US advertising sales managers and business development managers with an eye to successful online advertising sales may be interested in a brouhaha which has broken out across the pond in France.
Just seven days after French ISP “Free” took all of its ads off Google sites (or sites visited via the search leviathan), the country’s junior minister for SMEs, Fleur Pelleri, ordered it to remove the blockade.
Who foots the bill for broadband in the coming upgrade?
The dispute is over who foots the massive bill for upgrading broadband so that it can cope with the burgeoning demands of the digital economy. When Free imposed its ban, it blocked all ads on YouTube and on Google search results. Its billionaire founder Xavier Niel, known throughout the Francophone world as the Gallic Steve Jobs, was accused by one pundit, Julien Delatte, of making a symbolic gesture to show Google it isn’t all powerful. In reality the week-long blockade has had zero impact on the country’s digital economy.
Even so, it was a symbolic gesture which certainly hit the headlines. The Government in France is deep in negotiations with Amazon and Google over what each party should provide for the infrastructure and architecture of the French internet. Since each of these companies are subject to minimal tax payments in France, the room for countrywide disgruntlement was very wide.
Should ISPs take it upon themselves to block ads?
But so far, public opinion in France hasn’t been swayed by Niel’s gesture. Despite widespread suspicion of a Google-spawned “Big Brother” society where the behemoth creams off all the advantages of content without having to pay for it, no barricades in the street emerged. As Delatte put it, “It is seen as a war between two big players, neither of which will really lose out, while the small fishes — the sites that rely on advertising — are killed.”
The population of France is much more concerned to ensure that each website takes responsibility for the advertising and content it provides. Free speech and web neutrality, in short – and free doesn’t appear to have persuaded them that it’s on their side. As another expert, Francois Groiller (of Fred and Farid Group) puts it, “I believe the best ad blockers are the people themselves. Making it easy to block ads is good, but forcing it on people is intrusive and raises ethical questions.”