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Google Empowers the Advertising Audience

By Gina Rau | Posted on July 18, 2012

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While advertisers are always looking for new ways to get their brand and message in front of potential customers, the same cannot be said for viewers of those advertisements. In fact, rarely has any consumer wished upon a shooting star for more marketing messages to fill their time spent shopping online, reading the news or watching their favorite program.

Just yesterday, Google made an announcement that likely didn’t make your newsfeed but I guarantee media buyers can guess the impact. Google is empowering ad viewers the ability to turn off the very ads brands pay to place on their network.

google mute ads

Wait, let’s backup. Google is giving the audience control over the ads they see? For remarketing ads, yes.

If you’re not familiar with remarketing (or retargeting, as it is also known) efforts, this is an ad delivery option that places ads on future sites you visit based on your previous browsing history. Here’s how it works. Michael visits to check out a pair of pants. His next stop is at to find his favorite team’s schedule and notices two ads for the very pants he was just looking at over at Zappos.

Zappos stalker ad

While some may consider this a personalized and very relevant ad experience, keep in mind that most people do not necessarily welcome advertising that distracts from their purpose. For website visitors who never had a chance to opt-in, it comes across as pretty creepy. People don’t understand why they’re “being followed” around the web after visiting a site, and some times they’re still followed after they’ve purchased the item. Our recipient of those Zappos ads, Michael Learmonth, cared enough to write about it.

Zappos ad article

The old opt-out option for viewers with remarketing ads meant that they’d click on the copy “why am I seeing these ads” and get taken to a page where they can learn about remarketing and opt-out there. That is a huge burden for your website visitors and even the most annoyed people will just continue to get bothered and frustrated rather than take the time to learn more.

Google, recognizing this creep factor and the dissatisfaction of people on the other end of the ad, is putting the website visitor first and giving them the option to turn the feature off. It’s a risky move for the online ad giant as this can be compared to similar threats to the advertising industry from disruptors like satellite radio, DVRs and On Demand.

So what was Google thinking? Google is thinking of the online audience. And the media site. And the brand.

Remarketing efforts often results in an unpleasant experience and, depending on your audience, may lead them to leave your site. That’s the last thing any website wants. As an advertiser or media site, you likely don’t want your brand affiliated with that experience either. Google’s move also improves ad delivery efficiency as advertisers won’t pay to deliver an ad to someone who opts-out because it’s not relevant or they’ve purchased the product.

According to the Google blog, “… we believe it’s an early step in the right direction of giving users control over ads, while helping marketers and websites deliver ads that perform better.”

In attempt to provide monetization tactics for websites, have we pushed the user experience aside too far? My prediction is that we’re going to see some pendulums swing as websites take a greater interest in the online experience they provide to their audience.

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About the author

Gina Rau

Gina Rau

Marketing Communications Manager

With almost 20 years of marketing success, Gina is a brand engagement specialist who seeks out creative solutions for every marketing challenge. Her work has delivered results for leading brands like Whole Foods, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, JCPenney, Tillamook Creamery and more. At Janrain, she leads the charge to make sure our company, products and services shine through our messaging and content.

View all posts by Gina Rau