February 25, 2008

Obnoxious Air Force Ad Blacks Out "Washington Post" Home Page

Update (9:32 PM PST): It appears that the full page "blackout" effect described below does not necessarily appear on every display of the page in question or at all times of day. It is unclear at this point which variables are in control. Any info discerned regarding this would be appreciated! Also, while the blackout effect has been seen under Firefox and IE, it appears that Safari may be immune.

Greetings. I'm a great admirer of The Washington Post, but an advertisement that they're running on their home page right now from the U.S. Air Force may win my award for the most obnoxious "legitimate" ad I've ever seen on a major Web site.

The actual ad is a smallish Flash box toward the right of the page. As you may have heard, the Air Force has started a new public relations campaign, promoting their prowess at cybersecurity.

The ad itself shows a blackout in progress: "Sometimes a blackout is a blackout."

The obnoxious part comes when, a few seconds into the ad's independent running (clicking or rolling over the ad is not necessary as a trigger), the ad covers the entire page with black -- completely obscuring the whole visible area of the displayed page to emphasize its punchline: "In the future, it could be a cyberattack."

Implied hook: Join the Air Force and save the power grid -- or else this is what your Web browsing might look like.

I can just see some PR agency honchos sitting around a conference table playing with this one. "What a concept! We'll black out their entire page! They'll love it!"

Maybe it's just me, but I didn't love it. I don't run Firefox's pop-up blocker for my health, and the increasing intrusiveness of flash-based advertising seems to have hit a new low in this case, at least for a mainstream site.

What's worse, at least in Firefox, if you scrolled down the page or backed into the Post's home page from a later site, you sometimes ended up with a long, totally white page and a frozen scroll bar (though it was possible to back out farther past this). And in some cases, the page text that's flowed below the ad never displayed properly after the blackout effect eventually vanished.

I'll be blunt. If it wasn't The Washington Post, I'd probably be adding the site to my "never again" blacklist.

Seriously uncool, guys. I expected -- and expect -- better from you.


Posted by Lauren at February 25, 2008 08:23 PM | Permalink
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