improving web advertising
28 November 2021
improving web advertising mean? Some possible answers.
Advertising reaches the intended human audience
Advertising is placed in a context appropriate to the product or service advertised (brand safety)
Placement and reporting complies with information sharing and processing laws and norms (privacy where the information is personal, data leakage where the information is business)
You can't crank up any of them and leave the others go. Fail on (3) and deceptive advertisers outcompete the honest ones so the whole medium becomes untrustworthy. Fail on (2) and low-quality scraper and misinfo sites can outcompete legit ad-supported sites. Fail on (1) and the advertisers stop supporting the web, and all the ad money goes to Facebook, which is sub-optimal for some or many advertisers depending on time preferences. There are enough deceptive and/or hostile parties out there that some of the failure modes for web ads are risks to civilization, so you are probably set if you're trying to justify working on this stuff to Future You.
The fun part, though, is that web advertising can't really work the
same as other
online (software-intermediated?) ad platforms.
The web is (user + client)/server. The client software is the
agent of the user and is expected to operate in the user's interests.
Other online ad media such as native mobile apps and connected TV are
user/(client + server) The client software is provided by, and
under the control of, another party. The user may even be a party to
an end-user license agreement where they agree not to interfere with
the client software's ability to act in another party's interests.
It's unrealistic to expect web ads to work similarly to app and
CTV ads. Web ads in their
improved state are going to work more
like an ad medium in which there is no client software (like print
ads) than they will work like an ad medium in which the client
software operates in the interests of a party other than the user.
This is probably a good thing, because if the user is in the loop, the
best way for an ad to
pay for the resources and attention it consumes
is to participate in a content→signal→reputation spiral that is
hard to do in less user-aligned ad media.