Those of you who’ve been carefully memorising the contents of this blog (which is, I would guess, none of you) will recall that I recently made the jump to a new ISP – BE (or Be There, as I think they’re officially known). This isn’t a complaint about BE’s services; they seem to be a good, solid ISP, and I’ve been pleased to make the discovery that a router connected via an Ethernet port is a far more stable way of handling large volumes of data than a modem connected via a USB port. Though I guess I shouldn’t exactly be surprised by that, since Ethernet was specifically designed to handle network traffic, and USB wasn’t. No, I have no complaints about BE – except for one related to their internet advertising.
I am far (so very, very far…) from being an expert on how online advertising works, but as I understand it a webmaster sells space on their webpage(s) to a third-party advertising provider, and the actual content that appears is determined by a number of factors, including the geographic location of your IP address, and also cookies that may have been set when you visited particular websites.* If I’ve got hold of the right end of the stick, this is why it’s quite common to see adverts on other websites relating to a website you recently visited.
I don’t have a particular problem with this, but BE clearly make heavy use of this kind of targeted advertising. Ever since I first visited their webpage to check them out, I’ve seen their adverts on a lot of the webpages I visit fairly regularly. At the time I was making my mind up, that was probably quite a good idea. I actually made the decision – I think – about 80% rationally and 20% emotionally (the rational bit was looking for the ISPs that provided what I needed – unlimited downloads, no bandwidth shaping – and the emotional bit avoiding Sky like the plague, on the basis that I loathe the Murdoch family and everything they stand for). Even so, seeing the adverts kept the company fresh in my mind, and that was probably a sound economic decision.
The problem is that I am still seeing these adverts on a lot of the sites I visit, a month or so after I made the jump. The reason that matters is that this particular advertising campaign is all about how slow and unreliable my net connection supposedly is. They have slogans that draw attention to it, and ‘amusing’ graphics that show intrepid surfers being held back by a sumo wrestler hanging onto their feet, and little animations that attempt to demonstrate the frustration of slow-loading webpages. Now, I’m seeing all these things telling me how bad my connection is while I’m connected with BE. In other words, the advertising, insofar as it’s having any effect at all, is encouraging me to believe that I’m getting a poor service from BE, and it’s BE who are responsible for this; they’re actually paying money to undermine my confidence in the service they provide.
As I say, I’m not remotely an expert, but it strikes me it ought to be pretty easy to stop this from happening. If I’m right about the cookie thing, them the solution seems obvious. As a BE customer, inevitably I login to my account to check things; in fact, when I first signed up, I was checking at least daily to track the progress of my order. So why can’t the secure part of the site be set up in such a way that loading the page my account details appear on resets the cookie set up when I accessed the main page? I’m pretty sure that ought to be possible, since both pages are part of the same site, and it would mean BE wouldn’t be spending money telling a recently-signed-up customer that their net connection is rubbish.
Now yes, of course, I realise there are things I could do about this. I could delete all the cookies stored on my machine – but that would mean losing some I find useful. I could search through all the cookies stored on my computer, and just delete the BE one – but that seems like a lot of hassle. (And both of those solutions would amount to nothing, because the next time I went to BE’s site (something I’m likely to do semi-regularly, if only to check that the billing is running smoothly), the cookie would be stored again.) Another solution would be to make use of an ad blocker, but in my experience the time spent configuring one of those isn’t worth the hassle, and, let’s face it, this is just a minor irritation, not something important enough for me to bother to do anything about.
Though apparently I am prepared to go to the trouble of writing and posting a blog entry about my irritation. I’m sure that’s perfectly normal and lots better…
* – for the record, I have no say over the adverts that appear on this blog (usually for beds, assuming I get to see the same ads the rest of you do); they’re placed there by WordPress, but since they’re pretty discreet, and I get all this for free, I guess I shouldn’t really complain.