Online ads that don’t suck

For many online media websites, it’s a struggle to balance giving proper display to online advertising and providing a great user experience in which advertising doesn’t compete with the site’s online content. There have been many attempts at creating ads that live alongside editorial content that range from the usual suspects like banner ads, pre-roll video ads, and in-line linking to the worst offenders like mouseover popups and ads that fly across the screen or take up the whole page.

Online ads can be an eyesore, but they don’t have to be. In fact some online advertising can be pleasant and not as overbearing. I am far from an advertising guru, but as a frequent news and media consumer, there are certain advertising experiences that I actually look forward to.

One such mode of advertising is the wrap ad that is sometimes featured on major news websites like The Washington Post (below) and is seen frequently on sites like Pandora.

This type of online advertising offers up prime real estate by surrounding the content of the website without actually interfering with the layout of the page. When done right, it looks good. On the other hand, if it’s intrusive or overwhelms the website, it can be distracting to readers and viewers.

Another type of online advertising that works well is the “choose your own ad” model frequently seen on Hulu. Instead of a standard pre-roll ad that runs automatically with no input from the viewer, visitors to Hulu and other websites can select one of several ads from a single company. For some long-form video such as television episodes, viewers are offered the option to watch either one long ad, or several shorter ads interspersed throughout the video.

One other cool form of advertising that is compelling without being intrusive are the ads found in iPad apps. While the interactive ads we were promised at the launch of the device are few and far between, often in-app ads are as visually appealing as the content itself. The experience is akin to flipping through a tech or fashion magazine and staring at the ads in addition to the editorial content.

Ads from the Elle US and The Daily iPad apps (below) include video content that gives an extra dimension to what otherwise looks like a static ad.

Just as there’s innovation happening in journalism, the same goes for online advertising. As the ad experience is perfect, online advertising will eventually become less jarring and more seamless.