The unthinkable just happened. Adblock is no longer blocking ads on my browser.
It’s alright, let’s not panic just yet. I have reported the issue to Adblock, but the aches in my heart every time I see an unskippable 2-minute ad is quite debilitating. Life was great when my laptop was free of banners and unsolicited commercials on YouTube. But now I’ve felt the wrath of the advertising industry, and to be in it myself has made me deeply self-aware of the havoc we’re wreaking.
Before writing this article I had strolled around the office asking my colleagues if they used Adblock, and a majority said they did.
“I use it because I want to watch porn without all the distractions,” said an art director.
“I just want my page clean. I want to see content, nothing else,” my creative director added. This is the guy who sells brands such as Guinness, Mercedes-Benz, and Lays—someone who earns a living by doing the very thing he refuses to see.
My Executive Creative Director didn’t even have the slightest idea of what I was talking about, and he practically runs the creative division with more than a dozen awards under his large belt.
“No, it’s Adblock,” I explained in his glass room. “But since you don’t have it, do you ever watch the ads that play before YouTube videos?”
“I skip them.”
“What if you can’t? What if it’s a 3-minute ad that you’re forced to sit through.”
He wiped a long strand of hair from his eyes and tucked it behind his ear. With the innocence of an intern, he said softly, “I open another tab until the ad finishes.”
Isn’t it ironic that even the people in advertising click ‘Skip Ad’ faster than the consumers they make it for.
So why do we all hate ads so much?
The answer is strange, really. We don’t. We only love good ads; the type that can make you take out your phone and Snapchat it to your friends. The type you would share online after being compiled in a Buzzfeed listicle. People appreciate great advertising; Nike’s Winner Stays, Dove’s Choose Beautiful, P&G’s Thank You Mom. We watch million-dollar Superbowl ads and tweet about that one funny Doritos commercial. We inadvertently use Snickers’ slogan as a joke and scream out Adidas’ tagline when daring a friend to do something extraordinary.
Advertising can mold society in more ways than one. From breaking taboos with Whisper’s Touch The Pickle campaign in India to promoting safety on trains with Metro’s Dumb Ways To Die in Melbourne. There is power to what we—as an industry—can do to the masses. The problem is that sometimes we don’t have the time, the budget, or the client to make something great. Instead, what you get is a static banner and a YouTube ad that you really, really don’t care about; even the people who make it don’t want to see it.
Us admen actively peruse through Ads of the World or Best Ads on TV to gain inspiration and acknowledge the creativity of others around the world. We choose to look at ads every day, but when it comes to real advertising—pop-up banners that offer cheap hotels or unskippable YouTube ads—we turn a blind eye.
Just like how professional chefs refuse to dine in unpalatable restaurants or how painters avoid ghastly art galleries, people in advertising don’t want to constantly see the bad side of the industry.
If it’s up to us, we wouldn’t make half the ads you see on YouTube or Google. Instead, we’d make you fall in love with the first scene. We’d make an ad so beautiful or funny it would be gut-wrenching to skip. A banner so fun to play with that the brand sticks even hours after you’ve closed the tab. This is why we have award shows for creative advertising, because ads in its purest form can be rather exceptional.
You see, even people in advertising hate the litter we’re forced to produce. But when we’re given the carte blanche on a brief, we can move people to tears, change perspectives, and start movements that span generations. So what we want—and what everyone else wants—is to see ads that make a part of us tick, even if it is only selling orange juice. And when we don’t get that, well, we make them disappear from our screens.
We use Adblock because the ads we see offer us nothing to feel, and that’s what good advertising should do.