You're not imagining it: The number of ads on your computer screen really has shot up sharply -- by 33 percent since January, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. The firm counted 69,838 different commercials on the Internet last month, up from 52,530 when the online ad industry scraped bottom in January. It said old-line advertisers such as Columbia House and Nestle USA, not Internet firms, bought most of these ads.
Too bad an increasing number are animations that bump, grind and bounce across Web pages. Nielsen released no details on which advertisers ran the most repetitious, noisy or distracting Net commercials, though we're pretty sure the Orbitz travel site would have topped that list. It did report that the most-watched rich-media ad on the Internet last month, shown 75 million times, was a "skyscraper"-size ad for Toyota's Corolla that embedded a pinball game. No. 2 was a full-screen commercial from Uncle Sam, with a blaring "Tobacco Smokes You" opening scene.
A competing research firm, Jupiter Media Metrix, found that the number of oversize Internet ads leaped by 542 percent last year. Many of these jumbo ads (including some at The Post's site) use Macromedia Flash technology to make cars screech across the screen and jewelry tumble out of pages.
Typical of the new ads is an American Express commercial running on the Los Angeles Times Web site last week. When readers called up a news story, a crashing sound blared from their PC speakers and blue blocks fell all across the story's text, rendering it unreadable. Then the words "Expanding your business?" flashed on screen momentarily before the whole thing suddenly vanished like a bad dream.
Leslie Walker, WashingtonPost.com. May 19, 2002
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