When it first launched, the Internet was seen as a source of unlimited money, a great big virtual bag of cash simply waiting to be untied.Tapping into an audience in the billions, companies could flog their goods to the widest customer base imaginable. Advertising would change forever, largely through the invention of the banner ad -- the blurb of advertising at the top of almost every Web page. Anyone who viewed a Web page, the logic went, would immediately feel compelled to click on the banner ad at the top of the page, meaning cash for both the advertiser and the host site.
Ask anyone trying to make money from the Internet and they'll tell you that advertising on the Web is a disaster. No matter how fancy the ad is, the chances of someone spending time clicking on it are slim to none.
As a result, we're getting a more disruptive ride on the information super-highway lately.
It's increasingly difficult to view a Web page without your attention being pulled in other directions. Advertisers are trying to distract you in new and annoying ways, which means that the old days of simply ignoring an ad and scrolling down to the info on the page are long gone.
Pop-up windows that keep opening after you've closed what you were initially looking at were long the domain of the porn industry. The more you tried to leave a site, the more windows would pop up, until you finally had to shut down your computer to escape.
Now, even respectable outfits like the New York times (www.nytimes.com) launch unwanted ads for gizmos like the ubiquitous Amazing X Cam when you visit their sites. Even more intrusive are the tiny pop-up windows you can barely see but that spring into action when you finally try to quit your browser.
Pop-up windows are still just versions of banner ads, though -- they're passive and can be easily closed if you don't want to look at them. These days there's a stream of more intrusive and unclosable online ads meant to seriously disrupt your Web viewing.
Thirty-second animations running before you actually get to the Web page you want to see are common but nowhere near as annoying as the ads built right into the page itself.
Delta Airlines currently has an ad in which the word "lines" is scratched out by a pen, The sound of the pen inevitably draws your eyes up to the ad. Job done.
Some car manufacturers simply have an animated car drive through the middle of the Web page as you're reading it. Distracting, but not as incredible as the sites that build the advertisement directly into the background of the text. Hey, isn't that a bottle of Coke behind all that type? Wow, I really am thirsty!
Whether these online gambits will be any more successful in snaring your business than boring old banner ads remains to be seen. For those in the business, it's essential that their ads be as intrusive, and therefore attention-grabbing, as possible.
Of course, you can always be like BMW and commission mini-films from directors like Ang Lee that people will voluntarily check out. The new series, featuring movies by John Woo and others at www.bmwfilms.com, has already started and promises to be as popular a sensation as the first.
It's the most blatant product placement possible, and also the most successful example of Internet advertising yet. email@example.com