Last week the Los Angeles Times unwittingly juxtaposed an ad banner demanding that readers “Follow that Fool!” above a photo of somber Zairean man being marched to his death by rebel soldiers just “moments before execution.” And while this is one of the worst ad blunders we’ve yet seen on the Web, the advertising schemes used by most Web sites (including the MoJo Wire) insure there’ll be plenty more instances like it.
Magazine and newspaper editors traditionally are wary of putting advertisements and editorial content at odds. But, because struggling online publications want to claim “increased exposure” to their sponsors, many Web sites rotate their advertisements. As a result, the same page might display a different sponsor’s logo each time it’s loaded.
The rotation is automated, so Web editors don’t have much say over placement. And, as the Times demonstrated with the ad for the Motley Fools Web site, the results can be tres unfortunate.
Adding to the confusion, the Times‘ “Featured Photo” pages, unlike those on the rest of the site, lack the thin rule below ad banners that separates them from the site’s content — giving a cutesy ad the look of a hideous headline.