Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Coming to a Web Site Near You: Bigger, More Obnoxious Ads

times-squareThose Apple Web ads–intrusive, hard to ignore, but clever and entertaining–I was admiring yesterday? Get ready for a lot more like that. At least the intrusive and hard-to-ignore part.

That’s because the Online Publishers Association, one of the Web ad industry’s main trade groups, is rolling out a new series of in-your-face ad units–standardized blocks of space that Web publishers and advertisers favor because they make it easy to mass-produce marketing messages.

The new standards are meant to combat “banner blindess”–our collective, unconscious and successful efforts to block out and ignore most Web advertising.

ClickZ has the details, but the key point is that the ads are going to be ginormous and gaudy–think monster trucks with sirens and flashing lights. The numbers they’re referring to in the quotation below are pixels; by way of comparison, the column of text you’re reading now is about 350 pixels wide:

“Among the new units being debuted are: the ‘fixed panel,’ a 336 x 860 panel that looks embedded into the page and scrolls to the top and bottom of the page as the user scrolls; the ‘XXL Box,’ which is 468 x 648 and allows users to actually turn ‘pages’ and watch video; and the ‘pushdown,’ which is 970 x 428 which opens to display a nearly full-page ad and then rolls up to the top of the page.”

The reasonable thing to point out here is that there’s nothing that prohibits advertisers and publishers from doing interesting and creative stuff with these formats–just like Apple (AAPL). And if you’re really lucky, you’ll find that the ads are even about stuff you’re interested in learning about. That’s the key, remember, to Google’s (GOOG) success (and note how unobtrusive most of Google’s ads are).

But if the ads aren’t interesting and aren’t relevant to you? It’s the kind of thing that could drive a mild-mannered person to install ad-blocking software.

If you want to see this stuff live, keep your eyes peeled at sites run by ESPN, the New York Times, MTV and Condé Nast Digital, which are among the 24 publishers that have agreed to start running at least one of the ad units by July.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work