Random thought : is internet advertising even working?

Harry van den Bergh
2 min readJan 17, 2024

Some thoughts on internet advertising. Or should we call it add-spam?

Adds interrupting what you are doing

When looking at internet advertising I often think, “do they really think this is working?” OK, if you are searching for a race bike, and you get some advertisement based on that search behaviour you might click on it. But when watching a youtube video about creating an Indian aubergine dish, and you get interrupted with an add for hair implants or home improvement tools (both real life stories) It irritates. What are the chances of changing interest at that moment from cooking to hair implants?

Adds following you

Same goes for getting adds long time after a specific search. Or adds following you everywhere. A few years ago I was googling for specific summer trousers. Found them and bought them. For at least two years I got adds of a Dutch trouser brand everywhere. At least 10 times a day on Instagram, Facebook and everywhere I got these adds. I really got to hate that brand so much. Even when they would give me their (expensive) trousers for free, I wouldn’t wear them.

But why?

If we hate it & it’s not working, then why is every company doing it? Because there is no alternative? Because everybody does it? Or are companies like Google and Meta that convincing in selling their advertisement? Don’t think that’s the answer. So maybe it is working after all.

The spam-effect

I think the reason it’s working is what I call the spam-effect. Spam email often looks very dumb. You always think “who would fall for this?” However it’s cheap to send out 100.000 emails. And if only 1 or 2 people respond it pays out. With internet advertising, advertisers pay per click (or other activity measures) but not for the 100.000 time the add is presented without effect. So as advertiser you are basically paying Google or Meta to spam on your behalf. So while Google is pretty good at preventing spam from landing in your inbox, basically spamming us with advertisement is their business model.


Are there alternatives? I notice how I enjoy apps like Mastodon or Pixelfed. And happy to pay a subscription for Medium. All without any advertising. But for things like search there is no alternative yet. Maybe the future is in paying for services.



Harry van den Bergh

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