10 Things I Hate About Online Advertising

Nate Smoyer
Nov 17, 2016 · 6 min read
Imagine he’s just been kicked in the nuts. That’s how it feels when you hit me with a popup ad.

I look at a lot of websites everyday. I subscribe to a ton email newsletters and blogs to help increase my awareness of what’s happening everywhere. My experience visiting all of these sites and blogs daily, looking for the best the internet has to offer, isn’t great. Digital advertising tactics being used by “credible” media companies often have me shaking my head and wanting to throw my laptop out a window.

You see, my job literally requires me to analyze lots of websites daily. I work at BuySellAds. My primary responsibility is to recruit new websites to list their advertising in our marketplace and networks. I then work with qualified websites to help them make money (sometimes its helping them make more money) through advertising. This can be through banner ads, email newsletters, sponsored content, and podcast advertising.

I continue to have terrible experiences as a consumer due to online advertising, despite my efforts to help make the internet advertising not suck so much. So I decided that I’d list off the few things I really dislike (borderline hate, although that’s a really strong word to use) with hopes that a few web publishers/media outlet executives might read this and be persuaded to change their tactics.

I have a feeling some of the following experiences will sound familiar.

10 Things I hate About Online Advertising

  1. Annoying and/or totally irrelevant retargeting ads. Scenario: you’re looking to buy a mattress. You visit the mattress company’s website to make sure there aren’t any special deals or sales you’ve missed. You buy the mattress from a retailer or a different online storefront. Then for the next four weeks, you see banner ads promoting that company’s brand. Some websites you even see two or three of THE EXACT SAME BANNER promoting that brand. How is this tailored? How are those cookie policies ensuring you have the “best experience” while browsing? I could try to unsubscribe from all these banner ads following me, but I’ve got real things to do. My thoughts are give me real cookies and keep your random retargeting.
  2. Slow. Page. Load. Times. In the age of the internet we’ve all come to expect websites and apps to open and load quickly. There are so many things you can do to not have a site that is forever loading. You could run less ad exchange scripts on your site. You could use smaller images. I’ve stopped going back to and clicking on links to sites that take forever to load. It really makes me wonder how much those sites hate their readers. They can’t possibly believe that a minute load time is a good experience. They also must be ignoring that Google will likely punish their SEO efforts due to slow page load times. Well, maybe they do. So I guess I’ll just not visit those sites anymore. I ask you do the same.
  3. Lagging page load makes me click on ads. This one comes by recommendation of my wife. She mentioned she’s constantly tapping on ads by mistake while browsing on mobile because when she intends to scroll, she ends up tapping on ad that took a while to load. I’ve done this as well. It’s VERY frustrating. It makes me quit. It appears my wife and I aren’t the only ones experiencing this problem, since, according to Google, it’s estimated 60% of mobile ad click throughs are accidental. Gross.
  4. Feeling tricked by undisclosed or poorly labeled sponsored content. April Fools Day is your one day a year pass. Outside of that, it’s not a good idea to leave your customers and subscribers feeling tricked. In fact, consumer confidence in native advertising is diminishing because of the amount of trickery (I talk more about that here) websites are running. It’s not that hard to clearly disclose what is an ad. You’re required to do it by law and it demonstrates integrity. Just shoot straight with us—we can handle the truth. Ads pay your bills, but tricking people into clicking won’t help you or the advertiser in the long run.
  5. Action triggered ads that open a new window. There’s lots of variations of this, but one particular version comes to mind. There’s a news website I used to visit regularly because I liked their mix of opinion with straight up news reporting articles. Unfortunately, EVERY SINGLE TIME I go there and click on an article, another window opens up behind my main browser window (also known as a pop under ad, more on that here). So when I eventually go to quit my browser, I discover some magical weight loss pill advertisement. This is frustrating on so many levels. I don’t know everything there is to know about the internet, but I know this is not necessary. Those ads aren’t the slightest bit targeted and feel sly — which is never a feeling that makes me want to buy or sign up for something.
  6. Native ads that aren’t really suggestions to useful articles. You know these ads, they’re often labeled something like “More articles from around the web”. Belly fat weight loss tips, celebrity surgery photos, and 13 secrets the government doesn’t want you to know—those are the titles for these types of articles. They’ll open up cheesy or often times just plain junk websites. Websites I’m not convinced aren’t trying to install some form of malware on to my computer. These ads may have been considered native at one point in time, but now they’re considered obnoxious. I suggest publishers read this article from around the web titled, “So, We Broke Outbrain. This Is Why Advertising Can’t Have Nice Things.”
  7. Sidebar video ads. There is absolutely no good reason for you to be running some random video about Tide laundry detergent in the sidebar when I’m trying to read an opinion piece on the election. Honestly, in what scenario does that video make sense? Someone, please explain this to me. Even as someone who works in advertising, I can’t think of a scenario where I’d want to buy sidebar video ads or run them on a site I’m trying to monetize. I can’t see how this makes anything more desirable. Can someone else help me with this?
  8. Any and all auto play audio or video. I don’t want to get stuck on video here, but let’s be frank about this. When I have to play whack-a-mole on the audio from some ad, you’ve pissed me off and ruined any chance I’ll ever click that ad (oh that’s right, you’re probably tricking me to click the ad when I meant to click on that tiny little x). It’s tackless. It lacks all regard for user experience. It’s shameful.
  9. A high ads to content ratio. Heck, the ratio doesn’t need to be a high ratio, but too often the ratio is high. I’m seeing close to a 1:1 ratio of ads to content (btw, that’s is high) on some sites—that’s RIDICULOUS! But you know, it happens more than I wish it did. Here’s a recent example I encountered on Mashable.com. I’m not trying to be unreasonable here. I know websites need to make money. But this? This is deemed acceptable? Nah. I just don’t need to go to sites that do this.
  10. You tell me. I’m only one internet user. I could be totally wrong about everything listed above. Don’t get me wrong, I love advertising. I love the opportunity to combine science and creativity. I love the use of technology to accomplish goals. I also love delivering a great experience that makes people feel good, but bad online advertising does not accomplish that. It leaves people feeling used, followed, or even stalked.

Add you thoughts in the comments below or tweet me @NateSmoyer. Tell me what your biggest advertising pet peeves are. I’ll use your feedback to better inform publishing partners and advertisers I reach out to.


Enjoy this hilarious interpretation of chasing the news while tricked and chased by bad sponsored content and popup ads.
(warning: you’ll likely have to wait through a 15 second ad to watch the video below)

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