I don't even remember a time when I didn't have adblock installed on my computer. I can only imagine the dark days of watching YouTube ads, closing popup windows, and seeing what websites really look like.
I also can't remember the last time I saw an advertisement on television. With the rise of Netflix and alternative ways to find my favorite shows and movies, I haven't needed to turn on cable. In fact, when I moved off campus, my adblocking computer was enough for me, so I didn't even bother buying cable.
My parent's generation and my grandparent's generation didn't grow up with computers, so it's easy for advertisers to reach them. My parents still have cable, have no idea what adblock even is, and are still using Internet Explorer. However, my generation grew up with computers and we know exactly how to work our way around advertisements and get right to the media we want to consume.
Or, so we think.
Advertisers are starting to find new ways to get their content to our eyes, and really, that's no surprise. The same generation that has devised ways to get around ads are now employees trying to figure out how to get around the people getting around advertisements. Some of this is just the price of consuming media, while other practices haven't been so well received.
Some sites have taken the nuclear option and have banned users who install an adblocking program onto their computers. While annoying, this may be one way for websites to continue selling advertising space that is worth something. On the other hand, this particular example is one of a news publication and, with others to chose from that allow adblock (knowingly or not), a consumer just might chose to go elsewhere. So, websites and publications especially have to find another way to retain consumers while still selling advertising space. One way they do this is through sponsored content.
Sponsored content is one such grey area that advertisers and media outlets come under fire for. It's a brilliant idea: we as consumers want to consume content that interests us while avoiding ads. So, what if the content we wanted to consume was actually just one giant ad? Of course, it isn't as obvious as that, but sponsored content is one area that has brought up a lot of ethical questions. However, it's a popular money-maker. Buzz Feed, The Odyssey and now even CNN are major sources of sponsored content. It's really not a bad way to get a product or brand out there while still providing content that people want to read. I mean, of course I want to see the top 10 cutest Halloween Dog Costumes and no, I don't care if it's sponsored by Pet Smart.
However, ethics does come into play whenever children are involved. Studies have shown that children are exposed to 40,000 ads on television alone and this exposure has been linked to obesity, materialism, and low self-esteem. Right now, this is largely on television, but when kids turn to the internet for games and entertainment the story could become quite different. As parents install adblock, what's stopping popular children's websites from sponsoring content from unhealthy restaurants or expensive toy brands? Neopets is one such site that has a sponsored game section that, though it is labeled, still gives out large rewards for watching the sponsored content.
|One example of Neopets' sponsored content|