Nov 11

Ad pollution and the fall of civilization

Well, maybe the situation isn’t quite that dire.

But I’m often reminded of my earlier days in advertising, when my mentors talked about our profession’s responsibility not to pollute the environment just to make our clients a few extra bucks.

There’s no question that you can put ads pretty much anywhere. The question is, should you.

My example of the day is the CNN home page. Above is what it looked like a week or so ago. (Click if you’d like to see it in all its glory.)

This is what’s known as “taking over a page.” Some consider it a fantastic way to get attention in this overcrowded world. Others consider it ad pollution.

In a case like this, Capital One pays CNN extra to achieve “maximum impact.” They get a banner under the masthead, a full column on the right and left side, a square space that’s equal to the headline images, and — for good measure — a tiny little ad on the bottom.

And, because we’re so thick, they take special care to blast the exact same message in four different places. It would be a shame if you missed it.

What CNN looks like on a good day

I actually don’t have anything against page takeovers. Some companies consider it a creative challenge, doing it with style and class. Apple broke new ground with Mac vs. PC ads that featured some creative interaction between different parts of the page.

Capital One has successfully polluted this page, but they couldn’t have committed their crime without an accomplice. CNN owns the real estate. They’re the ones who took the cash and looked the other way as their new tenant junked up the place. Not the most sterling example of brand stewardship.

So watch it, CNN. Whatever you make in additional revenue, you’re giving back in brand degradation.

And you, Capital One: Yikes, could you try something a little more creative next time? Entertaining always trumps annoying.

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  • Amen, brother.

  • I can’t agree with you more. Ironically, I tweeted a similar screen grab this summer. https://twitter.com/?lang=en&logged_out=1#!/allthingspixel/status/83733637043994624.

    Capital One has been actively degrading their brand for years by polluting my mailbox at home. I’ve got no problem with creative advertising but, especially in this case, it’s a shame to see CNN further enabling Capitol One’s uninspired and tired advertising with a lack of regard for CNN’s own brand and audience.

  • ken segall

    Wow, great coincidence. I actually meant to write this story back when I saw that very same previous CNN page, but got sidetracked. It really is sad to see the depths to which major brands are willing to sink…

  • qka

    And website owners wonder why folks install ad blockers and such on their computers. All I know is I see a lot less ads these days. Pages also load faster.

    Opt out of credit card offers at https://www.optoutprescreen.com/
    This is legit, see http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre17.shtm for a referral.

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