MTV.com to Mess with a Good Thing

I love the background images on MTV.com, all of which are originally commissioned artworks. Go to the site and hit refresh a bunch of times or click around a bit and you’ll see what I mean. The frequently rotated graphics spill out to the right and left of the central pane, so if you’re seeing the site on a large screen it’s pretty powerful.

I learned recently MTV’s about to start plugging ads into that space, beginning with a sprawling placement for upcoming Robert Zemeckis flick Beowulf. Now I’m usually in favor of such experiments but this move strikes me as a mistake for two reasons. First, you’re replacing something very cool (indie drawings: non-commercial and an MTV tradition) with something uncool by comparison (pitch for a special effects blockbuster). But media companies do that sort of thing all the time (see: Campbell-sponsored recipes on AOL Food). The bigger error is that from what I’ve heard the Beowulf ad in its current form makes heavy use of the wider aspect ratio on the site, so they’re building the full experience for 10 percent or less of the audience — the ones with monitors over 21 inches.

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