Stan Wong Offers Voice-Activated Ad-Blocking
One of the greatest challenges facing both users and creators on the Internet today is the challenge of advertising. Content creators often rely on ad revenue on their sites and videos to make a living, but audiences would rather avoid ads whenever possible. Stan Wong hopes that he has a new alternative to traditional ad blocker software. His new app is called “VAAC Army,” and it might offer a compromise for content creators, audiences and advertisers.
Stan Wong, unlike many other mobile app developers, was not a computer person from the beginning. Born in Singapore, schooled in England and Fort Worth, TX; Wong found his interests lay more in film making after being in the real estate business. In pursuit of his own film, Wong was struck with the impetus that would eventually lead to developing his app.
“As I sat and researched on the Internet for my first film script, I realized that I was watching the same pre roll ads over and over again. I told myself that there must be a more efficient way for advertisers to get their message across while promoting their product,” Wong said, recalling the conception of VAAC Army.
The concept behind VAAC Army was a response to current ad blocking software. Where existing ad blockers completely remove ads from a website, and thus deprive content creators of their usual source of income, VAAC Army would be a less “sledgehammer” approach. When used, VAAC Army would allow users the option of accelerating through ads by using their voice, usually speaking the product’s name or some kind of message. Ideally, this would create a happy medium for all parties. Users would be able to get to their content faster. Advertisers would be satisfied with the audience engagement. Content creators would be able to receive their income from not having ads blocked completely.
Wong is aware of the tension between the parties.
“Being a content creator and a supporter of content creators, we see the Internet slowly being ravaged by ad blockers on one side and irresponsible advertising on the other,” Wong said of promoting a more sustainable ad-based business model.
According to PageFair, a website that collects data about ad blockers, ad blocking cost publishers an estimated $22 billion in 2015. The usage of ad blockers also grew by 41 percent in 2015, on top of the overall growth and losses caused by ad blocking, which has continued to increase over the years.
No website based off of ad revenue is safe from ad blocking, yet users can hardly be blamed for their pervasive usage of the software. The rise of ad blockers has forced a range of responses from businesses. Some websites are asking users to buy a subscription to view content without ads, though some continue to let users view content anyway. Others, like Forbes, block users entirely from the website until the blocker is disabled. Wong believes the VAAC Army is the best solution to the “battlefield we call the Internet”, as he feels that there is “no other way to insure that the users are engaging with the ads while at the same time skipping them.”
While learning about VAAC Army, I was struck with a sense of foreboding regarding the app. Advertising is a common aspect of modern life, and to assume that modern society and business can function without it is a little naive. However, I was wary of the image that VAAC Army conjured in my mind. I did not like the idea of a world where the public parrots taglines and brand names out loud just to watch videos or read online articles. It was bad enough that ads inundate nearly every part of life. But to hear it audibly from the people was distressing. Wong’s response to my concerns was far more reasonable than my bout of paranoia. “[Skipping ads by reading a message] is a choice the user will have to make. VAAC Army does not force users to do anything. Unlike ad blockers or intrusive advertising, who both force you to do one or the other.” Wong said in a reasonable defense of VAAC Army.
Even more reasonable than his response to my fears, Wong acknowledged that the extremes of “advertisers versus users” was toxic to the usefulness of the Internet.
“The Internet is an invaluable tool that we can’t just give up on. I feel that there is a lack of trust amongst all parties mentioned and the way to move forward is for all to let our guards down a little and trust each other,” Wong said.
In the end, the battle to save the Internet will require one side to be more responsible with the number and intrusiveness of their ads, and the other to be more willing to accept ads as a way to support their favorite content. Until that happy medium is found, Wong hopes that his VAAC Army app make tension less fierce and digital life more habitable for all involved.