Bigger ads or better ads?

There were two interesting pieces of news in the internet ad space this week. Yesterday, Google announced they’re rolling out behavioural targeting for Adsense. What this means is that they’ll look at what types of sites you visit (if those sites are running Adsense) and then ads will be targeted at you based on those sites.

The second piece of news was that a group of large traffic websites are trialling some new ad formats. US national newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and USA Today are running some huge ads. You can read more about them here.

To me, these two highlight stark contrasts in response to the problem of ad-blindness, and typifies an new media response vs an old media one. The old media response (the newspapers) is: “people don’t notice ads, so we have to make it so they can’t help but ignore them”. Bigger ads, more movement, and an “in your face” approach.

The new media response, from Google, is: “people don’t notice ads, maybe we should make them more relevant”. Nick Gonzalez at Social Media thinks that the bigger ads are the way forward. “Making ads more conspicuous is one way publishers can argue they serve advertiser’s interests better“. I can’t argue with that, but making larger ad formats just seems to be part of a never-ending arms race between blanking attention, growing monitor sizes and advertisers. Nick’s commentary on Google’s announcement is “What advertising needs … is improving the advertising experience, not targeting. Make ads better, not more targeted“. (The sentence starts with

Now it may be that Nick’s opinion tells us more about the direction of Social Media than anything else, but the aim of “make ads better” doesn’t seem to contradict the idea of “make ads more targeted”. Show me something I want to see and I’m more likely to think it’s better.

While internet advertising is taking a rare dip it will be interesting to see what future the bigger, and more intrusive, ads have vs the attempt to become more relevant. It may only be part of the picture but I know which direction I’d be backing.