Popular culture teaches us to hate advertising. It's true that some of it is brutal billboards, disturbing neon signs and spammy website banners.
But not all ads are of this caliber. In fact, when advertising is good it tends to be inconspicuous. This unintentionally brings bad advertising into focus, which combined with the false consensus effect creates the illusion that all advertising is bad.
When was the last time that your aesthetics were assaulted by an ad on the Economist paper edition? Personally, I've always enjoyed reading them.
The Truth Is That Not All Advertising Is Created Equal
Advertising is a creative outlet. Just like there's shity music, there are shity ads. And just like the internet enabled anyone to create and share shity music, it enabled anyone to advertise via a self-service ad platform.
This is not inherently bad, although much of online advertising is being enabled by spyware –which is bad. For example, every mobile device has a unique identifier (IDFA) that enables ad platforms to associate collected data with users, so that they can show them contextual ads within apps.
In-app ads are spam. Having to watch an ad in order to go to the next screen of a language learning app for example is a degraded experience. The only reason this business model still exists, is that there is a demographic of freeloader app users, usually the same people who complain about how much they hate advertising.
What Is Good Advertising?
Good advertising is a form of commercial artistic expression. It's about educating about a product, and inspiring the potential buyers to buy it.
Advertising on the web is more challenging though, as an online advertiser has to take into consideration both marketing and technical aspects. An online ad is not just about the message, but also way more about the medium (compared to print), and the technology that will enable reliable distribution, proper measurement, and attribution of the campaign's performance. And because most marketers are not technical, they usually rely on poorly-made 3rd party tools that unlock specific functionality.
The internet is full of examples of bad and privacy intrusive online advertising. But if you're looking for inspiration, there are still popular websites out there that do it well, and are by any business standard profitable.