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TL;DR: Starting on the week of September 25th, we will be showing a short survey in the banner ad slots on Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange tech sites.

[EDIT: Since this post was created, some complications have been run into so for now, this will only run on the main Stack Overflow site - will update if this changes in the future]

[UPDATE: The Alpha test has been concluded. The Beta test announcement on Meta Stack Overflow is here.]

What is this survey about?

The survey is meant to provide better insight for customers (companies who pay to advertise with us) into how users' sentiment towards their company or its products and services are affected by advertising on the Stack Exchange network. It is an optional survey, in which we'll ask some users questions about a company so we can test and measure whether their ads have had any impact on the user's perception of that brand. Not all users who see an ad will be served the survey, and we only survey users that are opted-in to targeting cookies. Responses are completely anonymous and no personal information from the respondents will be collected or stored.

Where will it be shown, and what does it look like?

We explored a few different options for conducting the survey, and ended up deciding to use the existing banner ad slots for these — meaning you'll see the ads and the banner in the same placement (though not at the same time, just to clarify). This seemed like the simplest and less disruptive solution because it uses an existing placement that users already are accustomed to for ads, and also allows us to conduct the survey on-site without needing to prompt the user to fill it in on a third-party website. Here's what it'll look like (click to see full-sized version):

Question page showing the survey in the banner ad slot, as described in the post. The survey asks the question "Which brands have you seen advertising for recently?" and provides a list of 5 companies plus a "none of these" option.

What sites will this be shown on?

This survey will be shown on the following site:

  • Stack Overflow

Why are you telling us about this? Isn't this just an ad in the usual ad placement anyway?

This survey is both a new onsite survey, and a new usage of the banner ad slot. Since the conjunction of those two factors could lead to some confusion, we thought it would be better to let folks know that we were doing it in advance.

The new survey will be going through this alpha test, which will help inform our product decisions in the future, as well as let us work out any bugs or technical issues. We will let you know about next steps for this feature by updating this post or posting a new question for it.

If you see things breaking, please report those in the usual channels, or as an answer to this post.

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  • 2
    "onsite survey" interesting! Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 17:35
  • 11
    Random question... Why is this being tested only on tech sites? Why not non-tech sites? Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 17:36
  • 31
    Will users with the Reduce ads privilege see this? It's in a slot usually hidden to them
    – Erik A
    Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 17:46
  • 13
    Are you sure this is a good idea? Online advertising is commonly suspected to be next-to-worthless in most cases, but there's little hard data on that; collecting data on this is honest and very laudable, but it could cost you a substantial chunk of your advertising income.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 18:20
  • 6
    I generally hate the idea of surveys in ad slots, but if the purpose of the survey is literally to question users about the ads.. it's the right place for it... as opposed to the pulse surveys that are generally used as community feedback but only presented through ad slots.
    – Kevin B
    Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 19:28
  • 5
    @RandomPerson That’s where most advertisers we want to test with have ads.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 8:20
  • 25
    @ErikA users with the reduced ads privilege will not see this. As you mentioned, the slot is usually not visible to them anyway. This means they wouldn't be able to see the ad both because... well, the slot is not visible; but also because we're only showing the survey to folks who've seen certain ads, and those users wouldn't see any ads at all.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 8:21
  • 8
    Appreciate the concern, @wizzwizz4, but the team did do their own research, and in fact found that many companies find benefit from surveys like these; so testing that hypothesis is the aim of the test.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 8:23
  • 17
    Thank you for warning about this before implementation. I recommend keeping this Q pinned in the Featured box for the duration of the test. "Click here to take a survey" is the kind of thing you see as clickbait to trick people into clicking malicious ads. Lots of people would mentally filter this out if you hadn't let us know it was happening and genuine.
    – bta
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 0:55
  • 16
    If you've been on the Internet for a while, your brain is wired to not interact with anything that looks like a banner ad, and it goes double for banner ads that have what looks like interactable elements (checkboxes, buttons, minigames). I doubt you'll get much engagement out of it. Commented Sep 22, 2023 at 10:30
  • 2
    @JNat What about users with ad blockers (presumably the majority of people visiting SE websites)? If the survey is displayed in a different location and with different methods, it's possible that people will see the survey without seeing the ads. Your results will then be skewed towards a population for which the advertisers are (presumably) not paying.
    – Nemo
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 12:43
  • 3
    FYI - Since this post was created, some complications have been run into so for now, this will only run on the main Stack Overflow site - will update if this changes in the future
    – Dalmarus StaffMod
    Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 19:20
  • 4
    @Dalmarus If that's so, it's probably a good idea to migrate this to Meta Stack Overflow. Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 19:28
  • 2
    Asking about the methodology, and will get back to you on that, @Nemo. As for your last questions, like I mentioned in this other comment, the survey will only be shown to users who are also shown specific ads, and in the same locations, so there's no risk that someone will be presented the survey without having been presented a relevant ad.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 17:51
  • 3
    Reading that the customers of stack exchange are those that advertise on it saddens me a little bit. I know it is true, but it is still a little sad. I harms the "build for the user" vibe a little bit.
    – T. Sar
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 13:40

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