It was D-Day early this week on The Post Web site. Animated parachutes came drifting down from the top of the home page to the bottom for several seconds when readers first loaded the site. It was all part of an ad campaign by Northrop Grumman, the large defense contractor.
On first glance, the animated parachutes were kind of cool, from a technology perspective. And if you looked hard, you could find a “close” button to end the ad and the animation. But readers, by and large, were not amused. They saw it as one more intrusion on the news, one more Post ad that they had to navigate around, or be patient with until it was over.
One e-mail writer put it succinctly: “Today the Washington Post home page has parachutes drifting down all across it. The ‘close’ button is hard to find. Please stop that.”
Another reader was a bit more fulsome: “What’s with the parachutes? That is the most ABSURD thing. . . . Please, just give me the news and lose the clutter. It seems that each time I check the Post online, it gets harder and harder to read. I know you have to sell ads to make money, and that’s fine. But lose the art and lose the rollover ads. You don’t put Post-It Ads over the news in the print editions of The Post, why do you put electronic Post-It Ads over the news in the electronic editions?”
The Post has been doing animated ads for some time now on the home page. But they do have limits on them and there are internal guidelines for how extensive they can be.
For one, you will see such ads only one time per day, according to Steve Sup, The Post’s vice president for digital sales and advertising. Post software actually keeps track, and if you come to the site later in the day, you won’t get the ad a second time. The home page ads also have a seven-second limit on the animated graphics.
The advertiser and the advertiser’s ad agency usually comes up with the animated ideas working with The Post’s ad sales team. When asked if these kinds of ads are particularly effective, or memorable, Sup said, “They are very effective for advertisers. I can’t share specific results, but we have found that they very good at increasing awareness.”
The ad hooked me, but I covered defense for a long time and was curious about it. But not to strain the military metaphors too far, readers generally thought the parachutes were a bridge too far. And I have to agree.
I have queries into Northrop Grumman but so far have not heard back.