Emboldened by Economy, Advertisers Push for More Takeovers

The homepage takeover can be a touchy subject with Web publishers. Marketers love them because they disrupt the reader’s browsing experience and grab their attention. Publishers often dislike them for the same reason.

But as ad revenues decline, giving advertisers a bit more leverage when it comes to media buying, homepage takeovers — complete with customized versions of once-sacred property like a publisher’s logo — seem to be on the rise.

Just this week, both MSN and TVGuide.com ran ads that integrated closely with their home pages, and even briefly obscured key elements.

Visitors to MSN on Thursday were greeted with animation of a Toyota Prius driving onto the screen, extending a rack of solar panels, and taking energy from the sun in MSN’s weather bug. The solar panels briefly obscure the weather module and some of the page’s navigation features.

“They were actually very reluctant to do it,” Scott Huebscher, an interactive creative director on the Toyota account at Saatchi and Saatchi, said of MSN.com. “We had to go back and forth a lot to make sure what we wanted to do would be OK for their users. They were very specific about it not covering [the navigation elements] up for more than three seconds.”

Also this week, TVGuide.com ran a full-page takeover by the A&E show Tattoo Highway, in which an artist travels the country in a mobile tattoo parlor. Not only did that ad place images on parts of the page that normally wouldn’t have them — including prime real estate like the search field — it featured a TV Guide logo re-imagined in the theme of the show. That ad was created by The Visionaire Group in Los Angeles.

AOL redesigned its logo for a day in April as well for a TurboTax campaign. It was the first time the company had altered its logo for an ad; it featured the familiar AOL letters but with a TurboTax checkmark in the “O.”

Huebscher said that if portals are more open to these kinds of deals now, it may have as much to do with emboldened advertisers as it does the publishers’ eagerness to win more ad revenue.

“I think advertisers like Toyota are pushing them a little harder,” he said. Advertisers “want to get seen and they want eyeballs on their product. We realize not everyone clicks a banner, so we wanted to make a splash in a different way, and other advertisers are gong that route as well.”

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