This shouldn’t really surprise me, but Advertising Age just published a glowing review of the latest annoying online advertising scheme: Vibrant Media’s fake-link IntelliTXT video ads. (Check out that page and mouse over the double-underlined link “commercials” to see an example.)
See: So Can You Call It Text Messaging? by Nat Ives (registration required).
Ad Age’s blatant cheerleading for this intrusive advertising option indicates a remarkable misunderstanding of online media and why people use it, in my opinion. Ives did contact me with a few questions while preparing his article, and I gave him my assessment of IntelliTXT, but his finished work declined to include any serious criticism (or even skepticism) of the fake-link approach to advertising.
Hopefully, not everyone in the ad industry is drinking Vibrant Media’s Kool Aid. Any Web user who spends five minutes on an IntelliTXT-ridden site will recognize that Vibrant Media’s claim that this is “100 percent user-driven advertising” is utterly ludicrous.
More importantly, I hope news publishers steer clear of IntelliTXT, both text and video. It’s bad enough to see IntelliTXT on tech sites. Mixing fake links in with news for non-geek audiences would be embarrassing, I think. Forbes.com rightly rejected the practice in 2004 after its editorial staff complained. Recently, Vibrant Media CEO Doug Stevenson told Adweek that “Vibrant Media avoids news sites, although it does have deals to show in-line ads on parts of FoxNews.com and iVillage.” Just as well.
Bear in mind that IntelliTXT ads also present accessibility hassles for visually impaired Web users. Michael Kirk, who writes Sprawl Magazine and is significantly visually impaired, told me today: “Those ads can be a pain with screen readers because I end up tabbing to so many different links. And with programs like mine that create a site map so I can access links better, it just gives me more links to scroll through.”
In AdJab, Chris Thilk raised another criticism of the IntelliTXT video ads: “My major problem with this isn’t the intrusive video. It’s the fact that it’s being sold as just another outlet through which to recycle existing assets like TV commercials. God forbid we try to be a little innovative.”
…Oh, and if you don’t ever want to be bothered by IntelliTXT ads of any kind, I wrote earlier about how to kill IntelliTXT in your browser.