It’s not likely you noticed it, but on Oct. 1 Perfect Duluth Day stopped mixing in Google-generated advertisements with the other ads that rotate over there on the right side of the page. It’s also not likely you care why, but we will explain nonetheless.
Over the past three-and-a-half years we have operated the advertising space on PDD like this: In the right column we rotate about a dozen ads in five positions. Those are ads that have been arranged through our relationships with local businesses. At the bottom, in position six, was always an ad that came through Google AdSense, a program that, as Google puts it, “empowers online publishers to earn revenue by displaying relevant ads on a wide variety of online content.”
One thing that always bothered us about AdSense is that it would occasionally display animated ads, which are annoying. It didn’t happen too often, though, so we decided we could live with it.
Last month, however, we noticed an ad came up for a dating service specifically geared to hooking men up with “Japanese singles.” We felt it was pretty unlikely that this is a reputable business (and we’re not sure how it would even be possible that it could be) so we decided to reconsider whether the money we were getting from AdSense was worth the toll it might take on our souls. And our ultimate conclusion was that it was not.
You might wonder what exactly PDD’s philosophy or principles are with regard to the advertisements it accepts. Well, not only have we not shared that with readers before, we’ve never really talked about it ourselves — at least not in great detail — but we do have a vague policy that we reserve the right to reject any advertisement. (In the case of AdSense, we didn’t have the option to reject which ads it stuck us with, so we had to choose to reject the whole package.)
In general, we dislike the notion of refusing to run certain ads — and it’s not because we lose money when we refuse ads, because I would speculate that running sketchy ads would cost us more money than we’d make, in terms of people losing respect for PDD and becoming disenfranchised with it. We dislike refusing ads because it feels like we are making decisions for our readers or acting like moral police. Also, by denying certain ads we create more of a perception that we endorse all the opinions in the advertisements that do run.
The fact is, in most cases we feel our advertisers run fantastic businesses and we are proud to be associated with them — but, for example, when you see a political ad on PDD it certainly doesn’t mean we got together and decided we’re all voting for that person. It just means we took some money so that candidate could promote his or her campaign. We have never rejected a political ad, although it’s certainly conceivable that we might in the future … you know, if someone runs on a “Kill Babies and Eat Them” platform.
So we kind of define our principles on advertising as we go along here at PDD. At this point, the only ad we have rejected that came from a local interest and not Google AdSense was for synthetic marijuana. (No, it wasn’t the Last Place on Earth, it was a guy who said he was going to do home deliveries of a product called “2012.”) This was two years ago and synthetic drugs were kind of a new thing. We were leaning toward accepting the ad, but ultimately decided it didn’t sound like a safe product.
Basically, if someone wants to promote something that seems connected to human trafficking, involves encouraging the consumption of dangerous chemicals or just stinks like a scam, we’re likely to not allow that to happen here. That’s about where we stand at the moment.
Anyway, I just thought I’d air out PDD’s ethical dilemmas for you all, so you can decide how much you love or hate us based on our vague moral stands. I apologize in advance for bringing up advertising at all. We try as hard as we can to keep it over there in the right column where it belongs.