Like them or not, interstitial ads, which are advertisements that appear before visitors arrive at the expected site content, have become a part of our day-to-day web browsing experience.  I personally don’t mind interstitial ads all that much, as I’ve gotten used to them and have gotten pretty good at locating the skip button as a way of quickly getting to the content I’m actually looking for.

With all online ads, there is sort of a battle between publishers and site visitors.  As site visitors get better and better at tuning out advertisements, publishers get more and more creative (and desperate) in their efforts to grab readers attention.  An interstitial ad campaign ran yesterday is a good example of the push/pull between visitors and publishers. 

ESPN is a site I’ve visited on just about a daily basis for as long as I can remember, so I’m pretty familiar with how its design has evolved over the years.  Yesterday, when I visited to the site I was taken to a page that looked like the homepage of the site from 5 years ago.  Indeed, the top story on the page referenced a 2004 MVP race.  Below is a screen grab.


I immediately recognized this as an old homepage design, and later confirmed this by poking around the Wayback machine (see here and here).  I was honestly confused, wondering if ESPN was having some sort of technical problem.  Then I noticed the Lexus ad at the top of the page, and a split second later the ad expanded to show a full page ad promoting Lexus as the first company to launch a luxury hybrid.  See below.


At this point I opt out of the ad and move on to the main ESPN homepage. 

Honestly though, the whole situation left a bad taste in my mouth.  I understand that needs to pay its bills, and that as a reader of their site I’m obligated to view my fair share of ads.  That’s fine.  But I think ESPN is hurting its brand by allowing advertisers to essentially trick visitors into thinking they are viewing editorial content when they aren’t. 

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.