The display advertising industry, shaken by the falling prices it can get for its online ads, has taken to showing full-page marketing messages at websites. These blot out all of the content on website pages, some of them at major news sites, and cause readers some amount of frustration as they try to see and read that content. It may be hard to prove whether these messages hurt the brands they advertise, although the advertisers probably know. Annoying web visitors is hardly a good way to sell products or build brands.
Some of the recent culprits that run full-page ads are Ford’s (NYSE: F) Lincoln brand, a new product for a partnership between American Express (NYSE: AXP) and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Dell (NASDAQ: DELL). The ads from these companies, and others that employ the practice, are only available at a modest number sites, which include the New York Times (NYSE: NYT) and Forbes, so some number of large news and entertainment sites probably turn down ads that use the full-page format.
Because readers come to most websites to read or view content, they probably accept display ads that run next to content — not on top of it — where their placement has been accepted for many years. A reader can view the messages or not. This kind of placement is similar to text ad placement on Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), so almost all web visitors expect them.
Internet content lends itself to full-page ads when compared to content in physical newspapers or on TV and radio. The user can turn the page of a paper or magazine, change the channel or take a break. Display ads that take up an entire computer screen do not offer the reader similar options, so some degree of annoyance among visitors is guaranteed.
Internet advertisers have become more aggressive because they have to. They need to bolster the number of web visitors who see their messages. They need to be careful, however, that they do not damage their relationships with the people they want to reach.
Douglas A. McIntyre