If you think Internet advertising is irritating now ...

Remember "punch the monkey"?

It was kind of funny, at first. It was the year 2000, Internet advertising was just starting to move away from banners and other print-based concepts, and a silly, animated, flash-based game was a novel attraction for many people. I punched the stupid monkey, had a few yuks with my colleagues about the fact that I always "won" even if I missed, and then moved on.

Little did I know that it was the start of an avalanche. We are now inundated with Flash games, dancing avatars, video clips, peel-back pages and dripping graphics. Forced registration and interstitials stop us from seeing the content we want to see. Pay-for-post ad campaigns and "astroturfing" take advantage of people's trust in blogs and online communities. Pop-ups, pop-unders, SEO, link farms, and scraped content are a normal part of our daily surfing experience.

Yes, advertising has spoiled the Web. And it's probably going to get a lot worse.

According to a recent IBM report, some big changes are in store for consumers over the next three years, as advertising moves from "impression-based" to "impact-based" formats. "Tired of intrusions," says the report, "consumers exert more control over the advertising they view and filter."

But don't expect to see fewer intrusions. The report continues, "formats evolve to contextual, interactive, permission-based and targeted messaging to retain attention." In other words, we can expect more monkeys to punch, and prompts that nag us into doing something.

My favorite line from the report: "It is more important than ever to reach consumers where they want, when they want and how they want."

And what if consumers don't want to be reached? That's a scenario that the report doesn't really address, because it ain't gonna happen. Free content on the Web has to be supported somehow, and if the big advertising agencies in New York think people should pay for it by being distracted by dancing people, viral video, contests based on user-generated content, and other efforts at "engagement," then that's what we're going to see on our screens for a long time to come.

(Thanks to Slashdot for the link)

(Feel free to nominate/describe your own candidate for "worst Internet ad" below)

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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