3. Floating Ads
In today's advertising environment, you need the dexterity of a video-game pro to chase down the Close button on ads as they float across your display. These specimens, called floating ads or "page takeovers," briefly dominate your Web browser with a Flash-based animated message. You've probably seen them (perhaps even on--gulp--PCWorld.com) running across your screen as the page loads.
I asked one advertising insider (who didn't want to be identified) if he would confirm my suspicion that some advertisers intentionally make it impossible to find the Close button. His response? "Of course they do. These advertisers know they are getting away with something. And that 'something' is not about making your life easier."
4. Triple Threat: Floating Video Sales Pitch
Sometimes in the technology world, things go together like peanut butter and jelly. Other times, the convergence is a car wreck.
I spotted an online ad for Toyota in which a pint-size pitchman waltzed out from the lower-left corner of my screen. The combination video-audio-floating-takeover ad simply started yakking, with no warning, and the ad didn't disappear until he was done. Talk about an annoying car salesperson.
5. Mouse-Over Land Mine Ads
Ever think navigating a Web page with your mouse is like a game of Minesweeper? One wrong move, and--pow!--ads start springing up out of nowhere. For that, you can thank the advertising company Vibrant Media: Its IntelliTXT contextual advertising technology lets many sites display keyword pop-overs.
The service works by underlining certain words in an article so that when you run your pointer over one of them, an ad springs up. Wait a few seconds, and the ad disappears. Some of those ads can be text with images, or even videos. Either way, I find them horribly annoying.
These pop-overs are worse than the pop-up ads of the 1990s. Some Web pages are loaded with as many as eight IntelliTXT keyword pop-overs. At least you can kill off pop-up ads pretty easily with the Alt-F4 key command, whereas IntelliTXT ads always reside on the Web page, waiting to pounce. The result is a Web page full of pop-up distraction that makes reading the page's content difficult.
6. Viral Ads
Sometimes viral ads can be fun, like a personal favorite, "Will It Blend?" In this series of videos, an iPhone and other objects are pulverized in Blendtec blenders. Blendtec created the videos to promote its products in an unconventional way. The idea behind viral marketing is to make ads so compelling that a viewer wants to share them with a friend. Ideally, the viral ad, which is often a video, a picture, or a blog, spreads from inbox to inbox or blog to blog as quickly as a computer virus might.
The only problem with this often obnoxious form of advertising is that for every interesting viral ad we're subjected to at least a dozen annoying duds.
Sony tried to create buzz with a viral marketing campaign for its PlayStation Portable. Sony hired marketing company Zipatoni to create a blog titled "All I Want for Xmas Is a PSP" and pass it off as created by someone named Charlie. The blog contained glowing tributes to the PSP and linked to YouTube videos starring "Charlie" singing the praises of the handheld.
The blog created buzz all right, but not the positive kind that Sony sought. Word got out that both the blog and Charlie were fake. Immediately, Sony had to deal with an angry Web mob who ridiculed the vendor for trying to trick its customers. Sony eventually came clean and admitted to the charade.
Sony is in good company, joining other firms, such as Wal-Mart, that have taken grief for unsuccessful attempts at viral advertising.