Online ads, online impact

The New York Public Library showcases how advertising is modified by the media on which it appears with its newest exhibit, Opt In to Advertising’s New Age.

To me, what is most interesting is the commentary the exhibit makes on the Internet, the newest medium for ads. According to the NYTimes, online ads share a lot in common, not with television or radio ads, but with print ads (of course, the NYTimes has a vested interest in making that connection). To them, visual impact is what’s important and remembered. However,

The best online ads are not only visual but also kinesthetic. One ad for Pilão coffee shows an endless stream of milk pouring into a cup of really strong coffee that refuses to turn any lighter. An ad for the World Wide Fund for Nature shows a toilet-paper roll unwinding from its roller, down, down, down, until there is a pile of it on the floor. If you hadn’t clicked on the ad, all that paper wouldn’t have been wasted.

To feel even guiltier, check out the online ad for Abrapia, an organization for the protection of children, showing a child playing on the floor with blocks. If you use the roller ball to glide over to the boy, he crawls into a corner and cowers. This message flashes on the screen: “Every hour, 70 million Brazilian children fall victim to domestic violence.” It is effective because you have been implicated in the boy’s terror. Thanks to interactivity, kinesthetic push becomes moral pull.

Instead of reinforcing the connection to print ads, this article makes a stronger argument that interactivity is what’s most important to online ads. But interactivity doesn’t necessarily propel you to buy the product or support the cause anymore than if you had seen the ad in print. If you stop the toilet paper from unwinding, you haven’t saved any trees. Plus, you can become innured as easily to online ads as you can to print, radio and television ads. Click or not click on the images but you may not feel sufficiently guilty about child abuse to do anything.

BTW, the exhibit website has a really nice interface.

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