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By: Charlie Taylor


The Internet has always been home to the weird and the
wonderful, but in the past few weeks I've discovered some strange
new phenomena that left me slightly perplexed.

Going online a couple of weeks ago I came across an animated
mouse on a motorbike speeding across the webpage I was visiting.
At first I tried to take no notice of it because I've come across
stranger stuff on the Net before. However, as I scrolled down the
page, the mouse followed me until I got bored of its presence and
escaped to another website.

As I was later to find out, my monitor was not possessed and
neither had the website been defaced by fiendish hackers. The
rodent on wheels was merely a new type of online ad informing me
that a telecom operator in Ireland had launched a new high-speed
Internet service that would make it quicker to surf the Net.

This wasn't the first time I had come across such an ad. A second
website I visited seemed to disappear from view, only to be
replaced by an animated motor car saving planet earth from alien
attack, while yet another site bombarded me with the moving
image of a new mobile phone that prevented me from viewing the
page properly.

Welcome to the world of rich media ads, a relatively new online
advertising format which features video or animation that float or
walk across web pages as you surf.

If you've not come across such a format yet, then be warned, you
will do soon. New research from Nielsen-Netratings indicates that
advertisers are wising up to the fact that Internet users dislike
traditional forms of online advertising such as banners and pop-up
ads and so are coming up with new formats to tempt us into
clicking through.

Nielsen-Netratings latest report reveals that traditional companies
such as General Motors and Procter & Gamble are increasingly
turning to rich media online ads because they're seen to cut
through the clutter of general online advertising, and result in more
selective placements for advertising. In fact, nine out of the top ten
rich media advertisers in the US in Q1, 2002 were traditional
companies, rather than dotcoms, according to Nielsen-Netratings.

Unlike formats such as pop-up or pop-under ads which deluge the
poor Internet user with a thousand and one links to sites they don't
want to visit, rich media ads seek to hide the fact that they're
trying to sell you something by dazzling the consumer with smartly
designed concepts and groovy looking graphics.

However, in order to do this, they tend to interfere with your
viewing by following you around the page and generally making a
nuisance of themselves. While Internet users have become used to
being bombarded by ads whenever they go online, the annoyance
factor associated with rich media ads is worse than any other
format I've come across.

What makes them particularly galling is the fact that there seems
to be no easy way to close them. Most of these ads are delayed for
a few seconds until the full ad is shown, meaning that Internet
users have to sit through them whether they want too or not.
Internet users are by their very nature, an impatient bunch. They
don't have time to waste waiting for webpages to load, and neither
do they have the patience to put up with distractions such as ads
that can't easily be closed.

A study released by Taylor Nelson Softres confirms this. It found
that word of mouth recommendations were more important than
driving traffic to a website than search engines or links. It also
discovered that Internet users would only recommend sites that
they found enjoyable to use. The report concluded that most
websites were still failing to recognise the importance of user
satisfaction in encouraging both new and regular visitors.

Perhaps websites should keep this in mind when accepting rich
media ads from clients because while Internet users may
appreciate the fact that sites need to earn an income, anything
which impacts on their enjoyment while online is going to have
serious repercussions.

Perhaps the majority of Internet users will follow my example and
stay away from sites that bombard the user with ads that can't be
easily shut off. That way websites might wise up and start
respecting the wishes of Internet users, and concentrate on
welcoming users, rather than annoying them.

About the Author

Charlie Taylor
IVS Internet Newsletter
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