Ad Puke vs Banner Blindness: Are There Any Winners?

In a recent article, Brian Solis talked about “banner blindness”—how most people don’t even see web banner ads anymore.

It’s true, so advertisers are forced to become more creative…or more obnoxious in some cases. The worst ones spew ads at us like projectile vomiting.

Photo of woman puking, Finnish ad campaign

Ad puke. It’s the digital advertising world’s response to banner blindness.

How many times have you gone to a website only to have a giant pop-up ad obscure the screen? How many times have you found it difficult to locate the close button?

While I understand that advertisers and brands are trying to find new ways to make sure they catch your eye, I also know that with these sorts of ads, they run the risk of losing more people than they gain.

Risk is also an issue for any website that carries this kind of ad. As Kristine Elkins commented on my Google+ page:

Nothing makes me madder than a pop-up with no discernable close button. I don’t notice the content at all, I just search like crazy for the close button, and eventually if it’s too hard to find, close the browser altogether. What is this accomplishing from an advertising perspective? Maddening!

Is that what you want your audience to do—leave your website and leave feeling frustrated? Consider all the people that feel the same way Kristine does. It’s bad enough that advertisers create ads like these, but it’s just as bad that websites allow them.

What’s even worse are the TV shows that have pop-up banners that appear onscreen during a show or sports event. Nine times out of ten (my unofficial tally), these ads obscure something you want to see. That is truly maddening because there’s no way to close those ads yourself.

Does that mean all pop-up ads are bad? No.

There’s a difference between thoughtful advertising and ad puke. Advertisers must be mindful of this difference and be useful and relevant, while remaining as unobtrusive as possible.

And, they need to learn this lesson before they venture into social advertising (which is advertising right in your Twitter or Facebook stream).

The solution is very simple: Think and act based on the perspective of your audience. Or, let me put this in a way big brands can understand: Imagine going to your company’s website and having a giant ad for your competitor pop up…and you can’t find the close button.

That’s ad puke. And like all bad stains, it stays with you for a while. Not good, right? Now you know how the rest of us feel.


Brian Solis’ post went much more into social advertising. If you want to read about the report, check out Brian’s site. It’s lengthy but interesting. Also interesting is the story behind the photo I used. A few years ago Finnish breweries launched a campaign against binge drinking, using the slogan “You’re a jerk when you’re drunk!” Check it out.



  1. steveolenski (@steveolenski) · August 9, 2011

    Hi Coreen,

    I love this post! And what’s frightening is I love the term Ad Puke! That is so apropos in describing the vomit-inducing pop up ads you reference… and maddening is another appropriate word, too for it drives me crazy when I can’t close a pop up ad… AARRGGH!!!!

    Great post!
    Steve O

  2. ctmarcom · August 9, 2011

    Thanks, Steve! The term “ad puke” came to me while discussing Brian Solis’ article on G+. I thought it was fitting too. There’s this visceral response where you almost jump back from your computer to escape the intrusiveness of the ad. Let’s hope advertisers realize the error of their ways soon.

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