Google adds a mute this ad button to display network

Google to add Mute Buttons to Display Ads

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Google released a blog post last Friday indicating they have intentions to release a ‘mute this ad’ button to Google Display Network ads. In recent months there have been many updates to Google Adwords including an entire user interface re-design. Google is stating that this latest addition is a positive step for advertisers and users, although surely giving users control over what ads they see is counter-productive for advertisers.

Google adds a mute this ad button to display network

In Google’s latest announcement they say that within the next few weeks they will be adding a small [X] button in the upper right hand corner of ad units. This will sit alongside the already existing ‘Adchoices’ button displayed in the corner of each ad unit which already allows the user to edit their ad preferences. The [X] button will act as a mute button for the ad meaning that the user will not see that particular ad again. However muting an ad will mean the user will only mute an ad from a specific ad group, meaning that they may see over ads from the same advertiser from a different ad group or campaign.

Google says that:

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.

Although they may have a point in that users should have greater control over what ads they can and cannot see on-line it raises concerns for advertisers who rely on impressions for display network ads. Instead of advertisers having control of what ads the user sees the user will now be in control. Users already have the opportunity to turn off ads through the Adchoices button in the top right corner of ad units.

There will be those who argue that if a user does not want to see an ad they will probably not convert to a qualified lead anyway so why show them an ad in the first place? Won’t this change lead to higher quality leads at a lower cost? Well probably if you are running Google Display on a CPM basis as the more people turn off your ad the less impressions you will show. Although I can envisage campaigns such as retargeting or managed placement campaigns being negatively affected as people ‘mute’ the ads never to be seen again until another ad from another ad group is served.

I also fear that this change can and will be abused by competitors, Google stated that:

The feedback this provides will also help improve our ads over time

Google are almost suggesting that they will use data they get from people ‘muting’ ads to alter the way they serve ads. Much in a similar way as quality score is used to serve text ppc ads.

Competitors in theory could abuse this system by systematically ‘muting’ their targeted competitor’s ads  over time giving Google the signal that those ads are irrelevant to that audience and effectively decreasing the likelihood Google will serve those ads over their competitors ads.

As a user I am in favour of this change as it is true that there are some irrelevant ads being served and greater privacy is always a good step in the right direction, however as an advertiser I am against this change. It almost undermines the Display Network model and while it may be true that some benefits will come in the way of tighter targeting to more qualified leads I can see this change affecting specific advertising models specifically re-targeting and managed placement campaigns.

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