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When things don’t ‘ad’ up, try to multiply your patience

Alvin R. Cabral
Filed on October 30, 2020

(Richard Levine / Alamy Stock Photo)

Given Big Tech is in Big Trouble in the US, Europe and elsewhere for a variety of allegations, shouldn’t the whole ad thing be included in the scrutiny as well?

And I thought my plight was over.

Playing a game on your smartphone constitutes minding your own business. And as with any game — or app, for that matter — the risk of running into ads is high at best, always at worst. That is, unless, you pony up some cash to get rid of them.

Now, there are only two games I play religiously on my smartphone: Pokemon GO (yes, I still play it, albeit sparingly and only when the painful reality of being stuck at Level 31 creeps up on me) and Angry Birds 2 (I have a PhD in that franchise). The former has ads in the form of sponsored locations, while the latter has its fair share of these increasingly-intrusive time-wasters.

Which is fair game. It’s not a secret as well that those behind this, off the record or otherwise, admit the simple, if not explicit, fact: Do anything and everything to get traction for the brands they represent.

In other words, to hell with what people will think — just slap it smack to their faces.

The only problem — and I guess everyone will agree to this, even those behind these devious schemes — is that ads get so obnoxious at times. Just when you thought some character pops up on your CRT TV trying to sell something is annoying enough, today you see game ads basically telling you you’re most probably an idiot because ‘only 5 per cent can solve this’ puzzle they’re dangling. And don’t get me started on those who don’t even know what they’re talking about just to get paid for promoting stuff.

Oh, and by the way, most of the time those puzzles aren’t even part of the actual game they’re promoting. I can name-and-shame those games, but to those who know what I’m talking about, I feel you. Those silly song-and-dance commercials of the 80s weren’t so bad after all.

Back then, when tech was becoming more accessible to the general public, all sorts of gimmicks were launched. For example, there were those who offered ‘free PCs’ — provided you sign up for a long-term ISP deal and you had to deal with a desktop littered with endless ads (No.23 on PC World’s 2006 list of the 25 worst tech products, one of my most favourite reads). And who could forget AOL and RealPlayer (Nos.1 and 2, respectively)?

I normally don’t use the audio on games since I’d prefer listening to music, but when ad times come, most of the time their music takes over and would only stop if you mute the ad. Even then, not all ads will automatically switch you back to your music; thanks for the extra steps we need to do to get back to our normal lives.

The worst I’ve encountered is a takeover ad in the middle of a darn game. This haunted me for some weeks several months ago during the height of the pandemic (yet another reason to depress me). I was particularly surprised by this; I never would’ve guessed that this would happen on my little entertainment box.

The worst part is — inasmuch as it pains me to share it — it was a Dubai company that was the advertiser. It was the first and (hopefully) only time I’ve encountered such; thank heavens it hasn’t occurred again — I’m guessing complaints piled up because it was definitely an experience-breaker.

Clickbaits are bad enough — but at least you do have the option not to click them.

Oddly enough, as months passed, the ads I’m seeing became more less irritating and were more straightforward — informative at times; that’s how you should do an ad — and I practically didn’t see those that bothered me.

Until recently.

Audio grabbers and those puzzles have made a grandiose return. Have I played that less, or have you guys rebounded from the pandemic that you’ve got your budgets back to bless us with more of these? (That was quite an ironic statement, since, in theory, they should’ve earned more with people stuck at home with their devices.) At least the takeovers haven’t returned.

Makes one wonder that, given Big Tech is in Big Trouble in the US, Europe and elsewhere for a variety of allegations, shouldn’t this whole ad thing be included in the scrutiny as well, and maybe drag the rest of those involved into it for making us cringe? Not being part of the five per cent who can solve a puzzle is quite insulting — especially if the solution to that puzzle is ridiculously easy.

Then again, I’m shooting the moon here. Remember, advertising is a major lifeline for the likes of Google and practically every app. As long as ad content isn’t offensive (unless you’re taking that puzzle thing seriously) or doesn’t violate any rules, it’s, again, fair game. What would look obnoxious to some may seem cute to others. And either way, if it gets into you, the advertising strategy is working.

One game is a very tiny sample, practically nothing, but the message (no pun intended) is clear. If you don’t believe me, try searching ‘most annoying game ads’ on YouTube — just be prepared for ads if you haven’t signed up for Premium, though. You’ve been warned; you’re welcome.

alvin@khaleejtimes.com





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