By way of distraction from the work I was supposed to be doing today, I clicked on a link to a piece of writing on a reputable music website. About a paragraph into the article an unexpected thing happened. The webpage was suddenly obscured by a graphic of a brick wall. Before I could make any sense of this, a wrecking ball swung into view, knocking down the wall.
Funnily enough, I hadn't been drinking or sniffing magic markers - this actually happened. And it was an advertisement. In fact, it was an advertisement for TicTacs. Once the wall had been obliterated, the screen showed a static photograph of a TicTac pack shot and some lines promoting their new apple flavour sweets. I had to reload the site to return to my article.
I suppose, about fifteen years ago, we had fantasies about online advertising being like this. Loads of brash animation leaping about the place, hidden reveals, big brand exposure - maximum user disruption. As soon as we saw horrific executions in the form of flashing banners and animated GIFs, we rather changed our minds. Unfortunately, I'm not sure we ever really established a smarter alternative.
In terms of digital display advertising, we're in an almighty pickle.
Of course, web marketing has now scurried away in the direction of social platforms. But in terms of straightforward digital display advertising, we're still in an almighty pickle. Banners and MPUs (and there's a silly piece of jargon) continue to largely consist of unnecessary roll-outs and expanding boxes. Or worse, contain auto-play videos which urge the visitor to click away as quickly as possible just to force the unwelcome racket to stop.
There are variations on the internet advertising theme. A very well-known financial site has an ad as their landing page which the user must stare at while a timer counts down to the moment they are permitted to access the homepage (perhaps this works, but it strikes me as a terrible idea). Another entertainment site asks us to view a minimum of three ads before they stop appearing and obscuring the content.
While I understand every professional site needs a revenue stream, irritating your audience to the point of anger is pretty rum way to run an advertising programme. If you think television viewers are likely to tune away when the ads begin, just look at the research on internet use.
Of course, all effective advertising must have a disruptive element if it is to be noticed - but to drive away an engaged user by masking the very content which brought him or her to your site is lunacy.
I'm not averse to TicTacs. Actually, I used to really enjoy their cinnamon line, which I don't think they make any more. However, I can absolutely guarantee I am less likely to try their apple flavour since a photo of the blasted things interrupted my enjoyment of an article on musicians' royalties. I've never tasted them (apple TicTacs, not royalties), but thanks to this full-screen wrecking ball thing, I now associate the sweets with a good read ruined. I assume this was not part of the brief, nor the intention of the manufacturer.
Magnus Shaw is a copywriter, blogger and consultant