Friday, February 09, 2007

In-Text Advertising - Selling Tap-Dancing Shoes to Snakes?

There is a form of online marketing which most people will be familiar with which is called 'in-text placement'. This is a contextual form of advertising whereby certain words are underlined on a webpage so when the readers cursor passes over them a pop-up advertisement relating to the keywords appears.

For example, you may be reading an article on lawn maintenance on a gardening website. You may notice certain words or phrases highlighted and underlined, such as grass cutting or mowing and when your cursor is moved over any of these words an advertisement for lawn mowers appears. How relevant and convenient you might think- it seems great in that example - but is it actually so well targeted in the real world? I suggest not.

I was reading an interesting article yesterday which talked about the ability to install Ubuntu (a Linux operating system) while still using Windows XP. The article had my attention and this was the perfect setting for a savvy publisher to ambush me with some well-placed in-text advertising. I must say that certain (seemingly random) words being underlined was a minor distraction and did nothing to enhance the presentation of the webpage, but I was not unduly concerned about this at the time. What totally threw my concentration and ruined my experience was when my mouse pointer drifted over the words Windows Installer, as demonstrated from the actual screenshot below.

Suddenly I found myself being interrupted by a 3" x 1.5" pop-up advertisement for double glazing! I can see why but I don't understand how. How could the person responsible for this ad campaign not see the problem here? How many referrals will Anglian Home Improvements get as a result of this? I decided there and then that I did not like this form of advertising and wanted to banish it from my sight forever.

Apparently I can - a Greasemonkey script called Uh Oh IntelliTXT to block IntelliTXT popups for Firefox users. IntelliTXT can also be deactivated with the Adblock plus Firefox extension by using the string *Intellitxt* in your filter list.

To block IntelliTXT popups in Opera browser simply add the url http://*.** into Tools > Advanced > Blocked Content.

To block IntelliTXT popups in Internet Explorer 7 simply download and install IE7pro and add the string *intellitxt* to your Ad Filter list under the Block list.

Competitors in the in-text advertising space include Kontera, Adbrite, Ontok and LinkWorth.

I'm a Marketing Manager who can usually tell a good or bad strategy simply by experiencing it from the end-users perspective. It takes little empathy to know that in-text advertising of this kind walks a fine line and, on balance, is not the way to go. Its far too invasive and advertisers should know their place.


Anonymous said...

Some people post on the net to write.
Some people post on the net to vent.
Some people post on the net to create controversy.
And some people post on the net to inform.

I typically read things with these points in mind and depending on how the info goes, I'll either go "oh it's this type of writer" and move on.

This post you made left me scratching my head in confusion. You are a "marketing manager" and you say this type of advertising is "far too invasive"?!?!? Yet you have big bulky adverts on the sidebar?

With the exception of the little text ads that people buy for search rankings, I think this in text ad style is as non invasive as they get. It takes up hardly any space on the page and if you don't want to see the ad, you don't have to see it. Big banners or big ad blocks that are there whether you want to see them or not would be too invasive.

I have seen a couple examples with intellitxt and kontera where they let the person showing the ads have way over 10 underlined words on a given page. I've seen the linkworth where they just show a couple per page, which is a little more to my liking, but it's not much different than someone linking to sites on their own.

You must not be an "online" marketing manager.

Thanks for letting me have a word.

Telecide said...

Hi Anonymous, and thanks for your comments.

In response, I believe advertising has its place. People in the US especially are used to aggressive, invasive advertising and so are probably immune or de-sensitised to much of it (watch the Superbowl on TV to see what I'm talking about), but many others, including myself, aren't. The advertisements on my blog have their place and are set apart from the content of the website. In-text advertising is within the content, spoiling the format by underlining and colour-changing the text, something which I find extremely ugly and off-putting. If I go on to a site to read an article, I can handle banner ads or whatever but do not want pop-ups which automatically appear uninvited when I enter the site or pop-ups which appear when i happen to drag my cursor over a word in the article that I'm reading. The commercial website that I administer has adverts but not in places which undermine the content. In-text advertising, like pop-up advertising, detracts from a site in many cases.

I AM an online marketing manager, but not exclusively, and am concious of design and usability. I allow 'bulky' advert but restrict them to one particular area of my webpage, that way the reader can still be exposed to them but without being swamped by them. Does this make me bad at my job? Well, it might make me less competitive than those who will happily employ any method open to them, but I like to think thats more a sign of integrity and quality standards.

I hope this explanation goes some way to stopping you scratching your head, anyway!