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There are a number of very irritating advertising techniques still used on the web today. Pop-ups, overlays and site intros are all highly annoying, but for me the worst ads are the ones that play sound as soon as you visit a web page.

I seem to be noticing this a lot more recently, and it isn't limited to low rent websites or brands. A bunch of well-respected sites regularly allow this, despite the fact that it makes visitors aim for the Back button.

We have previously praised the Telegraph on this site for its introduction of blogs for readers, but it now automatically starts playing videos complete with sound without asking me. Bad Telegraph!

Navigate to the Food and Drink section of the newspaper's website, and a video of a Ford ad starts to play. The onto Lloyd bloody Grossman. It's all very unusual, and very noisy...

Telegraph audio ad

Audio is an intrusion, especially when the user is not expecting it. For instance, some people may be doing a spot of clandestine surfing at work, so sudden audio can be pretty embarrassing.

Even the RadioTimes has got in on the act, and - Mother of God - the audio is impossible to turn off. This was the ad, for Channel 4's Cutting Edge programme, and whoever made it should hang their heads in shame:

RadioTimes Channel 4 ad

Naturally I aimed for the mute symbol to switch off the sound...

Channel 4 video ad

However, clicking 'mute' opened up a pop-up which sent me to the Channel 4 website:

Channel 4 pop-up

Are you feeling my pain? It is baffling. The auditory assault was annoying enough, but to then trick me into visiting another website makes it even worse.

Why would a web-savvy brand like C4 choose to pay over the odds to create and place these intrusive ad formats? To wind people up? And so much for the Radio Times user experience. Why does the Radio Times accept this kind of low grade advertising? Desperation, presumably.

There's nothing wrong with video ads, but my solution would be to keep the ads silent and then give the user the option of turning the sound ON if they want to view the ad. Not the other way round.

I guess the takeaway here is that if you resort to shouting then it means you are not being listened to. Advertising is all about targeting, not crappy formats and poorly executed creative.

Isn't it amazing that we're still bitching about this stuff in 2008?

Related stories:
Five bad web advertising techniques
10 reasons why your website sucks  

Graham Charlton

Published 12 March, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (1)


Jack Wallington, Head of department at -

Good article - ads should not have sound on by default.

over 8 years ago

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