Digital Advertising - The 5 Worst Types Online

Digital Advertising - The 5 Worst Types Online

Digital advertising receives mixed reviews. Whilst industry experts reveal its continuing revenue increase, there are critics who condemn it – and rightly so. Because whilst some forms of digital advertising are hugely powerful, too many advertisers, too frequently, are using and designing online ads that are obtrusive and unhelpful to the end user.

In light of this, we have listed and analysed our 5 most hated forms of digital advertising seen across the internet today.

Pop-up overlays

When it comes to hated advertising, we have to begin with perhaps the most notorious of them all – the traditional pop-up overlay. Invented by Ethan Zuckerman in the late 90s, its initial USP was the ability to disassociate itself from the site it was placed on, so if a site had a negative image, the pop-up wouldn’t be associated with it.

However, this comes at a huge cost. Jumping in front of the site’s content, the pop-up disrupts the user’s experience and has contributed to ad blindness - a phenomenon whereby users subconsciously and consciously ignore and refuse to interact with it – leading to customers abandoning the site.


Adam Hindhaugh, Creative Director at Ve, explains this issue further:

“Pop-up overlays are not necessarily unpopular because of the information they provide. They are unpopular because of the way that they serve this information. The same information therefore needs to be optimised and served in a different form - and this is what Digital Assistant achieves.”

"Pop-up overlays are not necessarily unpopular because of the information they provide."

Pop-under ads

The pop-under ad is considered a relative of the pop-up, but rather than appearing in front of the site’s content on the browser window, it lingers behind the window, only appearing to the user when they have closed their window.

Because of this, though pop-unders are often considered less obtrusive than pop-ups, the pop-under breeds even more distrust because the user does not know from which site it has fired. As a result, the pop-under has become principally down-market, used by few, if any, reputable sites.

Autoplay video ads

Autoplay video ads are undoubtedly one of the most unpopular forms of digital advertising, obtruding the user experience with unwelcome flashing motion and blaring sound. When Facebook made the bold decision in December 2013 to introduce autoplay video ads to its Newsfeed, many thought it a terrible choice.


However, by including the below three features to these ads, Facebook showed a lesson to every video advertiser in how and how not to create autoplay video ads that your users will like:

  1. Audio only to play if the user actively turns it on
  2. Easy access option to turn autoplay off
  3. Ads are highly-targeted to each user.

If autoplay video ads followed these features they would not be such a source of frustration – but unfortunately this is often not the case. Audio often plays automatically, users can’t choose to switch autoplay off and the ads are too regularly not relevant and not of interest to them.

Ads with misleading links

If you have never clicked an ad that has taken you to a page that bears little or no relation to the ad, then you are either extremely lucky or don't use the internet often. Too many digital ads use clickbait - a technique designed to trick the user to click the ad with enticing offers, only to direct them to a page that has nothing to do with the ad's message.  By tricking the user like this, you betray their trust and create a sure way to damage brand image and drive repeat visitors away. 

Screen takeover ads

Similar to the traditional pop-up ad, screen takeover ads appear in front of the site’s content. In addition however, when the user, intentionally or not, hovers their mouse over the ad, the ad expands and takes over the whole browser screen till closed.

However, these ads are not fundamentally unpopular, for this depends entirely on two major factors. One, they must be personalised. If the ad is targeted to the individual and so is of interest to them, they are far more likely to engage with the ad and will not oppose its appearance. Secondly, the close button must not be hidden. Too often the close button is difficult to find, or its appearance is delayed. If advertisers don't follow these two factors, more often than not the user will be driven to the back button - but if they do then popularity, engagement and CTR will rise.


All the above forms of digital advertising can rightly be deemed as negative and ineffectual in their own ways. Yet it does not have to be like this.  There are other types of online advertising that gain the user’s attention whilst not obtruding on their experience - like Digital Assistant.

To learn more about Digital Assistant, the onsite engagement solution that prioritises user experience, take a look below:

Digital Advertising


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Posted by Kate Rogerson

Kate is a Copywriter and loves sports, pubs and the tech world.