I don’t know about you, but one of the most frustrating things about the internet is that moment when you accidentally click on an advertisement in the rush of the moment when you are searching for something specific. For me, sometimes it is not easy to differentiate between the advertisements and legitimate search results that appear when I search for brands or items on Google, and It is becoming increasingly difficult for other people too. So much so, that the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) took notice after consumer advocacy groups were concerned with consumers being “tricked”.
There were rules originally placed as early as 2002 that had guidelines for how search engines could present advertisements. For a while the differences were evident, but nowadays the websites have slipped back into their old ways and the lines are not so clear.
Here is an advertisement from Microsoft mocking Google’s use of ads.
The companies, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing repeatedly deny that they are attempting to trick anyone, which is obviously what they would say. However, to me it seems that they are doing everything possible to make the ads blend in so much that even our generation of tech savvy young adults will find ourselves clicking on advertisements.
Just now I searched Google for “coats” and the first three options were all ads. But they looked exactly like the search result links, they just were accompanied by a small yellow box that read “ad” and trademark or copyright symbols. But what was confusing to me, was that these were brands that would have been popular search options to begin with, so why advertise them at the top and waste money?
On Googles results page I found a little information symbol near the yellow box and clicked in out of curiosity. It said that the ads were tailored to my search, visits to other websites, gender, and age range. So that explains why the ads were so similar to the actual results. Not all bad I suppose, but the specific tailoring to my demographic doesn’t help to explain why the companies are shirking the guidelines of the FTC and making the advertisements more and more incognito.
The results are even worse on sites other than Google. On Yahoo almost the entire first page of results was all advertisements. This is inefficient for the user and has lost them at least one user (me).
What do you think about these incognito advertisements?
O’Reilly, L. (2014, October 14). Study Says Google, Yahoo And Bing Are Running ‘Deceptive’ Ads – And Regulators Are Doing Nothing To Stop It. Retrieved October 16, 2014.