Enter cursor ads. Sure, banner ads and rich media are great, but these ads follow the user's cursor around, making them inescapable; wherever the user wants to go, the ad follows. Cursor ads ranged from the fairly unusual - like a McDonald's ad with a Chinese Dragon dancing around the cursor that, when clicked on, changed into exploding firecrackers with a "Happy Chinese New Year" message - to the somewhat disturbing - an ad for the 2003 spy flick, "The Recruit," featured a handgun floating by the cursor which, when clicked, ominously loaded and prepared to fire.
Despite a few scattered examples, there aren't many cursor ads anymore, unless you go hunting for them on the sites of companies that make them and sometimes, not even then. Comet Systems, now owned by FindWhat, used to create cursor ads for campaigns, but no longer markets the service.
"I think what happened was before the dot-com crash, brand advertisers were doing a lot of experimentation with 'how do we move brand spending onto the Internet,' and cursors were a good way to do that. Then the bottom fell out. The recovery has been more into tracking and search, and cursors kind of got lost in the middle," says Tom Wilde, Comet's senior vice president and general manager. "It represents a very, very small piece of our business today."
Maybe it's all for the better. It's hard to imagine today's pop-up-hating, spam-blocking consumers tolerating an ad hovering like an overattentive waiter by their cursors.