The last season of South Park ended with a shocking revelation (South Park, “Sponsored Content”). Advertisements have evolved to be sentient and fighting a secret war against us! While we do not believe things have gone that far, advertisements have been around to influence human decision making since time immemorial and have changed over time. In order to maintain their power of influence ads had to evolve from simple descriptions of the value of a product shouted by a shopkeeper or posted on a bill, to deceptively hiding themselves in the form of sponsored content. The growth of the internet with has driven ads to evolve at a quicker pace than ever before. The goal of our project is both visualize and explain the evolution of web page advertisements from the 90’s to now.
Advertisements have always integrated themselves into mass media, and often serve to supplement their costs. We expect ads in the newspaper, and commercial breaks are an established component of radio and television. They are easily distinguished from the programs they interrupt, but are effective because they gain a share of the attention given to the program. When DVR technology was introduced, people gained the power to skip the commercials so ads evolved to take advantage of the fact in order to fast forward effectively viewers had to be looking at the screen (Du Plessis 2009). Ads on web pages used to function similarly to those found in other media, simply hoping for a share of our attention by just being present. As the technology improved so did the ads ploys to get our attention. For some people ad blocking programs provide some relief, until ads found ways around them, most directly by websites blocking content when the ads are blocked (Vallade 2008).
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