Opinions - Skip this. Why online broadcast ads are a disaster.


by Magnus Shaw



Hello. And welcome to the Creativep ... LOUD MUSIC, SHOUTING, SOUND EFFECTS ... ool blog. I thought it would be useful to dis ... POP SONG, KIDS GIGGLING, CORNY JINGLE ... cuss how advertisers are handling broadcast ads on the inter ... LOUD MUSIC, SHOUTING, SOUND EFFECTS AGAIN ... net.

However, it's proving rather tricky because of all the unwelcome and unsolicited interruptions.



As the web began to pick up public popularity (perhaps around 1995), the advertising industry realised a whole new marketing platform was establishing itself. But, as most people used a dial-up modem, it didn't seem particularly exciting. In fact, the new media was largely hobbled by its sluggish load times and unpredictable, narrow-band connections. For a couple of years most internet advertising was of the 'Times New Roman copy plus hyperlink' variety. But bandwidth increased, 'always on' connections became more common and creative scope increased. Suddenly we had banners. In vivid colour! Some even moved. This allowed web advertising to leapfrog print ads. Banners and buttons may have been a bit primitive and clumsy at first, but now we were up and running with a brand new format.

As is often the case with new advertising trends, it wasn't long before everyone got a bit carried away and the era of the dreaded pop-up arrived. And boy, how we hated the pop-up! Navigating to a gig guide, weather forecast or news story invited a garish display to splash across your requested content, imploring you to buy vitamins, Viagra or Prozac (the latter to soothe one's shredded nerves, presumably). People tell me the 'erotic website' experience was particularly badly affected, which I'll have to take on trust.

Eventually, new versions of web browsers were coded to block pop-up advertising and the much detested format all but died. (There was an alternative called pop-unders, which appeared behind your chosen page thereby rendering themselves almost pointless).

Which brings us to the present. Thanks to Flash, HTML 5, faster browsers and more efficient wi-fi connectivity, internet advertising is now fully functioning broadcast advertising. And what a fantastic creative opportunity that represents. Clients now have access to the impact and engagement of television at a fraction of the cost of spots on ITV, Channel Four, Five and Sky.

So where is the intelligence, flair and innovation afforded by the online platform?

I ask because, almost without exception, all I see is the same work created for TV, transplanted to a miniature player and embedded in a website page. And worse, there is an increasing tendency for these clips to launch automatically when the page loads. As a user experience this is a disaster. There's always a place for subtle, disruptive advertising, but when the message intrudes, unbidden into my visit to a website, I am forced to scroll the browser in a frustrated attempt to find the player and halt its noisy progress. If the advertiser imagines this endears me to their brand, inspiring me to further investigate their offering and, perhaps make a purchase, they are very much mistaken.

Making an advertisement hard to ignore is not the same as making an advertisement effective.

Let's imagine you're settling down to watch Downton Abbey. A few seconds after the programme begins, a clip appears over Maggie Smith's face, telling you about a 0% interest deal on a leather sofa. This clip is programmed to play until you can find a button on the screen and zap it with your remote control. Are you more likely to watch the clip in detail, noting down the make and model of this fabulous piece of furniture, or curse the advertiser, the channel, the technology, and the idiot who put the clip there in the first place?

As creatives, we wouldn't suggest this approach to a TV client and as viewers, we wouldn't put up with it. However, on line, this clumsy, blunt and unimpressive display is everywhere. We can and should do better. The best place for ads made for television is the television. The web is crying out for exciting, amusing and intelligent ads, designed solely for the web. If they're good enough, there'll be no need to auto-launch them - visitors will actively seek them out and play them.

Fosters recently published a branded comedy website. They signed Armando Ianucci and Steve Coogan to write and produce new Alan Partridge episodes and screened them exclusively on their site. Users (me included) were more than happy to visit for each new show as it was uploaded. Fosters logos were everywhere, but nobody was annoyed or frustrated, just entertained and amused.

This is a shining example of smart internet advertising. Unfortunately, it's an exception not a rule.

So, I hope you enjo ...LOUD MUSIC, SHOUTING, SOUND EFFECTS ... yed this Creativepool blog and the next time you're using a popular ... POP SONG, KIDS GIGGLING, CORNY JINGLE ... website, your experience isn't ruined by the advertising.

Magnus Shaw is a copywriter, blogger and consultant.

Visit Magnus Shaw's website 
"ADVICE" a collection of Magnus Shaw's columns is now available as a Kindle book.


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