One of the insightful things that has been said to me recently came from an independent consultant working at a major FMCG client. He said: “The problem here is that we have some people who are world-class at marketing to the masses, but they haven’t got a clue about how to speak to a customer.”
Prepare to have your mind blown: This weekend, the creator of the popular AdBlock software--which kills the ads you'd normally see while trawling the Web--launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for ads encouraging people to use AdBlock and block Internet ads.
As brain-bending as the concept sounds, AdBlock isn't dreaming small. The US$25,000 minimum fundraising goal will oh-so-ironically go towards the creation of banner ads to spam the AdBlock ethos, and AdBlock founder Michael Gundlach promises to spread the word via a Times Square billboard if the donations hit $50,000, or a full-page ad in the New York Times if the campaign raises $150,000.
If the crowdfunding really takes off, AdBlock has the white whale of advertising in its sights: At $4.2 million in donations (ha!), Gundlach says he'll buy an AdBlock TV commercial during the 2014 Super Bowl.
AdBlock recently started bugging users of its extension with ads about its campaign to create ads about blocking ads, in yet another bout of delicious hyprocrisy. Here's what the campaign page says about fighting fire with fire:
We're going to use ads to get rid of ads. We will use the money raised to make AdBlock banner ads and video commercials, and we will show these across the internet to people who don't have AdBlock. If we raise enough, we will implement our craziest advertising ideas and capture the whole world's imagination.
With ads about blocking ads. Welcome to the Matrix!
Ad-blocking or site-killing?
While ad-blocking technology is indeed highly handy-dandy and borders on necessity on some of the most annoying pages on the Web, it's not without its share of critics. A large swathe of the Web--PCWorld.com and TechHive.com included--relies on advertising to monetize content provided free of charge to readers, and ad-killing software such as AdBlock deprive websites of that revenue. Penny Arcade's Ben Kuchera recently wrote a superb article detailing just how harmful ad-blocking software is to websites.
Simply put, without ads, many Websites couldn't exist. Creating quality content costs money, and a truly ad-free web would be a mostly empty web.
Is there a middle ground? AdBlock rival AdBlock Plus whitelists ads that don't scream at you or autoplay or steal your browser's focus, which seems like a reasonable compromise. Some people manually whitelist the majority of the Web, blocking only sites that betray their trust with obnoxious selling attempts.
Attempts to offer ad-free content behind a paywall, meanwhile, have seen hit-and-miss success. While Netizens hate ads, few seem willing to pay to remove them.
But in a bout of irony so hard that it hurts, people are tripping over themselves to fund ads about blocking ads. AdBlock has managed to raise more than $22,000 of its $25,000 minimum goal in just a couple of days, with 28 days of fundraising left. One thing's for certain: It's going to be interesting to see where AdBlock's ad campaign goes, and what--if anything--it accomplishes.