How To Do Advertising Well On The Web

Adverts on the Internet are hard to get right. We have trained ourselves to look past and through them to the content we want to see reducing the value of ads on web pages. In recent news, General Motors removed its advertising from Facebook due to a reduction in return value. This is but a single example of the outdated method struggling to serve the new Web space.

After thinking about advertising on-line, I decided to analyse types that work, and those that don’t. Below, is the result of that.

Traditional advertising

This is an example to content on a television screen. The content takes up 100% of screen real estate.

Now, here’s an advertisement on the TV. This also takes up 100% of screen real estate.

Adverts intermittently appear between breaks in content; everyone has to watch every advert that is aired. The only way to avoid ads is to tune out. Content is the same for every person. Ergo, to watch the content, you must see the ads.

Modern advertising

Now we move on to modern advertising on the Internet. Internet advertising is predominantly based around embedding adverts on pages in positions relative to the content, much like adverts in print media; this is particularly popular on news websites.

Some of the most popular sites on the Web are social media sites – Facebook and Twitter lead the sector. Below are images of Facebook and Twitter’s layouts: main content is highlighted green; adverts, red.

As you can see, the adverts here are to the right of the content. They are at the bottom of some sort of sidebar – I don’t look at it enough to know what’s there – and really do not draw the eye. The adverts are formatted to fit in with the rest of the page so do not stand out. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want ads to be ugly so they stand out. Ads should be well designed and intriguing, not of this simplistic text, image, description form.

On Twitter, the form of the ad is just as embedded. It takes the form of a promoted Tweet or profile that has been sponsored to give it prime placement. For some reason, this seems more effective than Facebook, probably because the content is better tailored, although both are practically the same. Each links to another page on their website – the advertised product or company’s page. This keeps the content within the social network’s platform, so what it really comes down to is the effectiveness of the service as an ad and promotion platform.

Brand pages

First, we’ll look at Facebook.

The page of a company or product on Facebook is called a Timeline. It was designed to highlight important content – the things that are liked and shared most by Facebook users. This is brilliant for customers looking for the things their friends like on a page, but isn’t suited to a brand’s needs. A brand wants to get a specific message out a specific time. This is why Facebook provides demographic data about all users to advertisers; so they can target ads. Facebook partially does this via Likes, but just think: how many ‘Like if you do this thing that I do’ pages have you Liked, and how many paged have you Liked that you don’t actually like? When an ad links to a Timeline, though, the viewer does not see the content aimed at them: they see what their friends like. Content is not necessarily ordered by time and the only areas consistently present while scrolling are taken by other ads for different products. Therefore, I would conclude that the Facebook Timeline is not effective as a promotional platform as messages cannot be targeted and there are distractions on the page.

Now, on to Twitter.

Twitter ads are much the same as Facebook’s. They link to brand profiles and Tweets which are like any other – the profiles actually have image banners, but that feature will come to every user in the future. Each page on Twitter consists of a basic brand description – the bio – follow and following counts and, the main part, the Tweets. Tweets are arranged in reverse chronological order meaning a brands message is broadcast instantly toall of their followers; this is unlike Facebook’s News Feed which has a secret method for prioritising posts. Additionally, individual Tweets can be promoted and will appear at the top of the timelines of every user which Twitter deems to have the interests that the promoter specifies.

Which is better and why

Twitter’s ad structure seems to me to be much more effective, doesn’t it? Here’s why: think of the traditional television adverts. They appear intermittently in time between content; Content… Advert… Content… Advert… etc.

Now, compare this to Twitter. It is a stream of content, based on time. The adverts there appear between Tweets – at breaks in the content. They follow exactly the same system as the TV and, just like as each advert on the television is targeted for the predicted viewer of that genre of programme, ads on Twitter are tailored for you based on your ‘genre’, found from the people you follow.


I should like to conclude that Twitter, as an advertisement platform, is effective because it mimics traditional televisual media advertisement structures, bases advertisements on the user’s true interests and appears in a linear fashion in time. This works because of Twitter’s original structure; micro-blogging lends itself well to advertising. I believe Twitter will continue with this method and improve it over time.

Facebook, on the other hand, will have to improve their advertising if they are to continue to earn from that part of their business.  Perhaps mobile will be their thing…