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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 February, 2004, 18:13 GMT
TV-style adverts arrive on web
By Tracey Logan
BBC Go Digital presenter

Britney in Pepsi
Would you watch a Pepsi video ad starring Britney?
Net users may have to get used to watching TV ads between web pages, if trials currently under way on high profile websites are successful.

The new video ads are being tested on 15 sites over the next five weeks.

They are the result of a collaboration between online ad developers, Unicast, and software giant, Microsoft.

But though users may find them annoying, they could ultimately reduce the overall number of web advertisements in the long term.

Hard to ignore

With the increasing commercialisation of the internet has come an explosion in advertising.

Most people have got used to filtering out the sales pitches in the search for useful information.

But 30 second-long TV ads that appear at random whenever you click on certain websites, will be harder to ignore than pop-up ads.

Unicast's Video Commercial is a full screen online ad format that plays a 2MB, 30 second, broadcast quality video, regardless of connection speed.

The format is based on Microsoft's Windows Media 9 Series and uses Unicast proprietary pre-cached technology.

Fewer ads?

Unicast describes its ad format as "a giant leap forward" for the online advertising industry.

Honda ad
Honda is one of the companies trying out the ads
"Why there are so many ads is that websites depend on advertising for your content to be free," said Allie Savarino, Unicast vice-president of worldwide marketing.

"And the lower the value to an advertiser that an ad format brings, such as a pop up, the more ads a website has to sell," she told the BBC programme Go Digital.

"If you can offer formats that advertisers place a premium on, like television commercials, the amount of money they're willing to pay for that will increase and therefore the number of ads websites will have to run to remain viable will decrease."

Users stumbling across the trials on websites including MSN, ABCNews, Pepsi and Honda may find them overly distracting.

But it is something net users all going to have to get used to, says Unicast.

"There is an inherent need for consumers to become accustomed to something habitual online, in the same way they are accustomed for every 30 minutes of a TV programme to have seven minutes of adverts," said Ms Savarino.

Technology analyst Bill Thompson told Go Digital that he believed the ads would prove too intrusive.

"It will replace something that is annoying for many people with something which is even more annoying," he said.

"The flow when you are moving from webpage to webpage is particularly important. To have that interrupted, even by an ad you can close is going to be disruptive and people will not like this."

Are video commercials a good or bad idea? Will they be more annoying then pop-ups or is it a good way for companies to make the web pay? Here is a selection of your comments.

I am very happy that I use Linux and won't be affected in the short-run. I think that the companies doing this need to realize that people can only take so much aggravation. There are always ways around everything of course, but if you force your potential customers to use them to avoid your ads, won't these people end up feeling animosity and try to alienate themselves from your companies?
Karen White, Canada

I hate pop-ups. In fact I detest them. I hate radio that puts adverts between every music song and I hate TV with more than 15 minutes of adverts every hour. Thankfully on the net I use Mozilla's "Block unrequested popup windows" and right click to "block images from this server". I have for years enjoyed fast, ad-free web service ;-)
David, Valence, France

Commercials are not necessarily a bad idea. I don't mind web advertising as long it does not contain spyware or adware. I know it's boring to look at commercials especially right in front of you. HoweverI like to see new and innovative technology all the time. It might make my web experience enjoyable. I'll have to wait and see.
ALLAN, Alexandria, VA, US

Life is short, why waste on meaningless commercials, there're billions of web page to surf, and you probably need thousands of years to scan them through, 24 hours a day and 365(366) days a year. I will not object to web ads as long as they can allow me to back down and go on surfing other commercial free website.
SC Cheung, Hong Kong

Big Business owns the radio, and the television. Are we gonna let 'em get the internet, too? If so, we'll have no more outlets for information that aren't controlled by the corporate cats in power. And if that's the case, our voices will never be heard unless it puts cash in a CEO's pocket. The solution? Stop visiting sites that opt for this kind of intrusive advertising. But I'll watch a Britney ad. I won't lie.
rev1, Upstate NY, USA

Those saying that the internet isn't free and we must accept adverts do have a valid point. However, many net users are on a limited bandwidth account - that is, they have a certain bandwidth limit per month, and overage of that incurs fees. I'm sure those net users will not be best pleased that every page load costs them 2Mb of their (precious) bandwidth! The internet was designed as a free-from-strings global resource. In reality it's turned into the next big money-maker, which is fine, except when the money is being made at the users' expense.
Rikki Tissier, Essex, UK

I pulled the plug on the TV two years ago and advertising was one of the major reasons. I will pull the plug on the internet for the same reason if forced to. Actually, I become a stronger person by resisting this tide of crap and will continue boycotting any product that has no respect or concern for MY time.
Charles Cofman, Ripley, WV

Even if I'm not willing to interrupt the flow of my surfing to click on banner ads, I still notice them, and I'm more likely to click on a banner ad than a popup. I'm not likely to be a good customer if someone annoys the hell out of me. Advertisers should be happy with name recognition like they get with TV and magazine ads.
Dustin, USA

If the operation of these ads is to be based on Microsoft's Windows Media 9 Series, there is a good chance that something has already been devised to counter them - it's called a Macintosh!
Nicholas Sanders, Bormla, Malta

Computers are not the same as broadcast media. One can only avoid TV ads by turning off the set. With a computer, there are numerous programming solutions to any scheme to barrage the user with ads.
Jeff, Springfield, VA, USA

People don't want to pay for content, but they don't want ads either. Would you work for nothing? I hate ads like everyone else, but unless we find another way to finance content the war between a minority of smart users and the advertisers will continue.
David Pritchard, Madrid, Spain

It's about time the majority of the people above understood that the web cannot be "free" any more. As soon as you start charging subscription fees, your (website) users moan and want the site to be paid for by advertising - hosting websites costs real money and it is about time people get used to it!
Jools, London

These ads take over your computer blocking out other content for significant time spans. Absolutely infuriating. There is nothing to do but boycott products which use these tactics and get our programmers working on ways to sidestep them.
Watson, Collinsville, VA USA

It seems I'm the only person here who isn't in the slightest bit bothered by this. Two years ago I stopped using Windows at home and have since enjoyed pop up free web browsing, no security flaws in my web browser and no intrusive annoying spyware and adverts. And I know that I will continue to do so. News features like this don't bother me in the slightest - At the end of the day it only affects those still using Microsoft Windows. As always.
Stephen Sweeney, London

I think that the public should pay for quality web pages. The BBC is one of the most valuable resources over the web, but so are many web sites which are not supported. I don't think advertising is good but having great web site promoters starve is worse yet. I enjoy the many fine public radio stations on the web and hopefully there will be more live video casts. They must be supported. Advertising killed quality television, it will kill quality web sites.
Mark Le Schack, Pittsburgh Pa. USA

Believe me a lot of people will stop a Britney Spears Ad. I think this is a very dumb way of advertising anything. I work in an advertising agency and I am highly disappointed in any advert agency that came up with this idea. It is simply way off, and i am really sorry to say that they are not thinking of their clients at all, this will make sales drop faster than they can imagine. I can just see it.
Enyioma , Lagos, Nigeria

Stop moaning about advertising. If you don't want advertising then simply pay for internet content. There are plenty of content providers that offer information for a fee, without advertising. Most of the people replying to this article expect everything on the internet to be created by spare time enthusiasts who write for the fun of it. The days of free internet are over. Stop holding onto the past. You can't provide a service for free. I want advertising as it is the only way to get content without personally paying for it.
Adrian, London

Don't know about the rest of you folks, but I tried out these commercials (namely the one at Honda), and it crashes my browser. This technology definitely requires much more testing. In any case, we as internet users have the option of never visiting websites that use this technology if it becomes annoying. After all we can choose whether to be annoyed with commercials or not.
Mark Baker, Ajax, Ontario, Canada

It's not just that the "web" pays. How about all the people who are exposed to all the annoying pop-ups and the barrage of all the other unwanted stuff on the web? Don't we have enough clutter to filter through our lives as it is now? Isn't it a clear indication that with technology today people are able to view various programs (such as on TV) without advertising interference that people are not going to like this idea? The answer to the initial question of would I want to watch Britney in a video on the web? No. I really prefer not to watch her on a video in any other medium as well.
Sarah, Kansas City, USA

This is the most ridiculous idea I've heard. If a constant barrage of pop up ads are so annoying that we ignore and delete them, how can a pop up commercial be better? For those without high-speed connections, this would undoubtedly affect their computers' performance, adding injury to insult!
Chris Hemming, Louisville, KY, USA

Ways have been found to prevent pop-ups and banner-ads appearing in viewed web pages. It won't be long before the technology to prevent us having to watch full length commercials on the web will be freely available too!
Angela, Brighton, Sussex

WHY OH WHY must every good idea be turned into a marketing scam for some fat-cat in a corner office? Web browsing is slow enough without having to endure 30 seconds of boring 'targeted' drivel. I really hope this does not come to fruition. Hopefully someone will code a technology similar to pop-up blockers to bypass this annoyance. The web is slow enough, and you're telling us we must wait for adverts?!
Dave McKergan, Portstewart, Ulster.

Great, remind me to renew my library card because I think I just became a Luddite.
Adam Cantor, Canada

One of the reasons I refuse to watch the telly any longer is the constant barrage of mind-numbingly simple ads. With the internet, I can block most of these eyesores out, surfing with reckless abandon. If this is the future of internet advertising, however, I am very much afraid I may have to turn to a new source of entertainment - like reading a book or something. They haven't begun to place ads between pages in Harry Potter books yet, have they?
Don, St Pete, FL, USA

Why should I have to pay for companies to market their products / services to me? I believe that this would be a risky strategy for any company to pursue, as it is invading peoples privacy. Many people already avoid the TV adverts... could this make consumers do the same to the internet?
Danielle, Cardiff

There are plenty of very good websites on the internet that don't use either pop-ups or advertising to survive. I will certainly not waste my time at a site where I need to spend 15 seconds staring at garbage every time I load up a new page.
Sam Yeaman, Cali, Colombia

Nice idea and can understand the principle of it. However is this system going to take into account those of us who are unfortunately still having to use a 56K dial-up connection for one reason or another. The companies of Microsoft and the like are so keen for everyone to be using a broadband technology and trying to force us to change. But are they will to put up the cost of making broadband available in every household in the UK and US?
Andrew Tickner, Southampton, UK

I don't mind them sending me these videos as long as they don't mind me forwarding my SPAM to them. Seems a fair deal.
Pete Cook, Bristol UK

So... I click a link and a 2MB ad starts downloading. My response: press the Stop button and go away. No way will I ever wait around for the advert to download (using the bandwidth I paid for!). Sites that try this trick are going to be dead sites.
Agnes Clarke, The Netherlands

The great thing about the Internet is how it can route around interruptions. As soon as web sites start to cripple themselves with this advertising, someone will work out how to bypass it. Or boycott it. Advertisers be warned - this is a waste of your money and our time.
Neil Moss, Edinburgh, Scotland

More commercials online is a bad idea. I will actively seek ways to filter them out. I don't want to be force-fed propaganda, and on my computer I have every right to select what content is displayed. Web sites that use these commercials that don't allow me to skip them will lose me as a customer.
Tim Courtney, Wheaton, IL, US

How else are Internet companies going to provide a service to its users without funding, until i worked for an internet company i never realised how many people were needed to maintain a leading website. Due to the dot.com boom there have been lots of job placements created in all areas of work surely this is a good thing for everybody and I'm sure lots of people won't be in a hurry to close down an advert containing Britney Spears.
David Smith, London

GOOD GRIEF!! Does Unicast know how long it takes to download 2mb on a 56k modem! It's more than 30 seconds that's for sure. And what gives them the right to force me to watch an ad for something which is probably of no use to me!
Ian McIntyre, Co Dublin, Ireland

I hate ads on the web. This new idea will add useless steps in the user's way of finding the needed info.
Michele Bugliaro, Switzerland

Video adverts might work IF they were as intrusive as TV ads. There are always other sites. You would have to have some extraordinary content to expect many users to put up with video adverts. Inyourface, unannounced, demands to your computer to start resource hogging software probably won't be liked by the many who have older slower hardware.
David Brown, Manchester UK

Web adverts will undoubtedly be an irritant which will result in a. simple software which disables the pop ups ( they exist already ) , and b. a dislike to the product being advertised. If companies think that web users will be influenced towards their products then they are woefully misguided by the Unicast sales personnel
Martin Nelson, Worcester

Who is going to sit and wait 10 minutes for an advert to download?!! I would imagine that a commercial site that contains such intrusive content will find its visitor numbers evaporate shortly before the advertising revenue they attract! What a terrible idea.
Jason, Taunton, Somerset

As advertising is developing, so are counter measures. As Google toolbar blocks popups, I hope something will block this Unicast.
Miha Pirnat, Slovenia

If I would encounter sites who use this kind of advertisement I would probably avoid visiting them again. If there's something that I don't like then it's those full-screen adds, whether they're just pictures or movies. Also I'm a bit worried about people with slow connections or slower computers. It might form a problem for them to open those pages.
Marijn De Ruysscher, Moerzeke, Belgium

This is a difficult one. Yes commercial websites need to make money in order to stay in business but on the other hand as a web user I hate a website full of adverts especially popups. At least you can plug in popup killers into internet explorer now that kill the popups before they appear but if a tv advert gets loaded into the browser window itself then it will get annoying. I respect peoples right and need to make money off their sites but I personally won't be visiting any sites that force 30 second adverts on me.
Phil, UK

There is a competitive market for information on the web. If I get annoyed with a pop-up ad, I go elsewhere for shopping or news. Pop-up blockers are one of the best innovations the internet has seen recently!
Jamey, London, UK

BAD idea - I detest commercials. They do not influence my tastes. Sometimes the use of certain personalities actually puts me off products that I buy. In the case of a certain cola drink, its product placement during Live Aid ensured that I have never bought it since.
Stephen Carlin, Bangor, Northern Ireland

Online advertising 'to click again'
22 Oct 03  |  Business
Adverts on the net 'pay off'
11 Mar 03  |  Technology
Why online ads do not work
11 Jul 03  |  Technology
Pop-ups chase eyeballs
24 Jul 02  |  Technology

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