You’re flicking through a magazine, idly going through page after page. You’re perhaps looking for an article, but as you scan the pages before you reach the article, something catches your eye. An advertisement. You flick back and read the advertisement. Then you carry on looking for something else to read.
You’re watching your favourite TV series. You’re watching on your Sky+ and you’ve recorded the show. You fast forward through the ad break at 30x speed. But something catches your eye. You stop and rewind. You watch the ad. Then you get back to your show.
You’re walking past a bus-stop and glance at an ad for a new film. You pause briefly to double check the release date. You’re interested in the film. You carry on about your day.
Three entirely possible situations. All three have happened to me. Whatever advertisers might like to believe, but you’re not really buying a magazine for the ads or watching a TV show for the commercial break (some fashion magazines maybe excepted). But from time to time, you’re perhaps intrigued or interested by an ad. And you can often go back and check an ad.
But in the digital realm, this often isn’t possible. I go to a site and quickly navigate to the first story I want to read on the site – perhaps it’s from a news index page. As I click to the next page with a story I want to read, I glance at ad and am vaguely interested. I know, it seems unlikely, but advertising does sometimes work, and very occasionally I see an ad that I’m at least curious enough about to read.
But I’ve already clicked through to the next page. Never mind. I hit the back button in the browser to get back to it, and… I see a different ad.
Time after time, and on site after site, when I go back a page, the ad has changed. Whichever network has dynamically served me something else. And the ad I was actually interested in has gone!
I’ve actually been known to hit refresh a few times to see if I get served the initial ad again. I usually don’t.
The system is broken.
The same ad should feature on the same page in the same session. If it doesn’t, then the site/ad network is missing a trick. Digital advertising has enough problems in trying to keep people engaged and having to come up with ever trashier techniques to get people to respond. So make it easier for me to actually see an ad I want to see!