The Problem with Homepage Takeovers

In the world of digital marketing, there is a never ending struggle to find ways to best engage your audience. Some work hard to find solutions that focus on user needs and intent. Others throw money and quick creative at the problem. The latter is how you end up with homepage takeovers. They provide marketers with a way not to captivate their audience, but literally capture it. Marketers get the attention they crave, and online websites, who can net upwards of $500k for a takeover, get the advertising revenue they need.

Everyone benefits but the user.

Homepage takeovers are the equivalent of a salesperson forcing his way into your home and holding you hostage while he demonstrates the cool features of a new product —a product you will now associate with feelings of anger, distress, and confusion.

Meanwhile, marketers are banking that 2-3% of targets will get Stockholm syndrome and actually convert.

In their defense, not all homepage takeovers are bad. Many are highly targeted, understand they have to actually sell to the audience, match the brand and content of the website where they are featured, and don’t force their audience to search endlessly for a tiny “x” to click out of the ad. In these cases, someone’s actually thought of how the ad relates to the viewing audience and what they are doing in that moment.

However, the technique's effectiveness is still in question. Though statistics show that takeovers have higher click through rates than banner ads, there is little research to show whether users clicked the ad with true intent, or just couldn’t figure out how to exit out of it. A better measure would be the actual conversion rate, which is probably lower than banner ads, since people click on banners with an actual intent, while takeovers are often clicked out of desperation.

The goal of marketing is to get the attention of your audience, sure. Good marketing, however, isn’t just an interruption in a person’s activity, but in their way of thinking. It should inspire interest or emotion. It should be not just an “interruption” to the audience, but also a “challenge”. In short, it should inspire awe, not annoyance. This is where most homepage takeovers fail.

At the end of the day, good, bad, or indifferent, whether we click them with earnest intent, or earnestly try to avoid them, they're still pretty damn annoying.

Written by Ken Hammond on November 7, 2012

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Written by
Ken Hammond