More on the bad ads
March 3, 2002 9:39 AM   Subscribe

More on the bad ads that seem to be going around the web. This time, I went to see what was on tv, and a Six Feet Under ad took over the entire screen. Talk about not being able to use the website.
posted by thebwit (18 comments total)
Not only that, but they have a convienient link to schedule an @Home install. Wow!
posted by Samizdata at 10:22 AM on March 3, 2002

aaron briefly mentioned this. seems to be the new trend in advertising.
posted by mikhail at 10:23 AM on March 3, 2002

In a further move toward general cognitive dissonance, the World Wrestling Federation has been moving towards tasteful textads.

a) actually worked on Mozilla, being a Flash ad
b) didn't actually take over the whole screen (on Mozilla); I could scroll down, though there didn't seem to be a way to dismiss it.
c) gone after two bars of the theme music; no biggie
d) keeps a free service free.
posted by dhartung at 10:34 AM on March 3, 2002

"A friend of mine" told me that at the begining of each month, playboy has a nice 10-30 second ad by either Jack Daniels or Southern Comfort. Can't skip it, can't get around it at all. You are forced to watch it. Of course, if you delete your cookies, then you have to watch it again, and again, and again. But that is just what a friend told me.
posted by willsey at 10:43 AM on March 3, 2002

I didn't see any add because Guidscope blocked them out. I do see the Text Ads on Metafilter and I often click through.
posted by MaddCutty at 10:45 AM on March 3, 2002

Had it happen on A car drove all over the screen, then the sales pitch. Starting to look more and more like TV, have to wait for the commercial to air before watching the content your are interested in.
posted by hockeyman at 11:33 AM on March 3, 2002

Can anyone recommend a good free ad proxy that runs on Win2K that can act as a proxy for other machines on the network?
posted by machaus at 11:35 AM on March 3, 2002

FWIW, here, it only appears if you mouse over the traditional ad. Move the cursor, and it disappears. Moz 0.9.8 via galeon.
posted by louie at 11:35 AM on March 3, 2002

I already responded to this in an earlier reply, but I'll say it again: this is no more annoying than NPR pledge drives, commericials breaking up a good episode of The Iron Chef, or billboards that take over my public space. Right, you're "not able to use" the website -- for a couple seconds. I can't "use" the television for at least 3 minutes at a time (well, unless I get a TiVo).
posted by rex at 12:46 PM on March 3, 2002

OK, this is nearly totally off topic, but not worthy of a separate front page post, methinks, so I apologize in advance if I am committing thread-jacking:

It seems a lot of site designers never think past the cool stuff they *can* do and try to calculate how annoying all of that coolness might be.

Case in point, Dido's official site (warning pop-up with bullshit clunky TV/remote metaphor). And I would point out that this site has been substantially improved from homocide-inducing annoyance to causing a mild state of piqued peevishness.

As I was researching an article, I *had* to go to this site. Clearly it was a *cool* idea. Also, clearly, it was clumsy, unworkable, and a bother. The only way to escape from the original site was to exit the browser (at least IE6). This newer version at least leaves your old window up in the background.

Except for hydra-headed porno site ads making fractionals off of clickthrough or something, is it ever a good idea to take away control of the browser from the user, wipe out all toolbars and buttons, fill the screen with flash so that even right-clicking is no option? Am I missing some subtle marketing ploy here? Or is this a case of the geek urge to do cool things despite their actual real-world value?
posted by umberto at 1:21 PM on March 3, 2002

I disagree, Rex; it is quite different. When NPR pledge drives come on, and commercials are aired on TV, people generally accept them because they have a choice. If they so desire, they can just sit there and watch/listen; if not, they can zone out, change the station for a couple minutes and then come back, go raid the refrigerator, etc. But when you're online, looking at a computer screen, you can't get up and go somewhere and come back a couple seconds later; it's too short a time length. You're pretty much forced against your will to see the ad; no other medium can pull that off.

The problem's not that this is somehow immoral, though; it's that web usability studies show over and over that if you put something on your web site that in any way interferes with the user's ability to get at the information on the page, a huge percentage of them will simply close the window and go away. They won't sit contentedly and watch, they won't spend those several seconds intellectually analyzing the matter and deciding that "well, web sites need to make money too"; they simply see a web site either malfunctioning or intentionally being too annoying to deal with, and they immediately give up and go somewhere else. It's just the way our brains are wired to deal with such things. I mean, we already know that the average person will only wait 7 seconds for a page to at least load to the point where some part of it is readable/usable before cancelling the request. So for a page as glacially slow-loading as the TV Guide listings page to put this sort of ad on top of it is practically suicidal.

(‡Actually, there is a growing debate in the journalism community as to whether these sorts of ads constitute a breach of journalistic ethics, because they literally mix advertising content and editorial content in the exact same spot, and utterly prevent a reader from avoiding it. It's nowhere near a settled issue though, and I doubt many outside the news media care about that specific point.)
posted by aaron at 1:47 PM on March 3, 2002

willsey: in reference to the monthly playboy southern comfort ad i've found that if you close the window while it is playing it will open another window at's homepage. my guess is that they don't want people coming to the site, getting annoyed by the ad and then never visiting their site.

btw, i found this out while testing content filtering software. =)
posted by suprfli at 3:23 PM on March 3, 2002

Hey it was just a friend of mine who told me about it...
posted by willsey at 4:01 PM on March 3, 2002

Aaron, studies have shown that if you sprinkle a bunch of commercials in your perfectly good episode of "60 Minutes," less people are going to watch. It's "not usable." Jakob might even tell ya that some people will surf over to "Scooby Doo" during those commercial breaks, and never come back. Gasp!

Okay, end of sarcasm, but like I said earlier, no one hates advertising more than me, but unless someone comes up with a methodology by which to get eyeballs to at least glance at this stuff -- cuz they certainly haven't so far -- then me and a lot of my colleagues are outta jobs. Well, okay, a lot of them already are. (I kinda miss working on magazines anyway. It wouldn't make me cry too much if we suddenly decided "no one will make money from the internet," and used the medium exclusively for stupid Flash games. Honest.)

The ability to look away from a two-second web commercial should be as easy as it is to look away from a 30-second tv commercial. Hell, I have a harder time looking away from the hotties in the Prada adverts in the New Yorker than I do any of these. I can't even remember what the ad was that started this thread and it won't come back unless I clear my cache, but those Prada hotties -- yikes, I have to fold the cover over while reading the Anthony Lane reviews because it's so... intrusive.

Do I think it's annoying? Hell yeah. Can I look away? Yup. Can I go someplace else? Yup, for at least a little while, until everyone's doing it. Will I get used to this little interuption? Yup.

This will be a non-issue in a few years. You'll get used to watching a 5 second commercial break before reading your New York Times article. And the cranky ethicists like myself will make damn sure that you know that it's an ad and not an extra feature.

It's not as though I really like this. About four months ago, a specially-assigned group of journalists and usability specialists where I work had to decide whether we were going to allow these new types of advertising to invade our websites. And the jury is still out -- I'm a hold-out vote.

(Final note on usability: if done right, these adverts shouldn't affect download times. These can/should load only after the rest of the page has loaded, thus not slowing down the downloading of the actual content.)
posted by rex at 7:44 PM on March 3, 2002

(...adverts shouldn't affect download times. These can/should load only after the rest of the page has loaded, thus not slowing down the downloading of the actual content.)

Before Guidescope and DSL, that was one of my biggest beefs: the ads seemed to queue first and adservers were often so buy that my little 56k connection often took minutes to finally get the content on the screen.

Actually, someone asked me that the other day and not being a web designer I had no idea what to tell her: can you force the loading of the ads first on a site? Or is that just an false perception?
posted by umberto at 7:50 PM on March 3, 2002

You can force them to be first or you can force them to be last. In most cases of "rich media" ads that I've seen (similar to the one under discussion here), they're forced to load last. (Most sites also have standards on how big an ad they'll accept. Rich media ads are ususally 20-25K, which really isn't that big. Banners are ususally around 10K.)
posted by rex at 8:01 PM on March 3, 2002

Just thought I'd mention (again) that those of you using MS IE can utilize its "Security Zones" feature to eliminate nearly all of the web's advertising unpleasantness.

Simply disable Java/JavaScript and ActiveX for the default "Internet Zone" but leave those features enabled for your "Trusted Sites." Simple and free.
posted by johnnyace at 12:57 AM on March 4, 2002

Go to for your tvguide needs. admittedly one popup ad tries to get you to subscribe to get the listing emailed to you. you may or may not fid this more annoying than having your screen hijacked.

I have nothing to do with the website, I just needed an alternative to after their ads became unbearable.
posted by Nauip at 1:14 PM on March 4, 2002

« Older "linked to President Yasser Arafat's Fatah...   |   PC users are eeeevil! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments