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Eyeblasters hit Irish Web sites
Friday, October 26 2001
by Andrew McLindon

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Some of Ireland's leading Web sites have this week started to run an on-line ad format that has not been used in this country before.

The handful of sites, including Unison.ie, Examiner.ie and EntertainmentIreland.ie, are running an ad from Eircom that delivers a full-page cartoon-like Halloween greeting on their home pages when they load. The ad, which is called an "eyeblaster," appears for around five seconds and once it is finished a pop-up ad for Halloween themed e-cards appears in the corner of the page.

According to Colin Joyce, director of Adculture, the company that developed the eyeblaster for Eircom, such ads are here to stay. "It is a unique format that allows you to capture an audience's attention because it is 'in your face' advertising. It is particularly good for branding and product launches," he commented.

Joyce told ElectricNews.Net that several of the company's clients were looking at using the format in the near future and that early results from the Eircom ad had been "extremely good."

Simon Ferguson, managing director of the on-line advertising network Sales Online, said that while these kind of ads were innovative, they might not become commonplace. "Eyeblasters certainly show just what can be done with the on-line ad format and we helped place them on some of the sites, but I think that people might become annoyed with them quite quickly and they could lose their impact if they started to appear on a large number of sites," he remarked.

One of the supposed advantages of the eyeblasters is that they are designed to only appear once on a visitor's screen in a 24-hour period no matter how many times that person visits a site with such an ad. This did not appear to be the case when ElectricNews.Net visited Unison.ie, but it did occur with EntertainmentIreland.ie.

It is unlikely that such ads will be a flash-in-the-pan. According to the US-based Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), recent studies have shown that these kinds of larger on-lines ads, known as Interactive Marketing Units (IMUs), are beginning to prove popular among advertisers.

The IAB said that surveys commissioned by MSN and DoubleClick found that IMUs improved "key branding metrics" by 40 percent on average. "Rather than saying bigger is better, I like to say that the new IMUs are working," remarked the organisation's president and chief executive officer, Robin Webster.

But, such ads are not without their detractors. Martha Stone, co-director of the Online News Association's ethical standards initiative, told a conference recently that these ads might be inappropriate on news-led Web sites.

At the NetMedia 2001 conference in London earlier this year, Stone said that the ads were undoubtedly innovative, but she questioned whether readers would appreciate them appearing over editorial content covering matters such as planes crashes or natural disasters. According to Stone, both The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have refused to run such ads.

Simon Ferguson, however, defended the ads. "They only appear for five seconds and you can still read the text underneath them, so I don't think they are overly intrusive," he said.

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