There’s so much noise about ad blocking at the moment. Native advertising has been claiming to be the magic solution, Econsultancy has been sharing increasingly alarming stats and the digital media sector is starting to bleat in alarm as publishers have begun introducing anti-ad-blocking solutions, and the whole thing is starting to edge towards the verge of hysteria.

I work primarily in organic search so I’m not personally too alarmed by this trend (users blocking your PPC ads? maybe time to invest more in SEO, folks), but at the same time these rises do raise a lot of interesting questions about sustainability. The Telegraph ran an article a couple of years ago about how much you’d need to pay for an “ad free web” which came out at a distinctly conservative £140 per person per year (I strongly suspect this has gone up) and found that people would rather have advertising than pay for internet access. Now aside from the fact this doesn’t really cover the question of operating expenses for publisher sites that rely on ads as their main revenue source (guys like Forbes and The Drum), it also doesn’t really marry up with the latest figures. A very cursory poke around on eMarketer reveals that 38% of internet users have blocked ads in Q4 2015. That’s a lot of lost impressions. That’s edging towards the 50% mark. And it only seems to be getting worse.

I’m not going to rant about ad blocking though. I’m going to rant about what causes it – namely intrusive ad formats and appalling targeting. Advertising serves a valuable purposes for users but only when it is done properly to provide useful information in a timely manner. Just shoving your ads any old where you can get them, saturating on user eyeballs and hoping something sticks is exactly the sort of half-baked “strategy” that has caused the surge in ad blocking behaviour in the first place.

Take pre-roll video ads, for example. The same eMarketer article notes that 55% of respondents said the most annoying ad format they know is a pre-roll video ad, compared with just 25% for in-article “native” video ad formats that sit between paragraphs of text on a page. I sure as heck know that’s why I ad block – pre-rolls on YouTube. They’re annoying, they force their way into your view and there’s usually no way to skip them even when they’ve firmly established themselves as utterly pointless and irrelevant to me (as a female between 25 and 35 all I get is baby crap, despite the fact I’ve never spawned and am never going to).

Which brings me to my main point – crappy targeting. Now aside from the fact that demographic information always assumes a certain array of interests (case in point: “all females between ages x and y will be spawing babies and thus more than happy to view ads about baby related crap”), advertisers just never seem to bother putting their ads in an environment where they are even vaguely relevant. Start to watch a Lego “let’s build” video and you’ve got a pre-roll on dish detergent. Look at an article on science fiction classics and see a giant ad for nappies. What possible use is that to anyone, including the advertiser? The chances of a user being in anywhere the right mindset to give even the tiniest shit about the product or the brand at this stage is so remote, it’s a wasted ad impression at the least and in all likelihood an alienated consumer.

I went to see Zootropolis recently with my husband and some friends. In case you aren’t aware, Zootropolis is a kids’ movie. Disney. Animated fuzzy animals. Moral of the story. Dancing tigers and Shakira as an animated gazelle.

So we’re watching the trailers and ads and there’s Sky, and McDonalds, and all the other things kids like, all being thoroughly peddled to them while they’re in the cinema and high on sugar. Fine. The parents won’t appreciate it, but you can’t fault the advertisers for their placement. And then I see this…

In fact a commercial variation for HP Enterprise plays twice during the pre-film advert slots, presumably in case someone in the audience had some sort of haemorrhage and forgot they’d seen the first one. That isn’t even my main issue with this, though. HP Enterprise? In a cinema full of kids waiting to see talking animals? Good god, what brain-damaged ad exec thought that was a good idea? “But boss, the parents will be there too!” And of course ma and pa are going to be in exactly the right mindset to think about their business technology needs while little Jimmy is bouncing around like a lunatic waiting for the talking bunnies.

Maybe before the advertising world starts screaming about how to deal with and fix the “ad blocking problem,” it should stop and think about how it got itself into this mess in the first place, by parading irrelevant advertising to people who aren’t interested – indeed, may never be interested – in inappropriate placements at idiotic times in the name of “brand exposure” or “market saturation” or some other such inglorious buzzword.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go and watch some more animated animals on Youtube. And yes, I will be using an ad blocker. And now you know why.