The Grizzly Man: Disruption that Works

Christine Perfetti

February 2nd, 2006

We’ve spent a lot of time researching what types of online advertisements actually work. Not surprisingly, we’ve found a lot of evidence to suggest that users ignore featured advertisements when they first arrive on a site. I recently posted about how featured advertisements on the home page typically fail. Why? Because the advertisements take users away from the task they’re trying to accomplish. The problem is that the ads are a disruption.

Advertising is all about disruption. TV ads disrupt users from the content. Billboard signs can disrupt people from focusing on driving. Online ads function similarly — they disrupt users from the content they’re looking for.

That’s why it’s always a surprise when I encounter online advertisements that actually work effectively. This happened to me today on Rotten Tomatoes, a site where users can find a summary of the movie reviews from top film critics.

When users arrive, Rotten Tomatoes often disrupts them with ads even before they’ve had a chance to enter the site. When I visited today, I was exposed to an ad for the popular movie, Grizzly Man.

Ad for Grizzly Man

The ad disrupted me from looking for the content I came for — the reviews for George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck (a movie I really want to see.) But I wasn’t annoyed or frustrated. The ad supplied me with information I am actually interested in: Grizzly Man is showing on the Discovery Channel tomorrow night. I now have my TiVo all set up to record the movie.

We often remind our clients that users don’t want to be disrupted from their tasks. But disruption can actually work sometimes. Have you seen any effective online ads recently? How did the site get you to pay attention to the ad? Was the disruption acceptable?

3 Responses to “The Grizzly Man: Disruption that Works”

  1. Zbigniew Lukasiak Says:

    In the world before mass media advertising was the same as advertisement, personal recommendation, it was something usefull for both sides. With more precise targetting and really paying attention to the needs of the receiver perhaps we can get back to this situation? It is not something unimaginable, the interest of the advertiser is not inherently in conflict with the interest of the receiver, all the opposite, a usefull message for the receiver would be an effective advertising as well.

  2. Robert S. Says:

    I think the problem with this model on RottenTomatoes, though is that it really wasn’t the method that made it work, it was your interest. If it had been an ad for, say, The Dukes of Hazzard, instead, your experience with the interstitial ad might’ve been more annoying (unless you’re a fan! ;). Maybe if the ads were highly personalized, based on movies you previously looked up on RT, then the method would be more palatable.

    Interestingly enough, I think RT and NYTimes both offer “skip this ad” features with their interstitials, which is interesting because I’ll usually take full advantage of it, and couldn’t even tell you a second later what the ad was for. Great for me. But I wonder what the folks paying for the advertising would think if they saw me hurriedly taking advantage of the opportunity to skip their ad.

    Guess it goes back to your point: there’s a delicate balance between getting ads in front of folks and creating a miserable user experience.

  3. Jared Spool Says:

    Robert wrote:

    Interestingly enough, I think RT and NYTimes both offer “skip this ad” features with their interstitials, which is interesting because I’ll usually take full advantage of it, and couldn’t even tell you a second later what the ad was for. Great for me. But I wonder what the folks paying for the advertising would think if they saw me hurriedly taking advantage of the opportunity to skip their ad.

    Exactly what I was thinking when I wrote this.

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