his month, CodeFund hit a major milestone by having displayed over 300 million non-tracking, ethical ads. I learned of this accomplishment this morning by Justin Dorfman via Slack:

I knew this milestone was coming soon and expected it any day. I didn’t, however, expect the emotional response I had. To me, this number represents validation in what we are doing, in spite of the challenges we’ve faced and the voices that have told us we will not succeed. Most of all, this number is proof that Ethical Advertising is a viable form of marketing.

Ethical advertising has become somewhat of a buzz-word recently. I see it mentioned almost daily in some form or fashion on Hacker News. I see companies clamoring to fall in-line with new CCPA regulations. Google is even going to try to discontinue cross-site cookies within the next 2 years. The world is talking about it, but little action has been taken so far.

According to Statista, Adblocker usage is on the rise. In just 5 years, the number of ad-blocking browsers went from 15.7% to 25.8%. That’s over a 48% increase. Why? Because people don’t want to be targeted and tracked.

Almost all advertising networks are continuously and tirelessly collecting data on users, profiling them for “ideal matching” of products and services. You can see this yourself by going to any website using the Firefox browser and reviewing the cross-site tracking cookies. Here is a list of the cookies that Firefox blocked when visiting Huffington Post:

Take a moment to review the listed cookie sources above. If I didn’t have blockers on, my visit would have been tracked by over 10+ ad companies and data collection services.

The ads that appear on the site also are not chosen based on the context of the content, but by the million data points that have been gathered on me from my activity on the internet.

But who is to blame? Are the advertisers to blame? The companies they work for? Google? Us? It’s hard to say. We are all pre-programmed to follow the path of least resistance. My kids are a great example of this. I can ask them to do the dishes. What I get is the MVP (minimum viable product) of the chore. Fast food is often the choice over cooking for me because it’s easier. Advertisers are no different. Marketers are tasked to get a positive return on their ad spend (ROAS) and by using unethical targeting practices they can get better results. Not only are unethical practices the path of least resistence, often times it’ the ONLY path that works. They hook the visitors with highly targeted ads (loss leader) and then make up for their losses by endlessly showing ads via remarketing efforts (much cheaper). To them, the end justifies the means.

Do you remember when newspaper and TV ads were the way you learned about new products and services? Back then, there wasn’t creepy targeting practices. The newspaper company didn’t have a giant database full of details on you such as what you ate for breakfast or the last item you looked at in Walmart. Their ads were targeted based on the city you live in and the general demographics for their paper readership. That’s it!

This year, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) went into effect. Basically, CCPA gives rights to individuals to opt-in/out from having their data sold (rented, leased or given) to 3rd parties. This is currently only in effect in California but disrupts the advertising industry like an atom bomb. The data collection machine that has been built and perfected by Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and more are now challenged.

Winter is coming.

So back to the original question: What does 300M ethical ads look like?

The answer is CodeFund.

Our company is built on trust, openness, and ethical practices. Of all of the 300M impressions:

  • No IP addresses have been stored
  • No cookies have been placed
  • No private data has been collected
  • No data has been sold, shared, or otherwise left us
  • No ads have been displayed based on user profiles or browsing history

What are the results?

  • We brought in over $450K in revenue in 2019
  • Advertiser attrition remains very low
  • We are working with publishers that would not allow ads otherwise
  • The data and reporting we provide is “good enough” for our advertisers
  • We sleep well at night

I’ll end this post by sharing a tweet thread by David Heinemier Hanson (@dhh), the renowned critic and activist against poor advertising practices.

If you that advertising can and should be done ethically, I invite you to check out CodeFund.io.