Annoying Ads Following You On Web? Rubicon Project May Have A Solution

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Picture this: You're married without kids, but your good friend just had a baby girl. You jump on Amazon, order a Little Giraffe Chenille Travel Blanky, pay the extra $4.95 for gift wrapping and send it over.

That's usually a job well done, but there's a problem: The Little Giraffe Chenille Travel Blanky is now following you around the web. Every website you visit, it appears, lurking along the right rail. You then start seeing display ads for diapers, baby strollers and soon -- a minivan.

You scream at your monitor, tell the internet its targeting is crazy, but such efforts only prove futile, so you Google, "ad block extension Chrome," hit install and move forward with your life.

That scenario isn't far-fetched, and the reality is nobody likes targeted ads that aren't relevant. Marketers don't like them because they're wasting precious ad dollars and consumers don't like them for obvious reasons. Yet ad tech company Rubicon Project is trying to solve that problem -- along with several others -- through an effort aimed at making ads relevant to the consumers who see them.

The approach is simple: Of the 10 trillion ads it serves each month, all will have an overlay that will appear once the consumer hovers over it. They can then indicate whether they like an ad, want to put an ad on "snooze" or say if the ad is not relevant to them.

A look at how the overlay will appear when a user hovers over it
A look at how the overlay will appear when a user hovers over it

Code named "Project Awesome," Rubicon Project will first release the feature through an invite-only beta. Frank Addante, CEO at Rubicon Project, told Ad Age he fully intends to have the feature rolled out across the board to all users globally.

"People are creating content to attract consumers, but consumers have been a silent participant in the process," Mr. Addante said. "We're not doing this to make money, we're doing this to improve the consumer experience. And at some point, it will benefit Rubicon Project."

Similar offerings like Rubicon Project's already exist, namely, AdChoices --that little green triangle often found in the lower left corner of most digital ad units. Unlike AdChoices, however, Rubicon's feature is more fluid from both a design and feature perspective. Liking an ad is more akin to liking a photo on Instagram, and instead of clicking on something that takes you to another website, Rubicon's offering takes place on the website where the ad is shown.

Users will not have to download any software to use Rubicon Project's feature, but, should they choose, they can download an extension that will make the feature available to all ads -- whether Rubicon served them or not.

Users can also create a profile and share what their interests are so ads are more relevant; someone traveling on vacation to Hawaii may want to share that information so they can maybe score deals on tickets or hotels, for example.

"People recognize that sending ads to people who don't want them equals wasting money," Mr. Addante said. "On the flipside, if consumers are raising their hand saying, 'I want this,' then that's gold."

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