Sometimes, you’ll get ads targeted at you, offering things you didn’t know you wanted. The day that happens, make sure you buy a lottery ticket.
Sometimes you’ll get ads targeted that you definitely don’t want, or that the advertisers wouldn’t want to juxtapose with the adjacent content or other ads. Of course, this doesn’t just happen in online ads – print gets it wrong sometimes, and you can’t always trust that poster displays will have the sensitivity the advertisers might have wanted.
Even with sophisticated targeting algorithms, it’s all too easy to see ads placed all over your favourite sites, that compete against or even conflict with the content, show you ads for stuff you’ve already bought or browsed at another site and decided not to buy.
There are plenty of funny websites out there, showing photos of real-life advertising that has backfired (many too close to the bone to feature here, so beware…) – for a 5 minute laugh on a Friday, check out here or here.
If you’ve had enough of ads in your browser, Tip o’ the Week reader Nick Lines has the following advice…
Advertising on the web: it's the way a lot of content providers get their revenue and many argue it makes the internet go round, but sometimes it's obstructive, offensive, misleading or just pushes your buttons the wrong way. If it gets to the point that you're avoiding using a site, no-one's winning.
If you've used other browsers – yes, incredibly, there are alternatives out there – then there's a good chance you may have experimented with ad blockers to eradicate the worst offenders from your favourite sites. My personal browser of choice used to be Firefox with Adblock plus configured, with IE used at work. The main reason for not using IE all the time was the lack of an effective ad blocker. I tried Adblock plus, which has an Internet Explorer version: it didn't work well for me, causing issues with some sites not loading, and frequent hangs or crashes. I was hopeful for Ghostery, however they've pulled their IE version temporarily and it hasn't returned.
At this point, I'd resigned to be haunted by ads but when Taboola started appearing on more and more sites, I redoubled my efforts to find a solution. Taboola provides “click-bait” articles often with sensationalist titles, that show up on content websites – “Other readers also like…” type sections, with tantalising excerpts to encourage you to click. The resulting page is generally covered in ads, and Taboola share their ad revenue with the site that provided the link in the first place. Here’s what Auntie Beeb had to say about them.
Hands up everyone who knew Internet Explorer has an ad blocker built in? Oh, that many? Keep your hands up if you knew it works brilliantly? Ah, so it's not just me who didn't know about this… It's in the "Tracking protection" functionality. Obviously.
To enable, try going into Tools | Safety | Turn on Tracking Protection to turn on the feature.
This will then display the Manage add-ons dialog – select Tracking Protection then Get a Tracking Protection List online… IE will load a site to give you a list of providers, though there have been reports of the URL being incorrect. Open this site to add Tracking Protection Lists if you don’t see the list of TPLs right away.
I've found EasyList and Privacy Choice do the job, and Privacy Choice was the one that removed Taboola from my favourite sites.
Ad blocking can be a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, however many of the list providers are actively working with advertisers to validate and provide a way for decent ads to still be shown. Getting in contact with the websites admin might work: as an example, Pistonheads has had a prolonged user backlash against Taboola (though it’s still in use at time of writing…)
Thanks to Nick for such a neat trick – let’s put it to the test. First, let’s look at a nice article online. Plenty of ads all over… and at the bottom, the “You May Like” section shows …
Adding the TPLs as described above (ensuring they’re “Enabled”), hitting refresh in the browser… and You May Like has gone, along with all the ads on the side of the page.