Zone38 Presents...
Letters to the World

23-Dec-2003

Taking AIM at bad ads

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 6:07 pm

To whom it may concern at America Online:

Apparently, you have recently begun testing video ads, with accompanying audio, in the AIM client. It would have been nice to have a place where we users could offer feedback on these ads, however, because I have quite a bit of it… and most of it isn’t positive.

First, let me mention that I’m not against advertising in general in AIM, unlike some people seem to be. Indeed, I’ve seen a few clever or interesting banner ads that actually interested me and that caused me to follow through to the advertiser’s site. The ads needn’t even be simple and static; I’ve seen a few interactive ads that were incredibly clever.

However, forcing full-motion video with accompanying audio upon a user, especially in a program that normally tends to be relatively quiet, is a bit on the intrusive side. Many AIM users use the product at work, in a computer lab, or in some other environment where such audio messages may be unwanted. In addition, some people can be rather sensitive when it comes to unexpected audio playing for no apparent reason; I don’t know how many times I’ve recoiled because some website somewhere on my desktop decided to start playing music unexpectedly.

Indeed, I didn’t even realize at first that these ads were coming from AIM. Several times lately I had heard an ad for CareerBuilder playing through my computer’s speakers– usually on top of the MP3 I was listening to at the time!– but I was unable to actually track down the source of the ad until this week, when I happened to notice a video clip synchronized with the ad in my AIM buddy list. I was quite disappointed when I discovered that AIM was the application that was drowning out my music with these audio ads; I would have expected that AOL would know better than this.

But their intrusiveness isn’t the worst part. Even on my two-and-a-half-year-old machine, these video ads seem to use up an excessive amount of system resources for something as simple as an instant messaging client, causing the system to become a bit sluggish. And if that wasn’t bad enough, these rich-media ads have also had the rather unfortunate side effect of crashing certain people’s computers!

I’m clearly not the only one upset by this decision, judging from commentary at WebSpiffy and Doug’s Random Thoughts, among other sites.

Please, AOL. If you’re going to foist video and audio ads into our buddy list, at least give us an option to choose a more “lightweight” form of advertising instead.

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