The Top 10 Most Annoying, Frustrating, Irritating, and Sinister Online Ads

1. Old-School, Annoying, Attention-Grabbing Ads

LowerMyBills' dancing ads work by grabbing attention.
Recently I was having trouble focusing on the text of a CNN.com story. I quickly realized that my concentration troubles were due not to a bout of attention deficit disorder, but rather to a LowerMyBills ad that was blinking, jiggling, and dancing beside the text I was trying to read.

It occurred to me then: Why are online ads so obnoxious? The answer is, they work by grabbing our attention. Just as I can't ignore the silhouetted images of two-stepping cowboys in the LowerMyBills ads, the LowerMyBills brand is now stuck in my head like a song I hate and can't shake. (LowerMyBills would call that effective marketing).

Experts say that obtrusive ads are going out of vogue in exchange for ads tailored to the interests of individual Web users. If that's true, would someone please tell CNN.com? In the meantime, if you're interested in death by LowerMyBills ads, visit the Web site Adverlicio.us, which has archived nearly all the LowerMyBills ads.

2. Noisy Ads

Some ads start playing audio without any warning.
Obnoxious isn't quite strong enough an adjective to describe ads that automatically start playing audio on my PC without any warning. I'm not naming names, but I've spotted such ads on plenty of sites. It leads me to wonder: Whose hair-brained idea was it to hijack my PC's audio, anyway?

If you want to place blame, start with the advertiser, of course, but then consider the Web site where the ad appears. According to online-ad experts, Web site owners set the policy governing the types of ads their pages display.

One online-advertising company, EyeWonder, says that about one out of ten video ads it creates on the behalf of its customers will initiate audio when you roll your pointer over the ad. Most advertisers provide a button to start the audio, says Jason Scheidt, director of marketing for EyeWonder.

3. Floating Ads

Floating ads dominate your Web browser with an animated message.
In today's advertising environment, you need the dexterity of a video-game pro to chase down the Close button on ads as they float across your display. These specimens, called floating ads or "page takeovers," briefly dominate your Web browser with a Flash-based animated message. You've probably seen them (perhaps even on--gulp--PCWorld.com) running across your screen as the page loads.

I asked one advertising insider (who didn't want to be identified) if he would confirm my suspicion that some advertisers intentionally make it impossible to find the Close button. His response? "Of course they do. These advertisers know they are getting away with something. And that 'something' is not about making your life easier."

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