The ‘How Not To Be Annoying’ Guide to Internet Advertising

According to a survey by, most US consumers find online advertising ‘annoying’. This frustration with advertorial content is due to a few highly irritating and irrelevant advertising strategies. Here are a few things you should avoid when incorporating advertising into your own site or blog, as well as some effective advertising and marketing strategies you should follow.

Most advertising is annoying when it gets in the way of what we are actually looking for on the Internet. Pop-up ads, in their various forms, top the list of annoyances in the aforementioned survey. Whether they are blinking or sliding sideways into the screen, these adverts are inevitably closed down by the user (if not blocked altogether by the use of a pop-up blocker).

Pop-ups are not only irritating when, as is often the case, their content also activates anti-malware software, which slows down the computer. Ads containing music and floating video sales pitches, both of which are often difficult to close down, are rarely received well. Even advertisement of high-end products, when presented in this way, is more likely to generate annoyance than interest. An example of this is the recent inclusion of a BMW pop-up ad, along with a screen blackout design, to the online edition of the New York Times. In fact, consumer responses to what the company had hoped would be an innovative way of advertising were largely negative.

YouTube has recently become another culprit of advertising annoyance. Many videos require users to watch at least five seconds of an advertising clip before being allowed to proceed to the desired content.

So what is it about these particular forms of online advertising that infuriates users? Basically, they are intrusive and they seem irrelevant.

Facebook is an excellent example of an advertising strategy that avoids both of these major sources of annoyance. Its advertising strategy is balanced carefully between the financial need to include adverts and users’ preference for an ad-free online environment. Advertisement appears either on the side of the browser window or as part of the newsfeed, is inoffensive in design, and tailored to the ‘Likes’ of the individual user. It therefore presents the user with the option to ignore the included advertisements altogether, and attempts to ensure that any featured advertisement is made relevant to the individual user.

The key to the success of this advertising strategy is its passive nature. Users are permitted to remain passive, as adverts do not intrude upon the information presented on the target landing page. This immediately removes the annoyance factor; most users are aware that advertising is an important part of funding their favourite websites, and will not object to it as long as it does not require them to become active in order to avoid the advertisement and view their intended landing page.

If the advertised product or event is interesting to the user, the active element of clicking on the ad to find out more produces a direct involvement of the user with the advertised topic. He or she invests attention and time – in other words, the user becomes active in order to find out more about a topic that is of interest to them. This is far more likely to generate genuine and positive interest in the advertorial content, which, in turn, is the key to advertising success.

Going on from this, genuine content behind advertorial links is an excellent way to engage target audiences. If a user has already made the active choice to invest in the advertised product or event, this user will then be willing to engage with more than a superficial slogan. This, in turn, spells almost certain advertising success; the more information is absorbed by a consumer about a product, the more likely it is that he or she will go on to endorse it.

Successful examples of this strategy are celebrity sponsorship campaigns. Singer Beyoncé has just been signed to be the new face of future Pepsi advertising campaigns – and this is sure to catch the attention of admiring fans trying to emulate her lifestyle. The involvement of the Madden Brothers with the KFC Good Times campaign, in turn, targets fans of the Australian band Good Charlotte. Celebrity involvement in advertising is a well-known and successful way of ensuring a product receives consumer attention. Positively received past examples include the England rugby team’s gig for mobile and broadband provider o2, the 2011 Lucozade advert featuring Tinie Tempah, and TV chef Gordon Ramsay’s appearance in the 2011 advertising campaign for eyecare expert Specsavers.

Instead of being intrusive and annoying, Internet advertisement design should aim to be subtle, with a targeted and therefore interesting message. Annoying adverts will put consumers off, whereas relevant advertising and engaging content will win them over.

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