The Fine Line Between Effective and Invasive Online Advertising

Banner blindness has most businesses giving up on the “ad at the top of the page tactic,” and looking at more invasive, hard to disregard strategies such as:

  • Placing ads over the content (obscuring text until the ad is closed)
  • Putting ads in the middle of the page (interrupting the content)
  • Using “splash screens” (displaying an ad while content loads)
  • Using “pop unders” (an advertisement that opens in another window and is seen when the viewer tries to close the browser).

Naturally, these intrusive approaches are annoying to everyone. They even annoy advertisers when they encounter them on the web — but what’s the solution? Businesses have to advertise to survive, right? Fortunately, there are some less irritating, yet still effective (perhaps more so since you aren’t ticking people off) strategies available. Here are some ideas:

In-Image Advertising

Maybe it’s video’s similarity to TV, but viewers tend to be less offended by ads in videos than other types of content, and they’re especially forgiving of in-image advertisements. In-image ads come in two types: banner and photostitial.

In-image banner ads appear at the bottom of the video screen. They lay over top the video, so they are noticeable, yet they don’t interrupt the video stream. Similarly, photostitial ads overlay the video; however, they are in the middle of the screen and can be skipped (disappear) after a few seconds.

Yes, these ads are somewhat invasive, but since the user can turn them off they are not as annoying.

In-Content Advertising

Undoubtedly, you’ve seen product placement on television shows (when the camera zooms uncharacteristically close on a soda can or cell phone). You can use a similar tactic in your content. If, for instance, you create YouTube videos, find a natural (operative word) way to work in your sponsor’s product. Or, if you write a blog, mention one of the products (again, naturally) in your postings. It helps if you have sponsors who relate to your industry, and always make sure your content takes center stage over any ad since that is what keeps people coming back.

Entertaining Advertising

If you can make your ads funny, entertaining, interactive, etc. consumers will want to view them. As proof you only need to look at viral videos like Toyota’s Swagger Wagon, the Old Spice Guy, and, of course, Blend Tec’s Will it Blend? Also, comedy and musical duo, Rhett and Link, have made an art out of internet advertising and given multiple humble, local businesses viral status.

In addition to videos, you can also use games, cartoons, memes, and anything that encourages consumer initiation.

What to Avoid

In addition to ensuring your ads don’t over power your content, you should also format your advertisements properly. Remember, consumers are accessing the internet with all types of devices (desktops, tablets, smartphones, etc.) and your ad should display properly on all. For instance, a banner may seem out of the way on the relatively large screen of a desktop, but on a smartphone it could monopolize the whole page, or if it’s too small, it might be hard to close.

One solution is to modify your advertisements per device while still keeping a cohesive message across all platforms. Consider the various ways you can reach your audience and try to integrate your advertising campaign across all mediums, so no matter how a consumer chooses to get online, they can find your message.

Finally, avoid using sneaky tactics. These will, at best, get you eye rolls, and, at worst, real feelings of animosity towards your brand.  For instance, don’t have your ads show up mysteriously, (like with pop unders) or use a “bait and switch” strategy where viewers expect content and get an ad instead.
Overall, if you stick to what’s deemed acceptable, don’t force feed people your ads, give users the option to close the ad, and provide entertainment, you’ll stay far away from the line that separates effective and invasive advertising.

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