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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger

Why Advertising On The Internet Sucks
July 6th, 1999

I think advertising is an unavoidable phenomenon on the Internet. Face the facts. Do you think you would be able to read this page at the Mac Observer if there were no banners supporting the site? However, advertising is something people hate, and I agree with the many people who feel that some changes should take place. Advertising needs to reform for a few reasons. Current advertising is usually ugly, tasteless and seldom very smart.

Let us tackle the cosmetics first. If one thing needs major improvement, it is the basic shell. Most banners or side bar graphics are horrifying. They are badly designed. I suggest that if sponsors want to attract people, a bit of beauty can only be of help. After all, good looks always sell.

Web site managers and readers should push sponsors to design good looking banners. It is a simple step to eliminate the pollution that ruins a site's looks. Do you think people will click on some ugly graphic or on a great looking one? I think the latter will gain more popularity. Naysayers will opine that traditional advertising has proven that ugly advertisements will often gain the most attention, but on the Internet, it seems to garner ill will.

Another important aspect of advertising on the Web is its spirit. Nowadays, if you watch TV, you will view funny ads during the commercial breaks, and sometimes it is worth staying in front of the TV set instead of having a trip to the fridge or the bathroom. Does anybody watch the SuperBowl? Heck, we all want to see what gems the sponsors came up with! They are often funny or at least smart. This is missing on the Internet! Advertisers should not let themselves be shackled by the seeming limitations on achieving this goal. They should instead push forward to new paradigms.

The only site I noticed that shows some humor on the Web is the Cyberian Outpost, or as they are now called. A good example is the banner showing Lara Croft's legs, butt, and back in a bikini and then her face. Then it states "If you pay us, we'll deliver her right to your door". This is bright because it catches your eye. I wonder why this is the exception instead of a rule?

My last point is how banner ads miss the target because they are not smart. Why? Animation. When you visit topnotch sites that are supported by advertisers, have you ever noticed how annoying it is when all the graphics play their animation while you are reading an article? This is something sponsors never understood. Static graphics can achieve as much as animated ones if they are made with intelligent design and good concepts. This is much more convenient and is far less likely to annoy the user.

In short, the problem with advertising is not the formula (banners), but is rather the way sponsors exploit it. One day, they will learn, and people will appreciate banners a bit more, just as they do for TV commercials.

Your comments are welcomed.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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