There Are Ads, and Then There Are Ads 2343

Just So You Know

There are two kinds of ads run on computer websites, direct and indirect.

Direct ads are ads that manufacturer/resellers place directly with the website. The two negotiate terms, and the manufacturer/reseller directly pays the website.

A lot of people think that’s the only kind of ad there is. Not so.

Many computer hardware websites (including this one) get at least some of their ads through an ad agency. Advertisers deal with and pay only the agency. The agency gets the ads and distributes the ads, keeps track of the ad exposure, collects the money, takes a part of it for their efforts, and then pays the websites.

The websites essentially rent space. They don’t deal with the advertisers nor get paid by them. They don’t even know what ads will end up on their site.

Update: I checked a little more into this, and need to clarify a couple points. This wasn’t entirely correct, and I apologize for that.

There are two exceptions to the general rule:

1) A website can say upfront that they don’t want any ads from a particular manufacturer/retailer.

2) A website can tell the agency to stop running a particular ad after it appears on the website.

What’s important to note here is that the agency does not tell the website what ads are coming in advance, and ask for approval for those ads. Under normal circumstances, websites only find out about the ads at the same time the audience does.

In short, a website can opt out of certain ads under certain circumstances, but they don’t opt into each and every agency ad.

It’s like getting newspaper delivery. Under normal circumstances, you get the paper every day, or weekdays or Sundays. You can change the plan, or suspend the service during vacation, but the delivery company doesn’t need you to approve tomorrow’s delivery every day.

On occasion, this may look very strange. A website can tell you to kill yourself rather than buy Product X, and it’s possible that an ad elsewhere on the website, or even in the article will claim that Product X is better than sex. We’ve had that happened a couple times in the past.

More recently, AMDZone had an agency ad that displayed an Intel ad for a while. This does not mean Intel is paying Chris Tom money. It does not mean Intel has any direct relationship or even contact with Chris Tom. It does not even mean Chris Tom approved or even knew about the Intel ad.

All that means is that his ad agency (which in this particular case was Doubleclick) took an ad from Intel and put it on all the sites that signed up for them, including his.

More often, you will see a positive review of the product, then see an ad. Many see that and automatically assume the website got the ad because of the positive review. That may or may not be the case when you have a direct ad, but if it’s an ad from an agency, the website had no idea that particular ad was showing up.

It’s very easy to see when that’s the case. Right click on the ad and then click Properties. If you see that the ad is coming from a place like Doubleclick or Ad-Flow (or some other place that seems to have no connection to the site or advertiser), that’s what it is. The website had no control over the placement of that ad.

If the source of the ad is the website itself or the manufacturer/reseller, then it is a direct advertising ad that the website got by itself, so if that ad comes from We’d Cheat Our Mothers If We Hadn’t Already Killed Them For The $500 Insurance Policy Computer Company, that’s something the website has control over.

Just to illustrate the difference:

You work in CompUSA. Somebody else in your store sells a member of al-Queda a computer, which he uses for some terrorist activity. If someone said to you afterwards, “You got paid by al-Queda!” would you shamefacedly nod your head, turn yourself in to the FBI and ask for the death penalty?

No, you’d probably call him stupid, malicious, or both. While a tiny part of your salary may have come from that al-Queda sale, you had no control over that transaction.

That’s what an agency ad is like.

Let’s say you were the person in CompUSA who actually sold the al-Queda guy the computer. The level of your culpability would rather depend on the transaction.

If the fellow came in wearing “I love Bin Laden” buttons and asked you for the best computer with which to detonate a nuclear bomb remotely, your level of culpability would be rather high. If the only possible reason the person gave you to suspect him was that his skin tone was a few shades darker than albino, it would be rather low.

That’s what a direct ad is like.

It is wise to not jump to conclusions on these things when two mouse clicks is often all it takes to find out for sure.


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