Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Why buying advertising is so frustrating

You think you hate ads as a consumer? You should try actually being an advertiser, especially running a small business. It’s chaos. Lets run down the ways in which this theoretically efficient industry is so full of crap…

#1 Adwords. Adwords is great in so many ways, apart from the inability for your ‘adwords account manager’ to even convince you they have read the help files, let alone have any real idea how it works. Plus the GUI you got used to last week? we changed that. AGAIN. Plus, make sure you set aside 200 man-years of effort to work out how the hell it works. Oh..and ads have to wait to be ‘approved’. No time scale is given. Good luck running something last minute. Why is my ad not running? nobody knows. The complexity has basically rendered the system self-aware and confused.

#2 Adblock. Yup, you think you are cool running adblock, but all you are really doing is depriving the site of revenue and hastening the day when it closes. In some cases, they darned well deserve it. flashing, blinking ads of half naked women with sound deserve to die in a fire. I’d like to see ‘allow some non obtrusive advertising’ to be expanded greatly. Any simple image without animation, which is SFW, runs no scripts or active content and doesn’t obscure content should be allowed.

#3 Account Managers. The #1 worst thing. The whole concept is a mess. I’m busy. I want to book some ads now, on Saturday morning GMT. Whats that? your ad manager is on honeymoon? Oh great, I’ll keep my money then. Lets be honest, these people only exist to try and trick you into paying more. I want the same CPC and CPM as the next person please. I don’t want to star, unpaid, in a re-run of a monty python haggling sketch. I’m busy. I take your first offer as your best, then use someone cheaper because you lied. Thats easy.

#4 Being ignored. Hey guess what. Some indies make millions of dollars, sell more games than some ‘proper’ studios. If we email you asking you for your ad rates, because stupidly you are employing technique #3, then reply. Not next month. Now. You think we can’t afford your precious ad space? we will spend the money with your competitors. Dumbness. This attitude is why adwords makes billions.

#5 Lack of targeting. This isn’t rocket science. If you have a video games site and won’t let me target strategy gamers in the US, you lose. You are a failure. I don’t care how cool your site is, a 12 year old teen girl who loves pokemon is not the target for Democracy 3. Either learn how to code, or just use adwords. And while we are on the subject, decent reporting helps too please. And yup, your feeble attempts to auto-renew a weekly ad to con me into spending more are noticed too. Don’t even think about doing that.

#6 Overdoing it. If I advertise on a site, I always check out a few pages first. If its intrusive enough to make *me* turn on adblock, then no sale. I assume 95% of your ‘massive readership’ do the same. Get the balance right.

#7 Media kit. These are useless. So your audience is mostly male and loves games. Wow, such insight. I had no idea. Not to mention the fact that I don’t believe any of it. If you did, you’d assume the average household income of a gamer is $1,000,000 a year and they have plans to buy 500 PC games this week. People really believe this stuff? Your media kit should contain your targeting options and your CPC/CPM and CTR, plus ad specs. Nobody cares about the fancy art design your graphic designers wrap the useless information in.

I’ve read a shedload of advertising books. It’s a hobby. I conclude that not only are many people working in the ad business awful, awful businesspeople (not bad people, but just not good at running a business), but they actually have no idea how ads work. No idea. NONE. Neither do most people. If I worked in an industry, I’d try to at least be familiar with the latest research on how that industry’s products actually worked, but nope, not a flicker. BAH.




10 thoughts on Why buying advertising is so frustrating

  1. Haha, nicely written down to the point. Experienced the same. Stopped using Adwords some time ago because of this, but now I’m likely to start using them again. Because the alternatives are even worse.

  2. TBH, the majority of people in the ad industry are essentially sales people, who try to avoid ‘boring’ things like market research if they can help it, as it’s taking time away from selling – “Account Manager” often just means “Personalised Sales Person”.
    Though that does raise the next question of why so many sales people prefer selling harder over selling smarter…

    1. Exactly…wouldn’t you channel more business through the guy who told you that your ads would work better if you did X or that the correct metrics for you to study would be Y?

    1. in which case you aren’t a consumer. You aren’t engaging in any kind of business arrangement with the website where they provide content and you provide ad-eyeballs. You are expecting the sites you browse to run for free.
      Worse still, you encourage them to fund the site by writing paid advertorials that are not declared as ads instead.

      1. Is your position driven by, obvious of course, desire to have your advertisement seen by people, or by the fact that you would like to see a business to be able to live of advertisement income only? I would really like to understand your point of view here.

        I would very much like to be able to have an option of a one off payment or a subscription fee to get access to quality content without being harassed by adverts. But that is rarely an option on websites. However I am not willing to support business model that doesn’t work for me and I’d much rather see innovation in this field than being forced into dead end of outdated solutions.

        Granted, I’m a webdesigner by trade so my position is slightly biased in that regard, since I really hate good designs butchered by ads. But then again, I never sat down to watch commercials on TV to support my favourite channel. Nor did I pay any attention to printed advertisement in magazines.

        If something is not working, you should find out why and change it, not force people to participate,

  3. I used to buy ad space in wedding magazines. The invoiced amounts were nearly always wrong. Sometimes they billed me twice for the same ad. I’m not sure how much of it was incompetence and how much of if was malice. I gave up in the end.

    I’ve used AdWords for the last 10 years. I used to quite like it. But the endless bid price inflation and Google’s incompetent enforcement of their arbitary policies have left a sour taste in my mouth. Read this and weep:

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