“It’s Not You, It’s Me.” (Or How Advertising Agencies Are Destroying Web 2.0)


Modern advertisers only know how to do two things well.


And slap ads on stuff.


Radio, TV, toilet stalls, foreheads.

Nothing is sacred.

The problem is that we now hate ads.

Fortunes are being made helping us to avoid being bothered.

TiVo, Satellite Radio, Pop-Up Stoppers were all created to help us enjoy the experience…

Without commercial interruption.

But the creatives insistence at not being creative have bought about another problem as well.

They are destroying viable consumer products and services people actually enjoy because they can't slap an ad on them.

Discussions are going on all over the net about monetizing the new networks.

My favorite doomsday advocate Scott Karp thinks we are all just going to go broke.

No way.

A country that has figured out how to sell to folks in the relative privacy of a bathroom stall should be able to figure out how to sell to folks hanging out on MySpace.

Let's use Reddit for an example.

reddit is a source for what's new and popular on the web — personalized for you. Your votes train a filter, so let reddit know what you liked and disliked, because you'll begin to be recommended links filtered to your tastes. All of the content on reddit is submitted and voted on by users like you.

Now many folks quibble because Reddit doesn't have a business model.

What that basicly means is that there is not place to slap ads without interupting the experience.

Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian have created something very successful but since the creatives can't figure out how to sell stuff without slapping on an ad and interupting the experience, the guys have to hope that some big company buys them out so they can last long enough for the people who want to sell stuff to get their act together.

Of course there are many ways to monetize Reddit.


Here's one off the top my head: Make the ads just like the content users put up. Folks can vote them up or down and comment on them. The seller not only reaches an active audience but also get comments about their product or service.

Might work.

Might not.

I'm sure some ad guru can come up with an even better idea.

If we can get him off the toilet.

Explore posts in the same categories: advertisers, advertising agencies, Alexis Ohanian, BuzzMachine, creatives, DEAD, foreheads, Jeff Jarvis, MySpace, reddit, Scott Karp, Steve Huffman, toilet stalls, Web 2.0

26 Comments on ““It’s Not You, It’s Me.” (Or How Advertising Agencies Are Destroying Web 2.0)”

  1. Angelo Walker Says:

    I think it’s interesting that you blame advertisers for not being creative enough to figure out how to make money off of sites like Reddit. But isn’t it the job of the owner of the site to figure stuff like that out?

    Great pictures, though!

  2. chartreuse Says:

    Where ever there has been an audience advertisers have found a way to get there. Do you think club owners went looking for people to advertise in stalls?


    Advertisers came to them.

    Now we are looking at Web 2.0 with it’s huge, engaged audiences and some people think the failure to monetize is the owners fault instead of a lack of creativity on the ones who specialize in that stuff.

    I’m just giving a different perspective.

  3. Liz Strauss Says:

    No one would mind the ads if they were as informative, human, and entertaining as the content.

  4. @Angelo Walker

    It’s the job of the company and the job of the advertisers. A founder and his staff might know how to do wonderful technical things, create value for users, but *not* how to monetize it.

    Why not leave it to the ad guys? That’s their jobs, what they’ve studied for and worked on the last years.

    I am not saying that they know what is best to do, but instead, that (a lot of sometimes) it’s not the owner’s job.

  5. eks Says:

    consider moving to Sahara (North Africa), nobody will slap ads on you there.

  6. 1. Love the Paris Hilton Photo.

    2. Why doesn’t Reddit just put up the Google/Overture type ads every other single website ever seems to have? It could be a temporary measure until they find more creative ways to go. Or perhaps they’re hoping Rupert Murdock writes a MySpace sized check… 🙂

  7. joe Says:

    Interesting idea, but if the content is good enough for people to vote it up, and it doesn’t get any preferential treatment, then why would the advertiser bother to pay for posting it? He could just post it like any other content and get the same effect for free.

  8. Jay Says:

    I look at sites such as reddit and okcupid as amazing pools of market research data. For those willing to mine the data and actually analyze it I’m sure it’s worth quite a bit. Grouping users into different demographics and the like.

  9. Ade Says:

    It’s interesting that you’d point this out because getting rid of net neutrality could also be seen as a way to demolish sites that have no business model. The sites that lack or have little revenue – advertising or otherwise – are the most vulnerable (Wikipedia, the social bookmarking sites, many blogs and independent news organizations).

  10. Riley Says:

    Advertising is the loud-mouthed, drunken party crasher who just won’t shut up despite having worn out their welcome.

    The question is what alternatives are there?

    Consider the question: How many Web sites offer truly unique content AND have a relatively large number of regular visitors? My experience is that the answer is “very few.”

    The problem this creates for virtually all of of the low-uniqueness / higher volume Web sites (online newspapers being a prime example) is that people have repeatedly demonstrated that they simply won’t pay subscription fees for content that can easily be obtained somewhere else.

    The corollary of that first problem is that moderately sophisticated consumers of low-uniqueness content are using more or less sophisticated advertisement blocking tools. (Is not that one of Firefox’s compelling attributes — it’s abundance of ad blocking extensions?)

    So? Perhaps what’s needed is a spin on Reddit wherein subscribers pay a nominal fee to access that central site, which in turn aggregates unique content from a variety of sites and pays a small amount (as in pennies) for each access of that “feeder” content.

    In such a model, Reddit-style voting becomes even more pertinent because it helps the more interesting and useful content “bubble up” to the top while redundant “me too” content sinks into oblivion.

    This might even be a sort of Web socialism insofar as unique (and uniquely intersting) sites might start earning more, albeit a few pennies at a time, than “me too” sites.

    There are a lot of aspects of this I don’t have the time or space to discuss, but I think that perhaps the Web might offer a truly useful way to allow useful, interesting, and unique information earn (or not earn, in the case of “me-too” information) its keep.

    Sounds better to me than ever-more legalized graffiti, anyhow.

  11. Liz Strauss Says:

    I think any advertiser worth its salt would be able to produce ads that should go up now down. That would be a cool challenge. Paid by the point. Imagine what you’d learn about the folks who use reddit.

  12. l0b0 Says:

    Interesting article, and I think Riley is on to something. How about the Slashdot model? Paying users get the content the moment it’s posted, the others have to wait X first. This could even help the voting process, by ensuring that the top users get to the “polls” first.

  13. VampireFeet Says:

    i think the point is that Advertising Agencies are not doing their job. They should be the leaders in trying to make money off of all this Web 2.0 stuff. Instead they are “slapping ads” on toilet stalls.

    Good one, Char!

  14. mel Says:

    I think you are completely wrong about “modern advertisers.” Ads do not always interrupt, and the foreheads (among other things) that you see ads on are for sale (you can buy space on them on ebay). I don’t understand how you’re complaining about advertisers and how they “slap ads on everything” but then you say they need to be taking advantage of Web 2.0. So do you want them to continue to add to the clutter you are bombarded with daily or not?

    I don’t know what Web 2.0 is, so I can’t be educated in speaking about it, but if you don’t have to pay to post things on it, which is what it seems like people have said, why would advertisers waste their time? Advertising is only advertising if it’s paid for, otherwise it’s some sort of Public Service Announcement, or public relations.

  15. chartreuse Says:


    The whole idea behind advertising currently is that it interrupts whatever you are doing you sell you something. Example: You are walking down the street and you see a billboard for a Whopper. It stopped whatever you were thinking about to give you something new to think about. You didn’t ask to see it and nor gave anyone permission to put it there. that’s interuption. Watching a tv show? Same thing. Ads on MySpace? Same thing.

    Sites like MySpace and Reddit are a part of Web 2.0. Web 2.0 have a lot of content that’s made by people like me and you. Example:Everything on MySpace is made by the users.

    Advertisers need to find a way to sell things more naturally.

    i hope I kinda explained things.

  16. Killer Fists Says:

    According to Mel’s blog she is in a Masters program studying advertising. GOD HELP US ALL.

  17. adgoddess Says:

    So yeah. Clearly by the name adgoddess you should know what kind of activity i’m into (advertising art direction student at a portfolio school), but I haaaave to say something. This whole down with creatives they need to get off the toilet thing is pretty harsh. You have to figure into all this that no matter what us creatives think of, and no matter what brilliant inovative ways we think of to entertain you and crap, the idea has to be accepted by the client. The clients of course are the makers of all the products and foods and services the public buys. And heaven forbid we get too crazy or we’ll be hit with lawsuits and attacked by christian conservatives! Your beef with advertising shouldn’t just be focused at creatives. Advertising is more complicated than a creative sitting in a room, thinking of something, and then it goes to print, or film, or whatever it may be, so lay off! There are a myriad of people who can completely screw up an idea, so maybe you attack them huh? Yes thats it! Complain to the people that make all that crap you buy everyday and let them know you’re bored, then maybe creatives will be able to do whatever the hell they want! The whole advertising thing isn’t as easy as you would think.

  18. […] From the beginning we knew that advertising would be a piece of our revenue pie, but we also made sure to sketch out planes for other forms of revenue and the only thing keeping us from them is execution. I don’t want to think that another bubble burst will occur and companies start pulling the plug on their advertising budgets leaving many websites high and dry. Of course there is no need to worry about a bubble bursting when there are so many advertisers who can’t figure out how to advertise on Web 2.0 sites. […]

  19. Reynold Says:


    Very thought-provoking article. May I offer an alternative view? Good advertising (and there is quite a bit of it) is entertaining, at least for its target audience. I know there are ads I don’t mind watching again and again and again. (The original Nokia fashion phone series of haute party ads comes to mind).

    Secondly, there are times when we don’t mind advertising, especially if it’s the only form of entertainment available. Of course, the efficacy of this is questionable.

    Thirdly, there are times when we actively seek advertising. Have you ever browsed through the classified newspaper ads looking for a plumber or electrician or carpet cleaner? When I was looking to buy a new TV, I noticed every TVC, print ad and billboard advertisement about TV sets.

    No doubt, though, much advertising is as you describe it. And it’s up to the practitioners to improve the quality of the form.



  20. DudeAsInCool Says:

    Well, they are not an advertiser, but Google gets it by distributing like-minded advertising thru ad-sense. I think if those guys could, they would make the ads compliment what the users are making exactly.

  21. Mr Angry Says:

    Of course some ads catch the imagination so well that they are shared around in a viral fashion but that doesn’t prove that anybody’s more likely to buy the product. Advertising is more religion than science, it’s all based on faith.

    I like your idea of ads being voted on but some ad/content hybrid might work better. I’m sure the idea terrifies most companies – actually sticking their neck out and risking seeing the public’s real attitude towards them

    Jay also seems to be onto something, the opportunities for data mining/reading trends are pretty strong. Although making sense of that is moving further into voodoo territory.

  22. Here’s a great article on the topic we’re discussing. It compares the current David Ogilvy company with the old master himself. The first paragraph is the junk you find on their site today. The two below it are direct quotes from him. Which one fits into where we are going best?

    “We believe in brands … more than just a goodwill entry on a corporate balance sheet, a brand is the single most important asset any company has … we believe our role is this … creating attention-getting messages that make a promise consistent and true to the brand’s image and identity. And guiding actions, both big and small, that deliver on that brand promise to every audience that brand has. At every brand intersection point. At all times.”


    Do you smell something? Of course, you could read the statement above a half-dozen different ways. At least a couple of them could be defendable.

    But compare that with something Ogilvy himself once said: “A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.”

    Here’s the link to the article if you want to read the whole thing. It’s really good.


    Article name:

    Will “Brand” Advertising Work For You?

    By John Forde

  23. DudeAsInCool Says:

    Chartreuse, I’m curious what you think of Pete Dougherty’s antics. On the one hand, i think he must be screwed up. On the other, I wonder if his whole shock thing is just as an act, because he surely knows how to grab attention, and if the latter is the case, then he’s brilliant.

  24. […] I have said before, and will say it again. The problem with monetizing Web 2.0 enterprises is not a business model problem. […]

  25. vissu Says:

    your idea is interesting and brings many advantages and may find changes in society

  26. sunny Says:

    good website,your way of teasing the wrong add makers is good for society,it makes youth to go in a correct direction ,i support your ideas,thanks for creating such a good website.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: