Balancing Branding With Intrusiveness

Everyone’s talking about AdSlap, the online ad technology that users simply can’t ignore. AdSlap banners are specially coded to pop up when you come to a page; the banners then trigger a process whereby you are slapped across the face and a glass of water is dumped in your lap.

Needless to say, AdSlap breaks through the clutter — brand awareness and ad recall are through the roof (even better than TV). Click-through rates are much higher than average. Bottom line: AdSlap can be an effective tool, as long as you can live with the hate mail and product boycotts.

How Much Is Too Much?

AdSlap is a joke. But if it were real, would it be a good idea? For brand advertisers, the answer is simple: No. As Tom Hespos pointed out in his column last week, overly intrusive, annoying ad campaigns can build brand awareness, but who cares about that if everyone hates you?

For years, advertisers have been complaining that plain-vanilla banner ads are too easy to ignore. Now, more and more, static banners are being replaced by in-your-face ads that all but guarantee that Web users will notice them.

But as new, intrusive ad units become more and more common, the question arises, How much is too much? Obviously, AdSlap would be going too far (if that were ever possible…). But devotion to GIFs can also be considered extreme. Where is the happy medium (as it were)?

It’s an issue that splits the industry. Proponents of in-your-face advertising point out that most Web content is free and users shouldn’t complain about not being able to avoid or ignore ads. Besides, they say, AOL has been hitting users with interstitials for years — and you can’t argue with success.

On the other side are publishers who are adamant about preserving the user experience on their sites: In the battle to attract and retain users, they are loath to do anything to annoy users or disrupt the flow of their visit through the site. On the same side of the battle lines sit some advertisers who don’t want to associate their brands with anything that might anger consumers.

Intrusive, But Welcomed

Using intrusive, rich media on the Web is like shooting off powerful fireworks. If they backfire, you are in a lot of trouble.

But if they go off well, the results can be inspiring. Recently, there have been some great, noticeable ad executions on the Web. On the Lycos Entertainment channel, LifeSavers is promoting a game by having images of the product cascade down the page.

And on Playboy.com (I go there for the articles), users watch an extensive animation sequence promoting the Jack Daniels brand before they enter the site. The ad ties in nicely with the Playboy brand and is at least mildly amusing.

The bottom line is that to be effective, advertising on the Web needs to strike a balance — between intrusiveness on the one hand, and user interest and satisfaction on the other. Though only the very best ads will be a value proposition in and of themselves, good Web advertising can be intrusive enough to be noticed, yet pleasant enough to build a brand.

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