Notice me

New media for advertising are a pretty rare occurrence. The usual method of discovery relies on someone noticing an unused white space and figuring out how to get an advert into that space. I think the last time I saw an unused space become an advert was when CityRail sold the gaps between its steps leading to the platform.

Most other advertising spaces I can think of have been around since I was able to notice them.

By the time the Internet finally succumbed to advertising, the best the creative geniuses in ad land could come up with was to recycle the last smart idea they'd had: take the ads off the platform steps and make them into a banner ad. In fact, this metaphor is surprisingly apt. I bet you pay no attention to the platform step ads, either.

The problem for advertisers is that the average Web page doesn't get replaced by an advert. When you watch TV the program stops and the ads take over. You have to watch them or reach for the remote. When you read this magazine, an advertiser usually gets the whole page to themselves. Plenty of room to tell their story and perhaps convince you to try out their offerings. But the Web page doesn't go away to allow the ad centre stage. It just hangs around at the edges hoping you'll notice it. Plenty of pimply teenagers try the same strategy at the school dance. They don't get to do much dancing.

Would we accept adverts that periodically took centre stage on the Web page? I don't know. Since nobody has tried it on me, I can't really predict how I'll react if they do. One thing's for sure, I would definitely notice if the middle of the Web page I'm reading morphed into an ad. I certainly notice those ads that fire up their own little Web browser and start playing music while they showcase their wares. But they don't stop me doing what I was doing - reading a Web page - long enough for me to be able to tell you who it was that last did that to me. Can you?

A simple click of the mouse shuts those buggers down. Would I be able to do the same if the page I was reading was unavailable to me until I clicked on an "acknowledge" button? I suppose we'd soon become adept at pressing the button, the way we already "accept" whatever ludicrous licence agreement is presented to us with every downloaded software update. Perhaps we'd read more of the ad than we do now, which is practically none at all.

I'm not sure I like the direction this column is going. Some bastard in ad land is sure to try out this hare-brained idea and I'll cop the flak from everyone who hates it. What makes me so sure that anyone would bother to try and copy this lame idea? When was the last time you caught an advertiser doing anything creative without stealing it from somewhere else? The only people with less creative talent than most ad agencies are the stupid clients who sign off on their pathetic campaigns and then proceed to write them a cheque. That's one of the reasons why there are so many rich people running around who are so thick you can't even discuss the weather with them.

Which is why anybody in the ad game who is really talented stands out like the proverbial dog's whatsits.

A case in point is the new online agency AdSociety. They've done nothing more exciting than grab some nice landscape scenes to decorate their ads. But when those ads surround the Web page you're reading, it adds a nice ambience rather than an in-your-face annoyance. Those guys at Subaru nearly had me as a customer just because they took out ads on TV that showed nothing except their car driving through pretty countryside while playing some relaxing music. It beats being shouted at by some idiot who thinks his ute can drag the pub down the road.

I am reliably informed that without adverts no Web site can afford to exist. Can't we have more ads that aren't downright offensive? And I'm not saying I want all ads vetted by the Reverend Fred. I'm just sick of having my intellect offended.

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Ian Yates

PC World
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