest that as a consumer, you should LOVE advertising. Here is why. Like Democracy, advertising is a shit system, but its better than all the alternatives. There is basically a dilemma for anyone who makes a product, and that is ‘how do I get people to hear about my product’. The most honest answer to the question is that you set aside part of your budget to rent space where people will look, and use that space to inform people that your product exists. This is, of course, simple advertising. It works. It’s also fair. People would say it is biased towards those with money, but that money is simply an expression of faith in the product. Where some people have money, others have time. Time basically is money.
If you block all ads, or worse still, tar product-makers who advertise as being ‘evil’ or ‘corporate’ or, to quote some reddit replies to my ads ‘shilling scum’ (yup, under a ‘promoted link’, clearly paid for openly and proudly by me…’go figure’), then you are simply forcing business to find an alternative solution to promoting the product. The thing is, people WILL find another way to get their product promoted over the opposition. It is the life-blood of business. If you prevent them using ads, then the temptation to go with less obvious, less honest, frankly underhand and shady methods is going to win out.
From a business POV, spending $30k on ads vs handing $30k in a paypal payment to a famous you-tuber are essentially the same thing. The end result is the same, and the cost is the same. The first choice is very up-front and honest and people know what is going on. The second choice (assuming its undeclared to the viewer) is basically subverting what claims to be impartial information and manipulating it to push an agenda. Do people want that?
There are a vast range of businesses (I get emails from them all the time) offering to sell people twitter followers, or post on forums on your behalf, or up-vote social media posts, and all the rest of it, no-doubt linked to click-farms in China or India. This is the dark-side of ‘social-network-marketing’. If you want to just ‘buy’ popularity on a site where commercial concerns are banned, then it’s easy, just fill out this form and send the money. Unethical as fuck, clearly, but do you really think that nobody does it? if they didn’t, the spam emails wouldn’t be economic, for starters.
There is a myth, in the ‘anti-corporate, anti-ads’ world, that you can block out all ‘corporate’ influence, but you cannot. Not outside of North Korea, anyway. Even if your site has no ads, and absolute rock-solid captcha stuff to ensure there are no bots, and that nobody from (perish the thought) a games company is posting on your site, then it would still be trivial, trivial, trivial, to completely rig the odds.
Anyone with their own forums knows that preventing spam is almost impossible because a lot of it is ‘human spam’, in other words, accounts created by actual people (paid minimum wage in India/China) who can enter the captcha quite easily, make a few seemingly innocent posts, before (in my experience), spamming your site with links to cheap kitchen fitting. When you see this, it is basically human-marketing agents done really really badly.
Now imagine a situation with a smarter ‘black hat style’ marketing company. Say they have $100k to spend to promote game X. Why spend it on 10,000 Chinese kids who are obvious as hell, when you can just employ 10 full time western ‘social marketing agents’ for 3 months to actually go out there and hustle for the game. They can join dozens, if not hundreds of sites, read loads of threads, make loads of posts, look like any other member of the community, just hanging out, chilling, talking about games, and they all just so happen to have recently picked up a copy of X, and you know what? to be honest, game X is the best damned game they ever played, no seriously.
That is the world of game marketing without ads. It’s not always obvious. There is a spectrum. On the one hand, you have 10,000 Chinese kids spamming the world about Civony, or some other browser-based crap. On the other end of the spectrum, you have just two or three marketing experts who do their job so well you have absolutely no idea they have any connection to a games company whatsoever. What they have in common, is they are trying to subvert a non-commercial arena into being a commercial one.
Ads are different. there is a clear dividing line. When you see an ad for my games, It’s not disguised as anything else. It’s honest. It’s me saying ‘I believe enough in you liking the look of this game, I’m actually paying out money to tell you about it’. I reckon thats good, thats fair, thats what I like, and thats why I have adblock off for the majority of my surfing.
I could take the hint, realize gamers have decided that ads are evil, that actually ‘lets players deserve to be paid’, and just say ‘fuck it’, and hand over loads of cash to a PR company to do whatever the fuck they like, and ask no questions, but I’d rather not. I don’t want to be a full time promoter and schmoozer. I’m a game designer and programmer. Don’t let the underhand schmoozers take over.