Steve Fenton

Advertising experiment: What are annoying adverts worth

Firstly, the list of the sampling issues with this experiment would mean a near-infinite scrollbar. The intention here is not to say that “this is what you will experience”. The purpose of this article is to show that annoying adverts make more money than subtle advertising; but that you should test how much more and consider whether it is worth the cold hard cash.

There were two variations to look at here. The first is pretty much what you now see on the website (as of 2020)… there are two ad placements and they are quite friendly to those of you reading the content. There are no adverts within the content, or that look like content, or that otherwise annoy you. The second (please accept my apologies) I inflicted on a sample of users and it automatically splashed adverts all over the shop. For example, at the bottom of an article there are a number of related posts. The advertising would add a couple of list items to this area that were paid adverts. It would place adverts in the middle of the article, which could be distracting as it becomes hard to visually separate article-images from adverts. It was, essentially, annoying.

Annoying Ads Make More Money

The annoying adverts made more money. Karma doesn’t work here and the nice guys aren’t going to win. Basically, we are sophisticated enough to mentally filter out adverts that aren’t annoying, so it takes an annoying ad to get our attention. To put a number on it, annoying ads bring in 4.6% more revenue (based on revenue per 1,000 sessions). This number isn’t global. That’s the difference in my experiment, on my site, with my content. It’s probably fair to anticipate that you would find that annoying ads make more money in the vast majority of cases, though the extent to which they make more may be greater or lesser than my 4.6%.

Other Metrics

You might expect me to confirm that annoying ads increased the bounce rate, or decreased the average session duration. As I mentioned before, there is no Karma here. There is no punishment for annoying adverts… except, perhaps, from the perspective of the people being annoyed.

Lucky Me

I consider myself lucky that I’m not desperate for the ad money. I’m trying to soften my hosting costs without giving up my content to a platform. I believe individuals running their own websites are important for The Web. I can control how my content is used (for example, I can choose not to run annoying ads, I can choose not to paywall, I can choose not to limit how many of my articles you can read this month).

So, obviously, for my website the annoying ads are not an option. Not even for an extra 4.6%.

Written by Steve Fenton on