Bigger, Louder, & More Obnoxious Ad Units

Some larger online publishers are facing declining display ads with a bold strategy: bigger, louder, and more obnoxious ad units. AdWeek reports:

  • The fixed panel, a 336-by-860-pixel banner that is wider than the standard skyscraper and follows users as they scroll down the page.
  • The XXL box, a 468-by-648-pixel unit that can expand with video.
  • The pushdown, a 970-by-418-pixel placement that takes up over half of the page before rolling up.

We recently added a slideup and a popup to the site here, but you should be able to click them once and not see them again (at least until you clear cookies), and at least they are marketing our own site.

But the idea of making larger and more obnoxious ad units some sort of standard for cross-selling seems to be against what is working. Most of Google's ad revenues come from tiny text ads that are relevant to user demand. One of the best ways to have relevant ads is to create what users want and sell it. If they are going to spend that many pixels on the ads, rather than making bigger ad units the publishers should use the content area to sell and add premium services to their sites and start selling content.

Published: March 11, 2009 by Aaron Wall in marketing


March 11, 2009 - 6:47pm

problem w/ seo for firefox

i dont seem to be getting PR for any sites and the rest of the information is the same for all of the sites-anybody else having this problem?

March 11, 2009 - 7:00pm

make sure you have the most recent version installed

March 11, 2009 - 8:05pm

Google adsense is talking about doing something similar. They call it expandable ads. A click makes the ad bigger. But the publisher does not make any revenue unless the visitor clicks again! Publishers would be giving the advertisers the benefit of exposure, with no compensation.

March 12, 2009 - 4:46am

Quality publishers get to be the backfill that get paid nickels for creating search demand. Hopefully Microsoft's attempts to credit multiple ad sources with a portion of the earnings wins out over Google's "search gets all the credit" strategy.

March 12, 2009 - 5:43am

And hopefully they buy out Y! search so that a company with its head on straight can compete w Google. Yahoo is so ass backwards it’s pathetic. Read diorex’s archives...

The sooner MSN has search volume great enough for ppl to take it seriously, the sooner the problems of Googopoly are reduced. Like you point out in your comment (and in other posts sharing their tools for advertisers), Aaron, MSN are leading the pack with innovations in advertising. Thing is, they need the inventory to monetize first! Lol, it’s like the new affiliate who gets all excited setting up a banner rotator then realizes his 10 visits a day are going to make testing slow going...

March 11, 2009 - 9:33pm

I clear cookies at least once a day and the sliding thing is kind of disturbing (to me at least). I guess I'm one of the only few people who are that obsessed about clearing cookies?

I think I might keep on coming back to your blog for a while, though ;-)

March 11, 2009 - 10:44pm

If a guy that shouts at people in the street is being ignored, will buying a megaphone make him heard? I think this is a bad direction to be going in for publishers, and advertisers.

Selling content sounds much better. But interesting this week that the Guardian newspaper has started giving away their content, but owning the ads.

Was on a ski travel site earlier and saw banners for credit cards?? Can't help but think showing the latest travel deals would make more sense, make a better site and make more money.

March 12, 2009 - 5:46am

Great insights all aroud there Gareth. Re: credit cards on travel, I’d guess that was demographic or behavioral targeting.

IMHO, the advertising industry on the whole still doesn’t get permission marketing, despite their claims. They’re still trying to interrupt folks when marketing to people when people are listening is so much more effective...

Real Estate Web...
March 12, 2009 - 3:54am

I was actually going to ask you about the results with the pop-up ad as I was looking around for something similar to promote our $50,000 website contest and thought it would be a great fit - is it something you had developed for you from scratch or based on a custom hacked library plugin like jquery or something?

March 12, 2009 - 5:37am is the pop up. the slideup was a recoded version of

Business blog
March 12, 2009 - 10:18pm

I guess the only way to change the power that Google has on searches and ppc is for us all to start using the other search engines like Yahoo etc

March 13, 2009 - 5:10pm

"You should be able to click them once and not see them again"

I still keep getting them. The recent SEOBook monetizing attempts have really turned me off from using SEOBook at all. When I come here I'm constantly bombarded with popups, giant text, images, videos telling me to buy the premium account. I even thought of buying but it is way to pricey for a individual for what you get in return.

Another thing that has really disappointed me lately is the fact that you can't use hub finder anymore without paying. I understand you're a business and you want to make money but in today market you're best marketing team is your users and you have potentially just lost one. I can't suggest to people to use the keyword tool if I know there going to get tons of ads... it makes me look unprofessional.

Good luck

March 14, 2009 - 1:33am

We really don't need to bring an endless array of free people into the site. Over 99% of the people who visit the site never buy, so it makes to expand that fraction of a percent and focus on the people who would buy from us.

You wrote that you were sad that you might not be able to use a tool that you liked. And that tool was one that cost us over 1 year worth of subscription fees to develop (not even counting the value of having the great & original idea AND pricing my time at $0), and you thought that the price is way to pricey.

If you actually *apply* the tips and information from this site to your SEO strategy it is not hard to make an extra $100 a month from search. Some people profit 100 times that much each month from search, some 1000 times, and some 10000 times. If the goal of making an additional $100 a month is too ambitious for you then truth is, you are not my target market.

Since you are not a paying customer - and think $100 is a lot of money - the truth is that even if you recommended people to the site you would probably recommend them to the free parts anyway, and in some cases advise them that $100 is a lot of money. Really no lasting value in that for me.

Does that piss off the freeloaders? Some. But other than a bandwidth bill and a bunch of email questions that showed they didn't know how to use the on-site search box (and value my time at $0), most of them were not giving us much anyway. Even the organic links disappeared in favor of worthless Tweets.

March 14, 2009 - 2:07am

I totally understand your points Aaron. I respect you as a leader in the industry, I follow you on twitter, I subscribe to your feed, I've used the new toolbar. Yes, you could call me a freeloader since I haven't paid for your premium service. The honest truth is there is a lot of competition out there and my firm pays for a lot of tools. When we're making a purchase for a tool it's usually going to be a long term commitment and it has to offer exactly what were looking for or close to it.

I really understand the need to increase conversions but from a loyal readers point of view you're just trying to sell me what I'm already aware of and to feel forced to buy puts me in an uncomfortable position. One thing I want with any service is the feeling of comfort.

What really started this whole post in the first place was when I saw your new pop up ad I clicked the close button as soon as I saw it, which is what I do by habit anytime I see a pop up. After reading this post I did see the buttons "remind me in a week" "never remind me". So if someone never notices those buttons it's likely using your site can be a headache.

Good luck.

March 13, 2009 - 7:23pm

More is Not Better.

Better is Better.

For some reason (many) people lose their business sense when it comes to the online universe.

Declining print revenues + the increasing popularity and effectiveness of search should tell us what searchers/end users want.

People want to have conversations and develop relationships, not be yelled at by an insincere, annoying ad.

I'm encouraged more by ads on ESPN for Ford that featured a truck splattering John Saunders with mud before disappearing back into the page. It was creative and interactive.

There's a place for mass media (TV ads, etc) but the same old, same old just doesn't work on the web.

Great link to 1938 videos. I'm excited about the growing movement of selling actual products/services online.


March 15, 2009 - 12:59am

The text ads on the newyork times are so flippin loud. They are like 2 times the size of the text, mega bolded, and just make the site look cheap. They must really be desperate for any cash they can squeeze out of the site in the short-term.

March 15, 2009 - 9:25am

Wow...that page has no navigational scheme to it...just AdSense, top and to the left, with more AdSense aligned in the top left of the "content" area. I would never do something like that with a website that aimed to be seen as credible. They must be hurting really bad.

March 15, 2009 - 4:01am

Aaron regarding your last comment on this post...

"...If you actually *apply* the tips and information from this site to your SEO strategy it is not hard to make an extra $100 a month from search..."

Everything in your comment not just what I quoted above was well said. I agree with you and I'm targeting towards making that extra $100 a month to have access to the other features.

Thanks for putting us straight!

March 15, 2009 - 9:22am

I am not trying to put anyone straight...I was just trying to point out that the value proposition of great SEO advice when compared to lots of the misinformation that dominates the public sphere.

March 24, 2009 - 8:54pm

Good content is getting eclipsed by visual noise inteh fomr and increasing infringements by animated arm-wrestling ad strategies. Newspaper sites online are really getting junky, a reflection of the desperation to create revenue online as the print editions suffer from the expense of paper publishing.
The good news for traditional media is that if online sites do enough window-blind pull-down burn-your-retina approaches people will pick up the paper products again.
Small well-placed ads work well with things worth reading. Or for photo/art worth looking at. When the ads become the content the site will lose.
Companies needing promotion would do well to build websites to educate, share and build their brand and will have far less need to buy big display ads online.

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