Commentary

Love Them Intro Ads

Maybe it's the heat, or maybe Cupid chose New York to nest this summer, but I've fallen hard and fast, and, as is common with matters of the heart, I stumbled upon love in the least likely of places. It's a moment when time stands still and I come face-to-face with -- yes, that's right world! - "intro" ads!

And I'm not the only one. Many have confided to me their affection for these consistently clean and tasteful types, which seductively take over a screen before a site appears. At the very least, my sources agree, intros just don't chafe the way most ads do.

Why? Well, their production quality is first rate. Next, they grab you immediately, which streaming video ads, for all their potency, still can't do. (Even with a powerful broadband connection, video ads still suffer from a half-second delay, which I'm sure turns off a good many consumers including myself.)

Moreover, intros need not compete for attention with other advertising or whatever item you're trying to read at the time. Which brings us to the intimacy factor: It's just you and the ad for those fleeting seconds before they naturally fade, or you choose to skip directly to a site's landing page. And I actually click to skip quite often, but not because my love is any less profound than I've stated. Rather, giving me that control endears me still further.

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But, you ask, don't vile screen-sized pop-ups qualify as intimate, too? Hardly. That's like comparing the scent of gardenias in bloom to New York in July -- ick! And while pop-ups deliver a minor shock to the senses, intros are often as familiar as a Web site's landing pages itself. One publisher that's mastered the intro, and not by coincidence is widely recognized as the poster child for a successful ad-supported model, is Forbes.com. Remarkably, expecting to encounter what they call their "welcome page" whenever I go to the site adds a comfort factor that I've yet to experience with any other form of online advertising.

For sure there are many others -- Business Week Online uses them occasionally, the Times' site usually runs something similar before multimedia content -- but I think most miss the importance of consistency and its connection with familiarity.

Am I merely punch drunk for an unremarkable ad? Moon struck by its hollow potential? It has happened before, as other flash-based formats have thrown me for a loop with their good looks and eager receptiveness. But I sincerely believe mine is a more mature attraction, which is of a piece with the industry's emerging spirit of poise and fluency. Call me crazy, but I think this is the one.

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