To Be or Not to Be an Online Ad

Amateur film maker Dan Burke, at his Dayton, Ohio home, recreates a scene where he brushed his teeth with ketchup for a Heinz ketchup commercial contest on YouTube. Photograph by AJ Mast/The New York Times/Redux

The online advertising industry—with all its data on who people are and what they like to buy—is a sophisticated animal … sometimes. At other times, it looks an awful lot like a gangly adolescent trying to figure out its place in the world.

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