Online advertising is a $65 billion worldwide business, and growing again after the past year’s economic lull. But while television ads might be Superbowl-worthy or amusingly worthy of ridicule, online ads can be downright annoying. Marketers try all sorts of novelty to make sure ads get noticed and clicked on, but, many will argue that there are more than a handful of types that go too far: eventually eye candy becomes an eyesore. Here are YieldBuild’s candidates for the most obnoxious online ad formats:
1. The Pop-Up
More of an annoyance 5-6 years ago before pop-up blockers got really good, the occasional ones manages to slip through every now and then, leaving us to play whack-the-mole with the close window button. Leave-behinds (that entreat you to return to the site when you’ve made it clear you want to go) and pop-unders are equally annoying cousins. Netflix, while I love its service, is a notoriously pervasive pop-up advertiser.
2. Autoplay audio and video
There is nothing quite as infuriating as opening a page and wondering why it’s screaming “helloooo?” to you. Chances are it’s an ad peddling high-res emoticons. Autoplay music is something tweeners might have become accustomed to because of MySpace, but the rest of us typically hit the close-window or back button as quickly as possible.
Autoplay video is something even the IAB is trying to step in and squelch, before advertisers overeager to replicate television-style ads turn off Web visitors for years. Often incorporating sound as well, a simple page load forces you to download and sit through noise and visual distraction unless you can be bothered to click the tiny control button to pause it.
3. Deceptive system-message ads
A favorite among malware promoters, this variant of a popup looks deceptively like a Windows or antivirus window, down to the blue control bar on top and Windows system font. They typically use confusing language, like “Do you not want to leave your computer vulnerable to viruses?” and leave you afraid to even click the red-X close-window button.
4. Disgusting pictures
Yes, we understand the acai berry is chock full of antioxidants, but do you really need to show someone’s distended gut to make your point? And will saffron-yellow teeth scare you into buying teeth whiteners online? When I read an innocuous news article, I’m not sure I want to see the inside of a zombie’s mouth in the periphery. Who really clicks on these things?
5. Cheesy animations
Popular among mortgage lenders, who have cut all sorts of unsavory deals over the years, have found a bizarre form of ad that is totally unrelated to their product offering: videos of women or silhouettes dancing. They’ve faded in popularity recently, although that might not be too surprising; one look at these animations and your first thought is “subprime.”
6. Imperfect targeting
Behavioral, geo or demographic targeting that only goes part of the way ends up defeating the purpose of targeting altogether. If you live in San Francisco, for example, geotargeting that suggests you live in Hayward is not a compliment. Demographic targeting based on a geo/IP mapping may serve up the wrong types of ads when there are huge income disparities in a region. And lots of people don’t like to be reminded of discreet searches following them for weeks afterwards in the form of ads that creepily know just a little too much about you.
7. Prerolls on video clips
Video advertising makes sense for high-quality longer-form video. A total of 3 minutes of advertising on an hour-long TV show on Hulu seems more than reasonable to me (even if many of them seem to be PSAs). But a 30-second commercial before seeing an under-minute clip? You’ve got to be kidding me. As much as I love Comedy Central, I’d rather watch grainy bootleg than sit through so many prerolls ahead of their Reno 911 clips.
8. Page Takeovers
These Flash-based ads that run aground the page you’re trying to view can sometimes be intriguing, but usually they’re pretty annoying. And while most have a “close” button, good luck sometimes finding it. They’re hidden in a way that makes you sit through a 10-second video as your pointer dances around the ad looking for a way to close it.
I don’t know if this the right term for it, but these ads are the ones that look like simple image ads that flood into the rest of the frame, often occluding content you’re trying to look at, if you accidentally run a mouse across them. They often load video, so while you’re waiting for that clip to download, you’re staring at a blank box that’s covering the article you want to read. Finding the close/minimize button can often be tougher than finding Waldo.
10. The Stalker
The Stalker is what I call that “helpful” animated person that appears at a bottom corner of your screen and begins talking to you unsolicited. I’m not sure why the news of the Microsoft Office Paperclip pest’s demise wasn’t relayed to the creators of this ad type. And, unlike their real-world counterpart, the car salesman, the Stalker will ignore you when you curtly say, “I’m just looking.”