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Google Lets Web Surfers ‘Mute This Ad’




Recently, I read a productivity article that said that control is an illusion. We think we have control over parts of our day, but the truth is, the universe will do as it wants and all we can do is hang on for the ride.

Depressing, but kind of freeing, don’t you think?

I thought about that article when I read Google’s blog post on their new “Mute This Ad” option.

The concept is pretty simple. A web surfer comes across a Google Display Network ad that they don’t like. They click the X in the corner and voila, the ad is “muted.” Going forward, Google will try its hardest not to serve that ad to that person ever again.

Right off the bat, I’ve got issues. The biggest one is the word “mute.” Mute means to stop the audio from flowing through your speakers. It doesn’t mean, “makes the picture go away.” If I mute my TV, the sound stops but the picture continues. I can mute those Kardashian girls all I like, but they’re still going to be there when I switch to that channel.

I guess Google figures they’re big enough to retrain people so. . . . Mute This Ad it is.

The second issue is, what’s the point. People use ad blockers to keep annoying ads from ruining the charming, online landscape. But Google’s Ad Mute is simply switching one ad for another, not removing ads altogether. Are there ads that people actually dislike enough to bother clicking the X. Instead of Mute This Ad, why not just Ignore This Ad? That’s what the majority of folks are doing anyway.

I suppose there are rare cases where ads might be considered offensive to some. Maybe the Mrs. would like to block all ads featuring the Go Daddy girls from hubby’s computer. But the reality is, most people aren’t going to bother because a:) they don’t care enough and b:) they don’t believe it will do any good.

And there we have that illusion of control. I think Google’s plan is to make folks think they’re controlling the ads on the computer so they’ll feel better about ads in general. Psychologically sound.

On the marketer end, Google has this to say:

We believe this early-look feature can bring benefits to the entire ecosystem: users have a way to control their experience and signal that they aren’t interested in certain ads; advertisers are no longer paying to show ads to people who aren’t interested; and publishers will receive better performing (and potentially more valuable) ads, and spend less time filtering out ads they think won’t be of interest to their audience.

I’m all for putting more relevant content in front of users and not paying for wasted views. I’m just not sure that asking surfers to “Mute This Ad” is the way to get there.

What do you think?