I hate Intrusive Web Ads - The Intrepid

Monday, November 17, 2008

I hate Intrusive Web Ads

Intrusive Web AdsWe see ads everywhere. They’re on television, in magazines, on billboards, and all over the internet. We never get a break, except perhaps when we sleep.

As we spend more and more of our time on the internet, we subject ourselves to even more ads. But, while ads in conventional mediums have boundaries, internet ads do not.

Think about it. Magazines are full of ads, but they usually don’t interfere with the articles. Sure, an article might be broken up by several ads, especially if it’s a multi-page piece, but the ads don’t creep over and blot out the article itself. Television shows have commercials, product placement, and the occasional promo at the bottom of the screen, but the ads never obscure the show itself. While these kinds of advertisements might be annoying, they don’t really interfere with content.

Comparatively, internet ads are designed to be as intrusive as possible. How many times have you loaded up a website, only to see a giant flash ad covering the entire page? Try to scroll down, and the ad follows you. Want to close it? Good luck finding the tiny little red X. If you finally manage to click the X, the ad usually takes its sweet time to close.

The worst ads are those that activate when you accidentally move your mouse over them. Trying to quietly read an article in your cubical? Don’t want to disturb your co-workers? Not a chance, when the 007 theme blares out your speakers and Daniel Craig’s face pops up on your screen after you accidentally scrolled over that Quantum of Solace ad.

Some sites are a lot worse than others, but the worst offenders are often gaming sites. Gaming sites have a problem. Most of their tech savvy users have ad blockers. To compensate for this, the ad department frequently builds ads directly into the site. The result: some of the most intrusive and annoying ads on the internet.

The worst gaming site is probably IGN. IGN’s ads are gaudy, frustrating, loud, and laggy. The site already suffers from slow down issues due to its over abundance of useless features. The full page flash ads just make things that much worse.

Today, IGN featured a full page Shaun White Snowboarding ad. At first glance, the ad didn’t seem too intrusive. The main parts of the advertisement were in the proper ad boxes, at the top and right side of screen, and snow was falling lightly in the background of the entire page. The ad slowed the site down, but it didn’t obscure any actual material. However, when I tried clicking on a link to an article, I was taken to Ubisoft’s Shaun White Snowboarding page. A little confused, I tried another link and the same thing happened again. Going back to the main page, I took a closer look at the ad, and there in the top right hand corner was a tiny little red X. Apparently, to properly access the material at IGN, I needed to disable the snow in the background. How lame.

Gamespot and Gamespy are also guilty of using overly intrusive ads, but they aren’t nearly as bad as IGN.

Another culprit is Yahoo Games. Yahoo Games has several poorly implemented flash ads that can bring any scrabble session to a halt. The ads aren’t even particularly garish, but for some reason or other, most likely poor coding, these ads pack a wallop.

Obviously, warez, torrent, and porn sites probably have the most intrusive ads, but when you walk down the darkest corners of the internet you’re taking a risk.

I use the Firefox add-on Ad Block Plus, so I often don’t see many ads, unless they're built into the site. To experiment, I tried turning off Ad Block Plus and checking out a few of my favourite sites.


I accidentally moved my mouse over the banner at the top of the screen, and look what happened! The banner morphed into a giant annoying video ad.


Same thing, my mouse slipped over the banner ad and the pop-up expanded over the “Features” section. (Surprise, surprise, Rottentomatoes is part of the IGN network.)



Ad revenue keeps the web free, but do ads really need to be so intrusive? If ads were simple, and tasteful, I probably wouldn’t even need to use an ad blocker. Unfortunately, intrusive ads are also the most cost effective. The click-through rate on these types of ads are higher than conventional banner or skyscraper ads, often only because they trick people into clicking on them.

Worse, the current economic crisis is only going to make ads all the more intrusive. As ad revenue declines, advertisers are going to come up with sleazier methods to generate high click-through rates.


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