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Are Plain-Text Ads Doomed? 275

friedegg writes "Usability expert Jakob Nielsen's latest alertbox examines the future of text advertising on the web. Text based advertising has become increasingly popular recently partly because of Google's success with it. Nielsen notes that advertising works well on search engines because users visit them with the specific intent of going elsewhere. He also thinks it's only a matter of time before the novelty of text advertising wears off, and users develop "box blindness" in addition to their current "banner blindness." It isn't totally negative, though, as he thinks the low-end media format forces advertises to express a focused and succinct message that users may take more seriously."
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Are Plain-Text Ads Doomed?

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  • In a word: NO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Blaine Hilton ( 626259 ) * on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:50PM (#5844243) Homepage
    I do not see text ads as being "doomed". Like anything they have their place in the world. On WebCalc [] I sell text-based ads and the advertisers seem to like them. I like them because they look much better then banners and are faster to load. However when you look at them they do not grab your attention as much as the traditional graphic ads do. This sounds bad, but I think it is really a benefit because it provides you with a smaller quantity of visitors, but those visitors are of a higher level of quality.

    Many times with newer rich media ads people are trying to close them when in reality they click through. This upsets the user who would probably close the site right away. Using such distracting ads such as rich media that goes over the whole site (think Yahoo and and pop-ups alienate your website visitors.

    As for targeting, search engines are not the only application for targeting. All websites can implement targeting. If I have a site that's geared for collage students then the best ad would be for somebody targeting that demographic, it doesn't matter what form of advertising it is. This statement is very much like comparing apples and oranges [].

    Go calculate [] something

    • You mean students formed as a composition of various materials? ;)
    • by conner_bw ( 120497 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:02PM (#5844407) Journal
      > On WebCalc I sell text-based ads
      > ...
      > Go calculate [] something

      Who said text ads don't work? I mean look here! WebCalc just advertised on slashdot with a +5 karma whore first post, using ONLY TEXT. Amazing.
    • by FuzzyBad-Mofo ( 184327 ) <fuzzybad AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:05PM (#5844440)

      .. rich media ads ..

      That's a PC term if I ever heard one. No, that ad isn't ultra annoying, it's just rich media. Rich indeed.

    • by MickLinux ( 579158 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:20PM (#5844595) Journal
      I've been thinking about a project that requires a mySQL server, perl/php, and https. Of course, I don't have those skills to do what I want: that is the kind of thing you can buy, though.

      So anyhow, I remembered a text ad from Kuro5hin, from half a year ago. So I went over *to* kuro5hin, found the ad, clicked through, got an email address, and sent a specific question.

      I don't know whether I'll buy from them: I give about a 5-10% chance of buying at all, even if the price is right. However, I can definitely say that text ads do work. Yeah, I'm blind to them, when I need to get stuff done. But for that same reason, I appreciate the consideration that is involved in a text ad, so when I have free time, I really do read them and remember them.

    • Re:In a word: NO (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DeltaSigma ( 583342 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:31PM (#5844712) Journal
      I have to agree with Blaine Hilton. In the last month I've clicked on far more text ads ( about a dozen ) than I have graphic ads ( about zero ). They simply tend to be more informative and more attention grabbing for me. And it's not as if this can merely be explained away by "graphic-blindness." No sir, as a fellow web designer I do have a tendancy to evaluate each and every new ad for its content, placement, relevancy to the subject at hand, and general appeal. Slashdot is a good example. I must see a few dozen or other Microsoft ads in the topics each day.

      I've never clicked on a single one of them. And not because I hate Microsoft. Afterall, I am just as intrigued as many others about what ".net" really means. The problem is that every .net ad I've seen of theirs is uninformative, and I am given the impression that clicking on the ad will merely bring me to the same uninformative page I viewed the first time.

      It seems the only reason microsoft uses these graphic ads as opposed to text ads is because they know they have the money to afford them.

      Marketing preferences also likely have a lot to do with the entire issue. I can walk over to the graphics department right now and start a discussion about advertising methods and it will be a matter of minutes before I hear that wonderful phrase "A picture is worth a thousand words."

      I won't argue that a picture isn't "worth a thousand words." I assure you it is. But in the case of advertising, those thousand words are completely generated by the potential customer viewing them.

      I seem to recall this one .net add that was merely a laptop (apparantly powered off) sitting on a pine table in front of some glass windows which gave way to some rather nice tree scenery.

      Now there's a thousand words that come to mind with this image but what purpose did this ad end up serving in my case? Well I'll have you know that after viewing that ad I had successfully equated .net to computers. That's right, I now know .net runs on a computer.

      And this was on some RIAA article.

      Now let's take a text ad I saw on the same page. "Register your copyrights easily." Before I even clicked I knew there was a company willing to register my copyrights with the United States government via the internet for a fraction of the cost via lawyer. I clicked it, I read the entire page, I bookmarked, I loved it. I will likely use these guys later due to their marketing decision. Oh sure, they could have put up some random stock photo with a fountain pen resting atop a rather intimidating form that said "Skip the lawyer, skip the hassle." But that just wouldn't be as effective.

      It all comes down to the medium on which these companies have chosen to advertise. This is the internet, not television. One can direct me to a page that says "buy now buy now buy now." I'll merely go somewhere else. However, if you create a good product, and put your best effort forward to give as much detail as possible about the product, its uses, what standards it adheres to, etc. etc. then I promise you, as a potential customer, that I will evaluate your product and consider buying.

      Information goes on the internet. Pretty pictures go on the television. Easy.

      And there's no better time than now to be doing this (are you listning Microsoft, Intel, Amazon?). With most companies still in the "pretty pictures sell stuff" paradigm there is no better time to begin a campaign of traditional advertising in traditional media, and informative advertising on the internet.

      So c'mon, get over the dot-com-bust already and start advertising on the web the way it was MEANT to be done. With genuine information about genuine products!
  • by thespare ( 669790 ) <> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:52PM (#5844265) Homepage
    It's way better to have afs plaintext. Personally, I never click on huge flickering banners. First of all because they are *so* annoying, and second because 9 out of 10 times; if you click 1, you'll get a thousand popups after that trying to have you visit Bukakke-specials or Preteen teens or whatever 31337 pr0n those stupid websites have.

    Can't we just ban them? :-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:52PM (#5844271)
    Ads have their place. When I'm looking for a commercial alternative to something, the google list on the right is very useful.
    • I have used this these also. Infact I just had my windshield replaced, new headlights for my car (not the bulbs, the entire light assembly), and a new radiator for my other car. All from paid advertisements found from a Google searches. In fact I have found their ads matching to be better then the actual website hits for some things ;)

      Considering I use Opera without java, javascript, no plugins (flash shock etc..), I would not have even seen most ads from other sites. I can honestly tell you that I hav
  • by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:52PM (#5844272) Journal
    Plain text advertising works in print media so why shouldn't it work online too?

    I don't need to see a picture of a memory module to be interested in an add offering to sell me 512MB RAM at a good price.

    Remember, content is king.
    • I think text ads do work. I will admit that I will actually go and read text ads as they are normally more intresting than banner ads. For me to click through on a banner ad it has to be something special and funny. Even then I might just ignore it

  • by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:52PM (#5844275) Homepage Journal
    I think "the next big thing" in advertising could be plain old hypertext links within writings. If an online magazine has an article about C++, wherever it says "C++ compiler" in the article it could be a link to a compiler vendor. Newsfactor [] does this to some extent in their articles, plus with descriptive icons so you know you're going to an ad. It would seem much more successful and useful to the user to go this route.
  • A trend... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by donjuanica ( 593116 )
    Just like software "bloats" as CPU speeds increase, I think ads will "bloat" as users connection speeds increase. I think Mr Nielson is right - text ads are doomed.
  • Spymac (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kaamos ( 647337 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:53PM (#5844282)
    Spymac -->

    had a pretty innovative ad for a week there. It showed something to the extent of :"No Ad here for a week, brought to you from MSN of Os X" and then dissapeared after 3-4 seconds, leaving you without flashing lights or anyway, which made the surfing quite enjoyable.

    If you missed what the ad said you could hover on it and it gave you a hands-on on what MSN is and blah blah... I have to admit that was a slick ad!

  • As fonts get smaller, ASCII art in the adverts will pick up and pretty soon - we'll be back where we started.

    Just a matter of time.

  • My Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

    by waldoj ( 8229 ) * < minus author> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:53PM (#5844287) Homepage Journal
    On one of my websites [], we switched to book-your-own text ads a few months ago. For the first month, the clickthru rates were astounding -- 5%-15% on some of them. Now, we're lucky to break 1%. The reason, of course, is obvious: they were new and interesting, and people noticed them because of that. Now, they are neither new nor interesting. They remain an amusing thing on the site, but they're not paying the bills, I'm afraid. All that we can do from here is continue to switch it up: move them around on the site, offer formats with bigger text, more words, etc. But that's not a solution, just a stall tactic.

    -Waldo Jaquith
    • by fobbman ( 131816 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:03PM (#5844426) Homepage
      Your clickthru rate increase was due to folks realizing that clicking the word "monkey" is a lot easier than hitting the graphical bastard that moves back and forth, back and forth, taunting me with his elusiveness. Back and forth, back and forth, back and...

    • If you're only getting 1%, it's not viewer being bored, it's the content of the ad not being targeted. Bet you never looked at a mortgage rate ad until you bought a house. Then, those little numbers get very exciting. It's about targeting. We just finished a pretty big run on Google with a product that is perfect for text-ads. Unique keyword, small market spread out all over the world. Click throughs varied from under 1% to over 7%, depending on the ad. The good ads served as a good search result, he
    • Re:My Experience (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Canard ( 594978 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:40PM (#5844789)
      Advertising is an offer to redirect the user into a new information stream.

      Paradoxically, the better the data on a site is organized the less likely a user is to want to break out of the information flow they are in. But decreasing the quality of information only has the effect of making it less valuable to visit that site in the first place.

      Arguably, to be effective advertising should be located near where the user makes information flow decisions, and the information flow decisions cannot be so consistent that the user learns to ignore any alternatives that are presented. For a Blog style site like your nancies page, that would mean interspersing advertising into the news stream as articles. You don't want to confuse readers, so the advertising should be in offset type and layout ( does a good job of this), but the position of advertising within the news list should be altered from day to day.

      While we are on the subject though, I should probably mention a pet peeve that I have with online advertising. Just because you can change which advert is delivered with each page doesn't mean that you should. Varying the content from user to user is fine, but having seen the page with a specific layout once, the advertising should be left the same the next time that I view that page. Swapping out ads messes up my information flow; I have to backtrack to see if I missed something that I really wanted to read, and I may have lost a link to an ad that I really wanted to follow later in my browsing.

    • Relevance (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcrbids ( 148650 )
      I've been using the 'net since ~'94/'95. I've seen banners come, and go, and I don't see them anymore.

      I just now noticed that /. has a banner ad at the top.(When did they start this?)

      But, when I go to google looking for something, I pay just as much attention to the "ads" as I do the "results".

      Since ads are targeted by keywords, there's a good chance that the ads have exactly what I'm looking for.

      These ads have relevance.

      Ads will be effective when the customer is ready to accept them. Ads will univers
  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:53PM (#5844289) Homepage Journal
    The next generation ads will be much more intrusive, but much less annoying. A good example is going to McDonald's in the game "The Sims".

    Ads will start getting integrated right into what you are doing (especially games). This isn't, necessarily, a bad thing. It'll help keep the consumer costs down for the product, and aren't as annoying and attention-stealing as popups or banners.

    Would this be considered a text ad? I'd say so, unless you want to classify it into a new class, like 'integrated ad.'
    • Hm. It's kind of like they're taking a product, and putting it, sort of.. placing it, in the medium. Like, product.. I dunno. Call it product placement. It's revolutionary, I say. :(
    • Would this be considered a text ad? I'd say so, unless you want to classify it into a new class, like 'integrated ad.'

      Gator [] does things similar ot this. It "watches" what you do, and presents competitor coupons and such. Aside from the fact it's annoying as all hell, it's decent adware software. They get really high click through rates, and it actually is a cool idea. When you look at a book at Amazon, it'll tell you, "IF you go to Barnes & Noble and buy this, we'll give you 5% off"

      Annoys Amazon
    • If you eat McDonalds food in the Sims, do you get sick like in RL?
    • I figure advertisers will try to embed thier messages in any way they can without causing enough of a backlash, legal or social, to still make a good profit.
      We may very well see increased efforts at "target marketing, or profiling []
      We may also see attempts to incorporate subliminal messaging in the product placement, or product intrusion in our online experiences. Such messages could be placed to prove difficult to directly link to the advertising.
      Since, as far as I can tell, subliminal messages are n
  • by bwcarty ( 660606 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:54PM (#5844298)
    I'd say that text *articles* are doomed as well. How many people actually click the link and read everything?
  • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:55PM (#5844311)
    With all due respect to his message of "Simplify, simplify", Nielsen is too passionate about his mission to be practical in applying it.

    Just look at his site -- hasn't enjoyed any kind of redesign since he created it, or indeed any kind of design at all. There's nothing interesting on it, nothing inviting, nothing to indicate to someone that one thing is more important than another. In his vigor to keep his site accessible to text-only browsers he's completely ignored the visually unimpaired.

    If his message today is that text-only ads will be ignored just as colorful graphical ones already are, then he himself should take this message to heart -- because text-only web sites are even easier to ignore.
    • My favorite (now defunct) Jakob irony was how for years and years, "" would not resolve to his site, you had to type the damn "www".

      I know there are some obscure and, IMO, obsolete reasons for not having the non www. version of your domain resolve to your webserver, but from a usability standpoint, it's terrible to have not supported that for so long.
    • he himself should take this message to heart -- because text-only web sites are even easier to ignore.

      Text-only sites are like books, not like TV. If you want a large variety of bouncing, loud media forced down your throat, well, a graphic-encrusted website is great. If you actually want information, a text-only website is great. As someone who puts up text only websites, if you're looking for the other kind, okay, it's not here, nor is it my goal or responsibility to offer it here.
    • Just look at his site -- hasn't enjoyed any kind of redesign since he created it, or indeed any kind of design at all. There's nothing interesting on it, nothing inviting, nothing to indicate to someone that one thing is more important than another. In his vigor to keep his site accessible to text-only browsers he's completely ignored the visually unimpaired.

      Exactly. His site is nothing but actual information, presented in an organized fashion with no clutter. He doesn't have Flash, animated GIFs, pop-

      • Not my point. Take Slashdot itself, for example -- it uses color, fonts, and small graphics to keep the site organized, interesting, and easy to scan. Jakob's site is over-simplified so that, to my eyes, it's actually harder to scan his pages for the bits I want most.

        A newspaper will specially highlight headlines that deserve notice, use color to grab your attention, divide up the page into columns to make it easier to read, and so forth. It will use whitespace to separate chunks of text that are distinct
    • With all due respect to his message of "Simplify, simplify", Nielsen is too passionate about his mission to be practical in applying it.

      Just look at his site

      Dude, he's a usability engineer, not a designer. He is practicing what he preaches -- his site's focus is his writing, after all. He's probably too busy making money hand over fist to screw around with the fonts and colors on his personal site...
  • don't mention this sarcastically outside of this post, or you will be deemed flaimbait.

    On a lighter note I have already developed text blindness.... however it seems to have caused a rise in mispellings.
  • Taking that text-ads fail then I have to wonder what we will see next. THe chocices I see are just bigger more intrusive ads or pay-for-content. The content I can just about take but the popups would just be to much.

    I found that on text ads I use for [] that click through rates are low. The only way to get a decent clickthrough is to use the word Free

  • by Aexia ( 517457 )
    This article might be on to something...
  • Where's the novelty in the output format that the first usable computer used at the beginning of time?

    Also, on Google, the text ads that occur fall under his first classifieds paradigm of users actively searching. They show up as related text queries on the right hand side. They aren't random, irrelevant, or obnoxious like banner ads.

    Text ads aren't going anywhere, unlike "usability experts" hawking their opinions as a science, just like like alchemy, phrenology, and drum & bass.
    • Where's the novelty in the output format that the first usable computer used at the beginning of time?

      Your definition of "usable" may differ from mine, but I would say the first usable computer didn't have a text display, but just a bunch of flashing lights.

      So, it really has a lot more in common with banner ads, so text ads would be the next logical step. The only problem is when you'll have to submit your order for the product with punch cards.
  • Ads in General (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Luminous ( 192747 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:57PM (#5844341) Journal
    It is human nature to 'tune out' ads. They are so pervasive, it is the only way to accomplish anything. If I responded to every ad I see on a website, I wouldn't have time to actually do what I intended to do at the website.

    With that element an accepted fact of advertising (people block out billboards, use TV commercials to grab something from the other room, flip channels on the radio when the 9 minutes of ads come on, and flip the ad pages in magazines to get to the content) advertisers still continue. Why? For that one or two people out of a thousand who respond to the ad.

    I've done it. I see an interesting ad and I actually watch it. Or I see a banner ad for something unique and I click on it. Text ads are the same way, except I am more likley to read them (usually contain more information) and less likely to be annoyed by them (rarely flash, "vibrate", or make noise.)

    Are they dying? No, they are settling.

  • Text ads are good because they target your audience to only those that can read.
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) * on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:58PM (#5844352) Homepage Journal
    Advertising as it is praticed today is doomed.

    It used to be that advertising was about making people aware of your product/service. Ideally, you did so the the most focused manner possible - if you were a lawn care service you went to people with lawns, etc.

    You also did things like list yourself in the telephone book.

    That form of advertising is useful to both the advertiser and the viewer, and so will persist. That is what getting your web site listed in Google under the appropriate indexes does.

    However, now-a-days advertising is about "RAM THIS DOWN HIS THROAT AND MAKE HIM WANT IT NO MATTER WHAT!" I've heard it said that, to a marketer, it is a failure if you go into a store and buy only what you went in to buy.

    That sort of advertising is doomed, because it a) does not generate good, high quality leads, and b) it pisses people off. That which pisses people off gets ignored.
  • As the summary says: "Text adds will only work if they are actually of interest to the consumer."

    Sure, but doesn't this also go for other adds? I mean, will an off-topic pop-up flashing flash-add be more succesfull than an off-topic text add? I don't think so.

    And anyway, it doesn't really matter. They key is to place the appropriate add at the appropriate time to the appropriate viewer?
  • by MSBob ( 307239 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:59PM (#5844367)
    I see text based ads as having a more "serious" audience. I would not advertise the latest server platform with a swoosh, bang flash movie. It calls for more maturity. A text ad is appropriate. Same if I advertise a whitepaper.

    When it comes to selling the latest top 10 hit to a 15 year old however, that's a different story. A noisy flash ad may be just what's being called for.

    Context is very important though. I don't want to be fed noisy, flashy ads when I'm reading technical articles... Actually I don't want to be fed noisy flashy ads at all, but I'm probably just an exception if the number of flash ads is anything to go by :)

  • text ads advantage (Score:5, Informative)

    by cetan ( 61150 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:59PM (#5844368) Journal
    Text Ads have one other advantage over banners: You can't filter them out with software. (At least not now, or rather, not that I've seen.)

    Blocking banners and pop-ups is pretty trivial, but blocking text ads? That seems to be a more difficult problem to solve.

    • it's not very hard (Score:3, Informative)

      by Trepidity ( 597 )
      If they have a consistent placement/formatting on the page, they're easy to filter out with a regexp based filter.
      • Well, how is Joe User going to install, let alone build, a regexp-based filter on his version of MSIE?

        I can see text-ads sticking around simply because you can't *easily* filter them by installing one [] of several [] apps that changes your hosts file, or by installing a custom stylesheet [].
    • I think text ads are also less annoying. Let's face it, the main reason most of us don't put up with pop-up/under ads is that they are disruptive to what we are trying to accomplish. So, Mozilla is now my browser and I have an extensive hosts file.
      Banner ads have the same problem, only less so. They are disruptive, especially the big flashy ones. They are a nusance. Even ignoring the java crap and degridation of load times, many ads I would just as soon not see, so I filter them out. Not all of them,
  • by Alderete ( 12656 ) * <`moc.eteredla' `ta' `todhsals'> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:59PM (#5844369) Homepage
    I think Nielsen's wrong here. I find that, for certain types of searches, I want to look at the ads. No, really! Here's an example. My wife and I have one of those WhirleyPop stovetop popcorn popping gizmos. It works reasonably well with regular popcorn and oil, but it's really, really spectacular if you get the pre-measured packets of popcorn, oil, and seasonings.

    Right before last Thanksgiving, I went to and searched for WhirleyPop. I could buy more poppers, but not more supplies. So I went to Google. Google's search results (for "popcorn & WhirleyPop") were OK, but the ads were exactly what I was looking for -- vendors who could sell me something, fairly specialized, that's never available in any store I visit.

    In this case, it was the ads, not the search results, that were interesting. All of those people were ready to sell me exactly what I wanted. Sometimes, ads are not ads, they are the results themselves.
    • That's what is confusing to me. Why do companies still advertise things that people know to exist?

      If I (the consumer) am interested in something that I know to exist (hard drives for example) then I search for them. Sites like have made it so that most sites *can not* advertise effectively beyond their prices.

      Advertising best works for things that people don't know exist. The thinkgeek ads on slashdot are a good example. They only advertise new things. Things that make consumers go "oh, tha
      • Advertisers continue to advertise things that people know exist for one reason: Brand awareness.

        Go to the store and buy toothpaste. Look at the brands. People tend to think of the ones that have been heavily advertised as the "high quality" brands. There are other non-generic brands that people think of as the "cheapo" brands, merely because they weren't heavily advertised.

    • I agree. If I'm looking for something with the intent of buying, then a text ad might be exactly what I want to see. I prefer text ads and I'm more likely to patronize a seller that uses them.
    • Sometimes, ads are not ads, they are the results themselves.

      says the oracle in the next Matrix movie.
    • I think Nielsen's wrong here. I find that, for certain types of searches, I want to look at the ads. No, really!

      Try actually reading the article :o)

      He specifically states that text adverts on search engines work because you're activily going out to find something.

  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:59PM (#5844370) Journal
    Plain text banner-style ads might not do as well, especially long ones... but truly I appreciate them more than the annoying flash-type versions. Also, they show up much better than GIF's on links/lynx

    An, as mentioned, effective short ads are very effective. For instance, when you're searching for "Digital Camera", and you get an immediate link on google to thinks like "prices on digital cameras on ebay/amazon" are still good forms of advertising. Not only are these ads short and sweet, but they're often actually relevant to what you're looking for, which flashy annoying banner-ads often are not.

    I think it's not really a matter of getting ads that are flashy graphics or plain text-based, but more a matter of getting ads that are relevent (for graphic based, ads and many others on slashdot would be nicely targetted), In fact, when you think about it, there is a lot of advertising [] on [] slashdot [], but most is relevant or from interested parties.
  • by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:59PM (#5844378)
    'Banner Blindeness' is there because banners are not part of the content of the site. They are additions, and obtrusive additions at that. Adds like the ones on Google don't have that problem: they are relevent to the content on the site and they don't try to make you ignore the rest of the site. Therefore you don't have to ignore them to see the rest of the site, and they will get used.
  • Box Blindness (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SpamJunkie ( 557825 )
    He's wrong, and it's obvious why. "Box blindness" would be like "text blindness". It's too basic to easily tell it's an ad. Further inspection is required. Too many sites use shaded or bordered boxes as design elements for users to learn to ignore all of them.

    Neilson should know this. For a user to learn to ignore something the majority of times they come across similar items they must be something that the user wants to ignore. With really wide animated graphics at the top of the page this is the case: m
  • The main reason ads don't work, is because they anger the user by disrupting his web experience. (Like the army ones that send helicopters flying across your broswer so you can't read what you're there for). If the text ads don't impede surfing, then they won't cause the disdain that allows the brain to easily ignore them every time.
  • When I misclick, or am tricked into clicking on an ad I just close the page and move on. Isn't there something to be said about having an ad that makes a sale? When they have those stupid boxing glove, or fake windows alert ads, they give up the chance of putting any real content in the ad. Has someone done a market study on the conversion rate for tricked clicks to acutal sales? I worked for a startup before, and we tracked someone from when (and how) they entered the website to when (and if) they made a s
  • Together with the BannerBlind plugin and meticulous use of "Block Images From This Server" I don't see any banner ad graphics at all. (Of course I also have Flash turned off--no brainer!)

    Text ads are the only ones that get through, and I don't imagine being able to block them in the near future. So far, they appear on sites that I'm happy to support, like Google, K5 and here. I don't want them getting too out of hand, though!

  • I think the big difference between text ads and image / flash ads is that they are harder to 'bypass'. I can not install flash and then I don't see the flash ads. I can shutoff images or block images that are 'banner' size and then not see the banner ads. How can you block text that you are not sure that it is an ad, unless you block text from a specific server? In this case you also risk blocking content as well.

    I would think in time that text ads become more and more part of the web. I also think th

  • Banner adds are gareish and anoying, so it's no suprise that I blank them, just like the guy posing in his brand new sports car.

    Text adds non-intrusive, and tend to provide more usefull information about the product they are advertising. So occasionally I will click on them.

    On a lighter note, I've never brough anything after following an advertisement on the web.I usually rip some better keywords from the page and search for the best deal. Advertising on the web will never work, it's too easy to search fo
  • I don't block text ads, so I'd say they reach me more effectively than graphical banners or popups.

    I think the real secret to online advertising is to follow the model of advertising in other media. Quit worrying so much about tricking the user into clicking on your ad so they'll go to your web site, and pay more attention to actually promoting your brand or product. How many times have you seen an ad banner that caught your attention, but because you didn't click on it, you had no idea what they were ac
  • by Sir Rhosys ( 84459 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:09PM (#5844476)
    I don't find this half as shocking a topic as this one:

    Jakob Nielsen Declares the Letter "C" Unusable [] ;)
  • Not convinced... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:09PM (#5844478) Homepage Journal
    Slashdot's been running text-based ads in the banner space above, and I can honestly say I've actually read those. Click-through is another story all together, but the message got through. The graphic banners are usually lost on me, mainly because they don't actually provide information.

    It's kind of like the difference between reading Nickel Ads (or the want-ads in a newspaper) and reading a billboard. Me personally, I like having all the info up-front before I click. I'm sorry they can't track that, but banners have suckered me too many times. Just yesterday I clicked on a banner that said "Revolution OS" with a picture of a CD on it. When I got there, it turned out to be a documentary about this OS. I was expecting a distro I could install. Grr.

    Here's what I think makes the text-ads work on Slashdot:

    1.) They share the same font style/size as Slashdot.

    2.) All the info's there. For example, I ran across the ad for adding barcode support to apps, with free demos available. I didn't click it (I have no use for barcodes) but if I did, I'd feel comfortable knowing where I'm going.

    3.) They don't annoy me. They don't try to grab my attention. They don't pop up new windows. They don't interrupt my reading. Etc.

    4.) They're relatively on-topic. Though I have no use for barcodes, it is of a subject matter that would be discussed here.

    I just hope that the good stuff here isn't borrowed and 'improved' until they have to find some other way to sneak ads into content.
    • Re:Not convinced... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jo_ham ( 604554 )
      Slashdot's text ads work on me because they don't animate.

      So many banner ads rely on a sequence of frames to get their messages across, like poor man's TV, but I have animated gifs turned off in my browser so I never see the whole story.

      Quite often the first frame is often a plain box, so it obscures itself without me having to do too much server blocking.

      I'm all for the support of sites that I read. Bandwidth, hosting and upkeep aren't free, especially on big sites. There's only so much I'll subject mys
  • Give me text ads over those bloody annoying pop-over flash advertisements any day. Those things actually manage to annoy me so much that I go out of my way to make sure that I don't buy the product.
  • I really find text ads (such as those found on Google) to be nonintrusive and even useful at times. The big difference I have found between text and graphical banner advertisements is that the text ads tend to relay actual information to the end user, rather than try to impress the end user with brilliant but often completely uninformative graphics. I am only inclined to click on an advertisement when it actually tells me things about what that company offers. This is why I don't think that text ads will fa
  • Neilson makes the point that text ads in search engines are not doomed. He notes:

    Text-only ads on search engines have become particularly successful in recent years, and non-search sites are now experimenting with this format in hope of replicating that success. However, it's doubtful that their efforts will work because non-search sites lack the equation's crucial element: users' single-minded goal to leave the site as quickly as possible.

    He also points out that the ads resemble content to an extent when they are related to a search. It is text ads on any random homepage that are doomed according to Neilson because those ads are not targeted.

    This seems awfully sensible - I'm sure most people have used Google's text ads at one point or another because they offered a solution to a particular search. My guess is that most people make a point of avoiding ads on non-search websites, whether text or flashy. I certainly do.
  • by pfankus ( 535004 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:15PM (#5844529) Homepage
    I've noticed even more invasive ads, more so than pop-unders []or pop-ups (see this google article [] for their take on it). Coming to the mainstream it seems that flash ads that popup over the page itself and make some noise are becoming quite popular, and I've decided to completely stop visiting these sites, [] being one of them. (I think they're running an ad right now where a rhino busts through your page...wahoo.) Thankfully, the National Weather Service [] is ad-free! These ads are not only annoying, but make it difficult to close and take too much time when all you want is real content.

    This article on Low-End Media for User Empowerment [] explains why simple adverstising works, and why complex doesn't.

  • by Musashi Miyamoto ( 662091 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:20PM (#5844584)
    Text based ads as they are presented on Google will not go away. There are major differences between the way Google uses text based ads and the banners found on most other web sites:

    - The ads on Google are almost always related to the search that the user is performing. The ads almost augment the search results with semi-relevant information.
    - Banner ads on most other websites (cough.. slashdot!.. cough) are unrelated to the topic of the web page, and sometimes to the subject matter of the website itself.
    - As the article stated, the user is already expecting to be moving onward to another web page, so feels free to click on an ad.

    These are major differences that have nothing to do with the fact that one is text and another is a banner. If google wanted to display banner or graphical ads instead of text boxes in the same way, the clickthrough rate would probably be similar or better.

    I dont care about an "Anime Unleashed" advertisement when I am posting a message about banner ads. If Slashdot tied the topics of the articles to the banners that they present, they might bet better clickthrough rates...
  • I've learned to WATCH for ads on Google where I ignored them in the begining!

    You can find all kinds of neat stuff by following Google ads! That's how I met Mistress Whiplash, and why I'm typing this standing up!

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:22PM (#5844608) Homepage
    It's the usual pendulum, just like it is with womens skirts, sometimes they go up, sometimes down, but every year there's something "new". Same with ads. First ads were "average", then they got more and more instrusive. Then came the rebound and there were friendly, non-obtrusive ads. When that fad is over, there'll be something new.

    But if you want me to read ads, stick with text-based. Privoxy/Opera seems to stop the rest. And if you complain about me not giving enough ad revenue, some beats nothing. And no, I will never ever allow sites to pop up windows and run annoying blinking banners again, if I can help it. I'm just waiting for the first blink tag text ad to show up....

  • What boxes? ;)
  • by mypenwry ( 465737 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:24PM (#5844634)
    Doomsayers are rarely correct in predicting doom. My God, how often have we seen doom forcast for almost any product, company, etc.?

    Text ads have been show to work and continue to work (although, possibly to a lesser degree after the "novelty" wears off). It's a matter of finding the niche WHERE they work effectively.

    Text ads on Google? Love 'em!

    Often I use Google to conduct searches for products and services I want to buy. They key word there is WANT. Often, the text ads are more useful to me than the Google search results because (surprise, surprise) they are from companies that WANT to sell that product. What a perfect match! I just go down the list (of ads, not search results) and choose a vendor that has what I want and offers terms I find acceptable.

    I give further props to those guys that are clever enough to put an ad in front of me, at the time I want to buy, about a product I want to buy and do it in THE LEAST ANNOYING MANNER POSSIBLE.

    I figure they deserve my business for the fact that they are not advertsing in an annoying manner. I will gladly support a smart and non-annoying advertisier with my hard-earned money!
  • by SourceHammer ( 638338 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:26PM (#5844665) Homepage
    I started blocking ads with a web-proxy when they started opening up windows and strobing/flashing and blocking where I wanted to read or click. I do not mind text ads.

    It is the lack of individualization that seems to come with the more annoying ads that I dislike the most. I do not need another web-cam, no matter how many times they pop up that ad, but I am interested in the ad for a company that sells micro-ITX motherboards.

    So I only get the text ads.
  • by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:29PM (#5844692)
    I remember reading one of the Dilbert books, Is your computer safe from hackers? [] where it said that marketing will continue to become more and more manipulative Make money with your website! [] as it builds upon the shoulders of already tried marketing schemes.

    I just wonder how long before Specials on Ink Jet refill kits! [] they start putting ads Long Distance for just 1c per minute! [] in the middle Spy on your neighbors! [] of all web content?
  • ...because of a simple business prinicple: Do not piss off the customer. A banner at the top of the page is okay, too many incite urine and make the page slow, and popups are tools of the devil.

    People buy more from advertiser when they are not piss off. It's simple and it works.
  • All the time. Everywhere.

    There are no exceptions.

    I will never reward someone for annoying me.
  • Companies that run rich-media ads that ignore user needs can delude themselves into thinking that they're "promoting the brand"; in reality, they're simply being ignored because they don't connect with people's needs.

    That may be true for unknown companies but the big dogs that we are already familiar with really are promoting their brand whether we click on the banner or not just by reinforcing their name recognition.

  • Call me a nitpicker if you want, but it really peeves me when websites play with the status bar. I primarily use Phoenix, and thankfully it has the option to disable this trickery (on the other hand, for whatever reason, Phoenix doesn't display anything when it does so). I've always used the status bar as a way to show where a link is really going (handy with all those links). I've never understood sites or ads that think they should be doing anything other than displaying themselves on the screen
  • by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:54PM (#5844968) Homepage Journal
    And his un-researched bullshit caused me tons of pain during my modem days. He said that people should 'split up' long stories on the web because people were to stupid to scroll. But that meant a 5-10 second pause in reading for me, on my modem. And it also made it impossible for me to download a whole story before getting offline. My online experience was severely degraded because of his advice. In fact, people still do this despite the fact that he renounced the practice. (people have learned how to scroll, apparently)

    I mean, for gods sakes this is was the 'usability expert' behind CDE! the ugliest, impossibleist to use window manager ever!

    I guess anyone can make themselves an expert putting out some press releases and sounding condescending.
  • Relevance! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fireshipjohn ( 20951 )
    There, thats the secret,

    If I go to a search engine, and theres a relevant ad I will welcome it...

    If they are trying to sell me a (insert useless item) or credit card... I DO NOT..

    Its a simple concept, why can advertisers not grasp it??

  • I think text-only ads as Google, for example, implements them won't die. Why?

    1. They're fast and non-intrusive.
    2. They're relevant to what the user's looking for when they're presented.
    Users like these things. They'll continue to click through such ads even as they ignore unrelated banner ads, pop-ups and such.
  • Has anyone been to [], a free online game site. They have an advertising scheme where after a while of playing their free online games (java i believe), an animated add covers the window with a coundown display that starts at 30 seconds down to 0. It works because the games are short and have a clear beginning and end to them. Kind of a television advertisment feel.
  • by Violet Null ( 452694 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @04:56PM (#5847355)
    It's that they're often just not very informative. Too many banner ads seem to have been designed by marketers under the premise that if they get a mysterious hook set up, people will follow their ad to learn more. But that's not the way people work, either on-line or off.

    Consider a TV commercial that showed, say, a cannon firing hamsters at the letters "", with no explanation of who or what actually was. The thing would fail, and fail miserably (and, in fact, has). But advertisers seem fixated that the same setup will work on the web, for some reason. At least 90% of the banner ads I see are setup like a hook (such as, "Looking for a new job?") rather than giving info (such as " Over three bazillion ad postings")

    If more banner ads were informative -- giving me info on who the ad was for, where it would take me, and why I should be interested -- I bet they'd have a higher clickthrough rate. That's what Google's ads do. It's got nothing to do with whether the ad is graphical or not...until the ads start getting intrusive, at which point people are actively suppressing them.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.