Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Another Ad You Can’t Ignore: The New York Times Serves Up Old News

The Internet advertising industry is doing its best to grab the attention of Web surfers, who have been trained over the years to tune out the come-ons. Here’s the latest, from the New York Times (NYT): An ad for Canon (CAJ) that swaps out the entire front page of the paper’s business section, replaces it with a black-and-white version of the business section, circa June 2009, and then replaces that version with a color version of the same page. Eventually, the ad disappears and you get returned to the old version.

You’ll get the best sense of the ad if you head to the Times yourself, because it will auto-load, but if for some reason that doesn’t work, here’s a screen grab I took this morning:

I’m all for the industry trying new stuff, since my paycheck is at least partly dependent on ad dollars. And I think that outlets like the Times are more likely to succeed with extraordinary one-off presentations like the one that Apple (AAPL) ran on the cover of the Times and The Wall Street Journal a while back. And I’m also okay with publishers who allow advertisers to step between me and the stuff I want to see–within reason.

But the execution here seems off: When my screen turns from color to black and white, my first reaction isn’t “Cool, I wonder who sponsored the monochrome?” but “WTF? Is my MacBook busted?” My next reaction: “What happened to the headlines I was just reading?” And the next: “Maybe I should be reading a different site.”

That can’t be what Canon and the Times were hoping for, right?

Another problem: I’m not in the market for a printer (or is it a copier?) and I don’t know that I ever will be. I know that ad buyers don’t really care about that and that they’re generally trying to reach a very wide swath of people who fall into my general demographic profile.

But if you’re going to make it hard for me to get to the content I want, don’t you want to make sure you’re doing it for a good reason?

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle