Google to Allow Users to Mute Annoying, Repetitive Ads

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Have you ever been “stalked” by an online ad? Reminder ads — advertisements which follow you around the internet after you browse a certain website or view a certain item — may soon become less of an annoyance under new rules from Google.

These so-called reminder ads, which follow users around the internet based on their browsing patterns, will soon be able to be “muted” by users that simply don’t want or need the products being offered.

Reminder ads are the result of behavioral retargeting, an advertising technology that lets brands display ads to users based on their online behavior.

For example, if you view a specific product on an advertiser’s website, the advertiser can show ads that feature this product for a specific period of time. The ads can be dynamically displayed for a specific number of days, weeks or months, all based on the advertiser’s preferences.

Retargeting is a major asset for advertisers, many of whom report higher-than-average rates of conversion and sales from this advertising technology. However, they’re viewed as a potential annoyance by many web users.

According to Ad News, Google has updated its “Mute This Ad” technology to allow users to cut down on the number of retargeting ads that are displayed to both desktop and mobile users.

The feature, which was first introduced in 2012, lets users choose to remove specific ads from Google services such as YouTube and Gmail, as well as third party websites that use Google’s advertising networks to display content.

The muting feature is now cross-platform, meaning that ads muted on desktops will also stop displaying on mobile devices.

Analysts believe that the move is part of an increased effort by Google to combat the growing use of ad blockers, which allow users to block all ads online, or filter out unwanted ads from specific advertising platforms and websites.

Ad blocker usage has grown at an incredible rate over the past years, with approximately 11% of all web users blocking ads as of 2017. A 2017 PageFair advertising report noted that use of ad blocking software grew by as much as 30% in 2016 alone.

According to Google, reminder ads usually last for approximately one month, although specific campaigns from certain advertisers can go on for longer.

Reminder ads are often listed as some of the most common web annoyances, primarily from users that believe the ads use personal information. While online retargeting isn’t based on the use of private user data, the ads have nonetheless been branded as “creepy” by web users.

Under the updated “Mute This Ad” feature, users will be able to mute specific ads for up to 90 days at a time. Since retargeting ads rarely last beyond this duration, the feature allows most users to effectively block reminder ads altogether, albeit on a one-by-one basis.

Despite this, the ads may still appear under non-Google ad networks, which make up a large percentage of online display ads and can’t be blocked using Google’s “Mute This Ad” feature.

Emily Bennet
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