Crowdsourcing ad relevancy: Do you care if ads are relevant to you?

"Is this ad relevant to you?" You have probably seen this in recent times regarding ads, but do you even care if ads are relevant to you?
Written by Stephen Chapman, Contributor

Over the course of the past month or two, I have noticed a large increase in the number of sites that are asking their viewers a simple question in relation to their ads: "Is this ad relevant to you?" No doubt, the increase in sites exhibiting this behavior is most likely due to how many of them run ads from the same ad networks (i.e. Google AdSense), but the takeaway here is that these ad networks aren't simply pushing ads as they traditionally have.

Things are changing in the ad world and it could just be to the benefit of consumers in the end, but only if said consumers are willing to participate and make it so. Despite the increasing popularity of methods like neuromarketing, it seems the ad industry is interested in the overly-complicated, ultra-complex method of asking people a simple "yes" or "no" question. This may well be old news to individuals in the ad realm, but as a Web surfer noticing more and more sites asking me for my feedback about ads, I thought I would bring this to the attention of everyone and gather your feedback on the topic.

The range of opinions on ads is quite vast with those who loathe them on one extreme of the spectrum (Web surfers who use ad-blocking software/plug-ins, etc.) to those who absolutely love them on the opposite extreme (publishers, marketers, businesses et al). In the end, there is no denying that ads are an integral facet of the Internet's ecosystem. Without ads, not only would businesses fail to be as profitable in an age where brick-and-mortars are becoming somewhat of a rarity, but some of your favorite writers/bloggers wouldn't be as motivated to bring you the content they do. The time and energy many writers put into their craft just wouldn't be worth it if it weren't for compensation of the ad variety. Naturally, those are just two of many scenarios where ads serve a legit purpose. I guess you can discern from the latter that I'm pro-ads.

That said, I'm not pro-spam. What if -- in a perfect world -- ads catered to you so perfectly that they actually helped you make a purchasing decision? What if the worst thing you had to fear about ads was knowing that you would be presented with offers and products you almost couldn't turn down purchasing? Instead of being spammed with and/or having to wait through irrelevant ads while watching shows on sites like Hulu, what if -- dare I suggest -- you actually enjoyed an ad experience?

That sounds ridiculous and impossible, I know, but this must be the direction advertisers and content presenters/ad publishers move in if they want to secure an enjoyable ad experience for consumers, which I can't help but think would bolster the most earning potential from ads. Now, instead of displaying ads based on content and algorithmic guess work, this extra metric of crowdsourced ad relevancy is just another step to perfecting the balance of the ad ecosystem. Flipping your train of thought for a second, consider what all is in a question like "is this ad relevant to you?" When not taking it at face value, it's almost an ingenious way to coax you into watching an ad you might not have otherwise. In a sense, simply asking the question may in and of itself be a strategy to get more eyes on ads in general.

Even if you don't take the time to click "yes" or "no," there's a chance your brain has now been impacted by ads from companies that you would have never watched in the first place if not for the question "is this ad relevant to you?" Yes, this seemingly simple question may just don a deceptive mask of facade that pretends to be interested in your opinion while actually circumnavigating your ironclad ad defenses. Now, do I think I've hit on something for conspiracy theorists to go crazy over? Maybe. But I personally prefer Occam's razor over conspiracy theories. If anything, I think the aforementioned is more a case of a value-added component rather than a tactic of deception.

With that said, ad publishers may very well consider implementing a question like that simply for the sake of exploiting ad viewers. But on a larger scale, to not take into account the data provided from those who participate in answering the question is near-sighted, one-sided thinking that I'm not sure the ad industry would want to engage in for its longevity and maximum earning potential. All-in-all, let us not forget that the prime objective is for businesses and ad networks to make money, but I'm of the belief that it can be done while benefiting consumers/Web browsers, too. I'm quite confident the ad industry realizes this as well.

So, the next time you see an ad that asks for your opinion -- especially if you're forced to watch an ad while waiting for continued programming -- it may just behoove you to go ahead and click that "yes" or "no." After all, if you're going to have to deal with ads on the Internet, wouldn't it be great to primarily deal with ads that are relevant to you and display products you would actually be interested in? I think so.

What about you? What are your thoughts? Do you absolutely loathe ads and feel like they are the bane of your existence, or are you of the camp of ad-friendlies?

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