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Top 5 Most Annoying Online Ads

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Though online ads have long been a popular way for companies to make some money off the web, it often comes at the cost of irritating us web surfers. Running into an advertising roadblock when we’re searching for information is often as grating as nails scratching on a blackboard. But on the flip side, advertisements are necessary because ad revenue is the reason why most web content is free. Because companies are constantly coming up with new ways to advertise online, we decided to compile a list of the five most annoying ads on the web.

Home page takeover ads – If you read The New York Times on the web, you must have viewed the BMW video ad that took up the entire home page two weeks ago (see the video here).  Touting BMW’s new line of “clean” diesel fuel cars, the ad made The New York Times’ home page show up as a black screen until the BMW spokesperson in the ad clicked on a light and then took you to the standard home page. The ad still played in the right-hand side of the page, however. It was a jarring interruption in my morning routine.

msft capchaCAPTCHA ads – If you’re setting up a new account on a web site or purchasing something online, you’ve probably been prompted to fill out a CAPTCHA. It’s those blurry, stretched-out jumble of letters and numbers you’re forced to type into a box. Apparently, Microsoft (s msft) is using its own form of CAPTCHA to market its products, such as the Xbox 360 video game console. Is Microsoft really that obvious, or is this supposed to be sort of tongue-in-cheek?

popunderPop-under ads – Though pop-unders are an old-school type of online ad, you can still run into them. Pop-unders catch you unexpectedly, because the ads are hidden underneath your browser. Once you’ve closed the browser, then you see the ads staring right back at you. If you visit The Washington Post’s web site, you’ve likely run into pop-under ads like this one to the left.

Sponsored blog posts – Last month, The New York Times wrote an article about bloggers being reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission for writing about products that companies sent to them for free. Though many bloggers argue that they don’t write about a product unless they truly like it, the FTC has drafted a set of guidelines that may require online media to comply with disclosure rules. Still, it’s often hard for me to tell whether bloggers genuinely likes a product they’re writing about. (Online video stars, including Fred, have been known to advertise certain products during their video clips.)

Hover ads – A different take on traditional pop-up advertisements, Hover ads are the ones that pop up and play a video after you accidentally scroll over them with your mouse. The ad’s purpose is to distract you and hide some of the site’s content for a few seconds. Hover ads are especially annoying because you can’t use a pop-up blocker to prevent them. I often watch the whole video before figuring out how to close the ad. Here’s an example of a hover ad for Project Runway that I found on

pr ad

So readers, what type of online ads get under your skin? Over here at the GigaOM Network, Simon at WebWorkerDaily can’t stand the “punch the monkey” ads and Chris at NewTeeVee gets miffed over credit score ads. Share what you think in the comments section.

Photos courtesy of TechFlash and

21 Responses to “Top 5 Most Annoying Online Ads”

  1. I’m getting really annoyed at all of those ads that have sound now and play automatically. Specifically when I’m watching a video and want to pause it and one pops up, it’s so annoying to be in the middle of another web page and then have to hunt down the source of the audio, why can’t they just be silent until you WANT to hear them? Or not have sound at all.

  2. I’m with Chris – credit score and debt consolidation ads are the most annoying!

    To be perfectly honest, the standard ads like you have down the right column of this page are not annoying at all & actually quite interesting sometimes. Even better are the ones at the – you may also find this interesting ones at the bottom of an article you’ve just read – as long as they’re relevant.

  3. Mishan Kontroll

    iRider (a fancy web browser) handled pop-up ads in an ideal way: a page appears in your list and you flip through it as you click Next Page, but it doesn’t interrupt you and you can effortlessly ignore it. It’s exactly like a full-page ad in a magazine. It also didn’t block pop-ups that you really wanted. (But reviews I read of iRider usually didn’t appreciate this.)

  4. jbrandonf

    The ads that scroll with you as you browse a page. They’ll stay in the upper corners of the screen at all times. Incredibly annoying as their often isn’t an ‘x’ button you can click.

  5. The solution is Firefox with the AdBlock Plus & NoScript addons. Ad banners networks are blocked. Ad network cookies are blocked. Pages load faster.

    I was onsite at a client a while ago — they’re a content provider. One of the product managers was miffed that I blocked ads in my browser, and my response was “I don’t want to punch the monkey and win.”

  6. I don’t know what’s the deal with dental companies. But whatever site I see I find Yellow Teeth ads.
    Looks like it’s happening to most of the web users these days…

  7. Hover Ads can be good if they are not too obtrusive – I much prefer them over ads that just pop infront without you hovering on them.

    A good example of ok Hover Ads would be VideoEgg ads that display a timer, 3 seconds or so, before they actually expand. I see these a lot in Meebo.