Our minds on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

Really Shady Ad Techniques

Among pop-ups and pop-unders as really bad advertising techniques I’d like to nominate the fake form element for really shady ad technique status. I can’t say whether it’s a “technique” or just ignorance but I can say that it is extremely poor design.

WARNING: This is not an active version of the ad. Don’t click on it. (OK. Click on it, but I’m not responsible for what happens next.)

I found myself — a fairly savvy early adopter of the web — falling for this trick. Mainly, I fell for it for a good reason. I’m someone who likes to shop for travel deals, which is precisely what this ad offered. “Great! Let’s see if they are going my way.” [At this point I click on the form element to look at the destinations and am quickly transported to another URL]

What URL, you ask? I don’t know. Aside from being a savvy early adopter of the web I am also one of the fastest back buttons in the East. I can’t even tell you from memory what the back command keystroke is — it’s all muscle memory. And when someone pulls a stunt like misusing an interface cue to garner hits for their ad they lose my business. Period.

Mind you, I realize that I’m not normal and that most folks inclined to click on this ad might be more than willing to overlook this lack of interface etiquette. And that’s precisely what annoys me. An ad like this essentially dilutes the effect of interface cues and ruins the opportunity for designers to properly use form elements in an ad. Users simply begin to assume that an ad is going to take them somewhere even if it appears to have some function built into and that’s a shame because interactive flash ads have proven to get a lot more attention. They need to be used responsibly.

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