The ten online ad formats people hate

This post will show you why I don’t believe in banner ads. Yes, they’re good for branding, but there are so many that just drive me up the wall! The following article is copied nearly verbatim from Business Insider (article by Nicholas Carlson). The original was done in a slide show format, which, incidentally, I think should have been #11 on this annoying ads list.

Before I get into it, I read another article on banner ads today. This one was in AdAge and described ways that publishers are trying to spruce up display. Sadly, three of their five examples were merely asking the user to chose which ad they’re forced to watch before they get to the content they want. When will publishers learn that frustrating people with annoying ads or forcing them to watch something is not going to make the user a fan of the product? Someone should invent Tivo for the internet and teach them all a lesson!

On to the top 10 most annoying online display formats!

Banner ad below header – This ad breaks the page and separates the site navigation from the content area, making it difficult to determine where you are located within the site and how to find related content. The ad also pushes useful content below the fold, decreasing the likelihood that people will see it.

Ads that look like content – Both ads on this page (the banner under the header and the billboard on the right) appear to provide mortgage rate information and / or a rate calculator. The ads are designed to be visually consistent with the site so visitors may click on or interact with the ad thinking it is site content and unintentionally leave the site. (Magda’s note: I actually think this can work really well, but only if the content you click through to is relevant. Not many people do this well as witnessed by the fact that I can’t think of any examples right now…)

Dancing ads – Ads with animation (in this case, the dancing woman) can be very distracting as they are often the only element on the page that is in motion. Also, these ads are often of a low quality, which can decrease the perceived credibility of the site. The risk, of course, is that users will be irritated and leave.

Auto-expanding half page ads – This half page ad lies on top of the page content and requires visitors to close it before they can view the underlying content. This is annoying because it interrupts a user’s task.

Banner next to logo – Brands used to be totally opposed to such close proximity between their logo and an ad, but many are now totally willing to use this high visibility area of the page to insert a banner. This format has the advantage of not pushing content further down below the fold, but it also requires that the logo fit into a fairly small space in the corner and diminishes the clarity and visibility of the branding.

Billboard in top right corner – Placing a 300 wide billboard ad at the top of the right column of the page can signal to visitors that there is no “real” content below the ad. It also uses up valuable above-the-fold real estate that could be used for links or promotions to engage users to click further through the site. (Magda’s note: I realise I’m guilty of this one, but it’s part of the theme I’m using and I’m not advanced enough in HTML to change it. Hope you don’t mind too much…)

Google text links interrupting content – Placement of Google PPC text ads inline with content breaks the content and forces visitors to “jump” the ad to view the rest of the content. Clearly the intent (or hope) is that users will mistake the links for content and click on them.

Hidden close button – These floating ads will often creatively hide the close button, or delay its appearance, causing visitors to have hunt for it – often only finding it after the animation has finished. This forces users to view the entire animation which is a most unwelcome interruption in many cases.

Interstitial – Full page interstitial ads require a click to get to the site. Again, an interruption like this is never welcome and can create a negative impression of the site. (Magda’s note: If you’re going to do this, at least make sure there’s something worthwhile for the user to see/do if they do click. Nothing’s worse than a forced click only so the agency can say how much users are interacting with their creation… Don’t piss of your customers.)

Page take over – Often loud, garish, and repetitive, page takeovers make it difficult to know what is ad and what is content – especially when the underlying colors of the site design are altered to match the takeover. This can be extremely disorienting for users – particularly those who are used to the “normal” site design.

It’s DEFINITELY not Google

I couldnt’t help but chuckle when I saw the big bad Bing ad. Indirectly – but definitely intentionally – it connects people Googling with the Global Financial Crisis. Hmmmm… OK. Looks like someone didn’t have any better material to work with.  I’m not Bing-bashing. I’ve used it and it’s been pretty good. I’m just surprised about the in-your-face antiGoogleism.

Macs are compared against PCs quite successfully without being insulting or overdramatic. In fact, PC is quite lovable in those ads. You don’t hate PC after you watch them. You don’t blame PC for your other problems. You still like him, you just feel a bit sorry for him. And even PC users can identify with the issues presented in those ads because they are real problems with Windows.

Bing, however, seems to be grasping at straws. Making statements like “We don’t need queries and keywords if they bring back questions and confusion” is basically saying that Google results are not relevant. When’s the last time you heard someone say “That damn Google. I searched for apples but all Google gave me was oranges.” You don’t hear that because Google is smart, intuitive and it spits out relevant results.

Even Bing’s claim to be the “Decision Engine” (as compared to Google) doesn’t work. What’s the last time you complained about Google Maps local search results or handy build-in Google tools like conversion formulas? You don’t. Because you like them.

I just hope that this search engine that not only named itself after Google (Bing is Because It’s Not Google) and modeled 95% of it’s look after Google finds it’s own point of differentiation and doesn’t rely on Google to fail in order to make it the top cat.

Here’s the ad that’s currently all over TV in the US.