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336. In Short — This is not Advertising. 

I utilized my first ad-blocker via Mozilla Firefox last week. It was about that time that I noticed an unholy amount of disgusting new banner ads while using Facebook. It's not that I have a problem with advertising (obviously) or even advertising on Facebook—farmville and adwords are ads—but I have a problem with advertising that ruins the platform it was created to support. This new rash of banners made using the social site almost impossible. I'm not sure if this was due to a new push to monetize the site or what, but after complaining for a day about it, I downloaded adblock plus.

To give you an idea of this experience (in case you have already had the ad block software installed pre-banneradapalooza or don't use facebook-gasp!), I've grabbed a few screens. (The screens are edited for my privacy, of course.) Basically, the new ads take up a good third of the screen. Check 'em out:

The Dog-Human Hybrid?


This Hurts My Eyeballs:

Clearly, we're not talking about the height of creative advertising - as is often the case with banners. But I have a bigger problem with the setup. Surely, there is a more creative way to push ad content to Facebook members that isn't as ugly, distracting, disjointed and annoying as these now traditional flash banners. (For instance, the ad platform that non-subscribers see when using Pandora is just as visually compelling, but it's less distructive to the experience.) I submit that there must be a better way to give a brand's story on this social network, something I don't know... more socially engaging. Instead of shouting with the most obnoxious swirling goo of pixels, maybe there's a way to entertain or in Sally Hogshead's words, fascinate the users. Otherwise, more and more people will be going out of their way to tune them out, and rightfully so.

Think Sausage or Think Taxes?

It's funny - well, not clown funny - how the internet has become a petri dish of what works in display advertising. And by works I mean, it generates a click on it — no matter how cheap that click may be. This might be fine if you are trying to sell some shady mortgage loans but not so much if you are an otherwise reputable company trying to use social media to further extend your brand. There is no easy fix, but Facebook should be working with advertisers and agencies to better utilize all those eyeballs in a way that doesn't send people running and screaming away from those messages. There is a lot of work to be done.

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Reader Comments (6)

Where do you see the ads? On what page? I don't seem to see them.
April 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAshraf Ali
Completely agree that the end result isn't quite the effect the advertiser had in mind. At least Tax & Sausages have respectable ads.... I don't miss the interactive "game type" ads or "are you smarter than __celebrity___?" attention grubbing types. Yech.
April 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren - designer
First of all, "shouting with the most obnoxious swirling goo of pixels" might be my favorite quote about bad advertising ever.

Secondly, I'd like to see an example of a banner ad that you think DOES work, because for some reason I've been pushed to design them for more than one class and it always feels like a waste of time.

I agree that Pandora's advertising platform is less disruptive, but in my experience it's SO not disruptive that it's easy to just ignore them entirely. (Maybe this is just because the people who are advertising on Pandora aren't doing it right?)

So which is better--obnoxious advertising that throws itself in your face until you're so annoyed that you have to take steps to eliminate it, or advertising that is so passive that users tune out without even thinking about it?
April 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHaley
Haley, you bring up a good point. Obnoxious or invisible. Fortunately, there's a middle ground called, engaging. It's gets enough attention from the audience but rewards that attention with enough entertainment, information, or story that the user doesn't feel violated afterwards. This is tough to do in banners b/c of all the restraints, size, heft, location, blah blah blah. I think the future will have totally different banner sizes/specs and you're already seeing that with iPad ads and some things like that - although they suffer from the same plight early on. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Ha.

I'll find a few examples of people who do it right. Glad you asked.
April 24, 2011 | Registered Commenterjj
The ads you are seeing are not by Facebook. It is most likely something you have downloaded that is placing ads onto popular websites such as Facebook. This is a new tactic that spammers/spyware apps are producing to get their ads into sites like Facebook.

DropDownDeals is an app that does this, if it sounds familiar, you most likely have it installed without your permission.
April 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjason
I have thought this might be the case, but I can't find anything that is doing this. And I'm unsure why facebook would let this go through too... well, I understand, just disagree. I'm going to look again and see if I can't find the guilty party. Thanks for the note.
April 27, 2011 | Registered Commenterjj

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