Charter Communications Realizes People Don't Like Having Ads Injected Into Websites

from the a-slight-miscalculation dept

Last month, cable broadband provider Charter Communications said it was going to test the clickstream tracking/behavioral ad injection service NebuAd, claiming (hilariously) that snooping on you as you surf in order to present ads to you enhances your web surfing experience. It turns out that many Charter customers did not agree -- and they weren't made any happier when independent research into NebuAd's system discovered many, many problems with it, including the fact that you couldn't really opt-out. Also, Congress got involved, asking Charter to explain itself. That's never a good sign.

Charter has now agreed to back off plans to implement this clickstream tracking. However, the most hilarious part is Charter's explanation of why it went forward with this plan in the first place: Focus groups apparently indicated that "most broadband consumers would look upon this service favorably." Well, when you describe it as "enhancing" the broadband experience, rather than spying on your every action to present you with more targeted ads, people might say that. In the future, though, it may help to be a bit more straightforward with focus groups.

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  • identicon
    John M, 25 Jun 2008 @ 12:20am

    Wait... There are ads on the internet? (*hugs his AdBlock+NoScript*)

    While it is true that I would rather have ads that I care about seeing, if I were to see ads at all - I do hate the notion that someone is watching/recording/etc my moves on the internet to bring these ads to me. Yes, I know my traffic can and probably is being recorded on some level...

    What's so different about NebuAd from Google's contextual ads, anyhow?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 25 Jun 2008 @ 12:50am


      What's so different about NebuAd from Google's contextual ads, anyhow?

      Google's contextual ads are based on what you're surfing on that page alone. No additional data about what else you surfed is included. So, if you're on a page about golf, you're likely to see golf ads, but it has no idea you were also just shopping for a car on a totally different site.

      That's not the case with NebuAd. With NebuAd, all of your surfing history is used by your ISP to target ads at you. So you may see car offers on the golf page, because it knows you recently surfed a totally different site about cars.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mike allen, 25 Jun 2008 @ 12:21am

    is this the same

    is it the same system tested by BT in the UK pity our gov. didnt ask them a few questions first. I ignore and wont buy from any ad i see on line (yes even the ones at the right hand side mike) why way too many scams on line.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    James, 25 Jun 2008 @ 5:38am

    Total approached this wrong

    Seems most companies can't figure out that you can get away with quite alot, with your customers, if you treat them fairly AND are genuinely upfront.

    If Charter had just come out with it and said, "We're going to offer $10+ off per month to those willing to use/test NebuAd for their web traffic." At least then, it would be a marketing opportunity for them and the customer would feel they were treated more farily. And, even if this option were not that great of a great deal it would be out in the open and not clandestine talking about enhancing an experience which we know is just a load of bs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ryad, 25 Jun 2008 @ 8:05am

    I sat through a NebuAd presentation a couple of months ago. It was an interesting concept. What they do is they have a device that sits between the ISP's customers and the internet. It looks at the traffic (cmon you dont think your isp has other devices that know where you go as well?) and sends information back to NebuAd about sites that individuals go to. There is no personally identifiable information as IP adddress and other identifying information is encrypted at the ISP into a one way hash. NebuAd then determins based on the sites you go to what type of person you are. (young/old, rich/poor, male/female etc) and the bid on the ad space on the websites you go to. They are able to bid higher than an non-targeted ad because the advertisers pay more. They are not adding/changing any ads that you would have not already seen.

    It is a little creepy but I thought it was a well laid out plan...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 25 Jun 2008 @ 11:00pm

    There's a company called AdBrite that serves up various ads to web sites. A while back, they started doing full-page ads. The way it works is this; You go to a site that uses AdBrite and after a certian number of clicks, the page you're reading fades out and a full-page ad fades in. After 10-20 seconds, a Skip button appears in the upper right corner that will take you back to the top of the page of the page you were on (not to where you were when the ad kicked in). While checking into AdBrite, I found a ton of propaganda from them about how users actually like these full-page ads better than banner ads because they're more like commercials.

    I'd hate to have to be the one who had to make that presentation to potential customers with a straight face!

    If you want to see what I'm talking about, go to;

    And click the header to any story. Make sure that Javascript is enabled and that you don't use other ad-blocking software. Of course, the way to stop these ads is to disable javascript and/or use ad-blocking software.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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