Attack Of The Flashers

May 23, 2006

Google is adding video clip ads to their hated moving/flashing ads. I’m not a fan of Google, so with luck this will trigger their demise.


Google Inc. today plans to begin selling Web advertisements that include video, in a move that it expects will increase the number of Google advertisers and the amount those advertisers spend.

The new advertisement formats will appear on Web sites that carry ads brokered by Google, rather than appearing on Google’s own sites. The ads will play advertising video clips when a consumer clicks on them.

Why are moving ads so annoying? My guess is because they grab out attention by crying Wolf, using the ancient survival mechanism of peripheral motion detection.

All animals have this, often tied to a (hard wired) response. If I, or my lizards, see something move in our peripheral vision, we both slew to view it. That’s because the movement can be a predator or food. Frogs have a fancier system – if the motion overshadows them, they automatically jump, if it doesn’t, they stay where they are and treat the movement as potential food. So now you know how to hunt frogs – stay low.

Anyway, since humans are a bit more advanced than frogs and lizards, we can suppress the slew-to-motion response, at the cost of a feeling of mild annoyance.

The flashing ad use of this mechanism is akin to getting a theater audience’s attention by holding an ad up and shouting “Fire!”

Hence every decent browser blocks these horrible things. Firefox just made the job more labor intensive, but Mac users have a better solution in Camino, which kills them all right out of the box (though it’s tabbing isn’t as good as Firefox).

It’s possible that Google has realized this, and is making the flashing effectively optional – you have to click the “play” button to get movement. But I doubt it since that would lose them revenue – their ads will probably have flashing play buttons.

If so, Google will be toast when advertizers find nobody plays their ads.