Microsoft Yanks Ads After WebTV Users Complain

Confusion and complaints over ads placed in the read-and-write area of email pages on Microsoft’s WebTV led the company to pull the banner ads the day after the new placement was deployed.

Such conflict highlights the need to be sensitive and clear with ad placement, even while Web companies seek to wring as much revenue as possible from site traffic.

Microsoft WebTV users on March 2 noticed that banner ads appeared in the portion of the screen where they composed their messages.

“From Microsoft’s perspective, that was perfect, because that’s where the eyeballs are,” says Melissa Wilson, a Microsoft (MSFT) spokesperson.

But users, fearing that these ads would be sent to the recipients of the email, voiced and emailed complaints to WebTV. The next day, the company yanked the ads.

“The key issue that customers were worried about was that the ads were being sent to their friends,” Wilson said.

The ads weren’t sent along with the email, but were meant to be viewed by the subscriber as he composed an email message. WebTV had placed ads on the email screen before, but never in the box in which users compose their messages.

In future, Wilson said, Microsoft will inform customers via email when new ads will appear, so they’re not taken by surprise. The company is still deciding whether to return the ads to the email read-and-write area. If they are returned, they’ll be re-designed to look, “less threatening,” according to Wilson. The company will also decrease the rotation of ads, so they appear less often.

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