Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This newspaper, err... advertisement talks...

Few days ago, I woke up to a talking ad by a major car company featured in newspaper. The newspaper had a small device pasted on the last page which began to talk after opening the paper. This was a cool concept, however sent a scare among readers as well. Many readers in Bangalore thought there were some insects in the paper making noises and few called the cops mistaking it to be a bomb!

This device was very similar to the auto- launched audio/video ads one sees on websites. As soon as you open the website, they begin to play the video/audio. And you need to pause to make them stop. The newspaper needed to be closed to stop the audio.

The audio ads (both in newspapers and web) can be very annoying for these reasons:

They are not context sensitive – This often leads to embarrassing situations. When I wanted to catch up with the daily news while in a long meeting, a lingerie ad began to play, raising eyebrows of the other colleagues! The audio/video ads do not know which situation the user is currently in. Whether s/he is a meeting or at home. Or is s/he alone or with friends. Audio ads can work if they find the context and play appropriate ones while respecting ones privacy.

Difficult to make them ‘shut-up’ – In both cases, user has to check how to turn the annoying ad off. In newspapers, which page it is in and how to turn it off. In websites, which tab (out of all the tabs open) is the ad from?

Unrelated sounds – User gets a car ad when surfing news on Afghanistan

Inaudible Having a low-quality, amateur recording

Hopefully, we designers will take care of these problems while designing the ads the next time.

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