07 February 2018

It's Not About the Ads

This past Sunday was the biggest advertising day of the US year: The Super Bowl. For a variety of reasons, I needed to watch the game over the 'net, using authorized, legal access to NBC's sports website.

I loaded up Firefox, and couldn't watch the game. Instead, I got a message that I couldn't see any streaming content in a browser that had an active adblocker — which I use not due to the ads themselves, but due to the privacy-invading tagalongs with the ads. So I closed down Firefox and loaded up Internet Exploder (this is a fully-patched-and-up-to-date Windows 7 machine with a decent-sized screen and decent-quality-and-volume speaker system). This machine's IE installation does not run an ad blocker, so NBC's site allowed me access to the streaming Super Bowl broadcast.

Sort of.

The actual game broadcast played just fine. None of the touted, and in many years more entertaining than the game, ads played. Not one: They were all replaced by a silent placeholder screen. When I explicitly used a marginal web browser that did not have an ad blocker installed.

Internet content providers, you keep using that word ("advertising"). I do not think it means what you think it does. More to the point, it's clear from this set of circumstances that NBC really didn't care about advertising; it wanted the viewer data, presuming that I was glued to the screen despite having to go cook dinner in the middle (I missed out on yet another incompetent "musical performance" — schade). And it wanted the opportunity to plant a metric boatload of tracking cookies, which I manually deleted immediately after the game ended.

That, it seems to me, is itself deceptive advertising…