Confusion and complaints over ads placed in the read-and-write area of
e-mail pages on Microsoft’s WebTV led the company to pull the banner ads
the day after the new placement was deployed.
Such conflict highlights the need to be sensitive and clear with ad
placement, even while Web companies seek to wring as much revenue as
possible from site traffic.
Microsoft WebTV users on March 2 noticed that banner ads appeared in the
portion of the screen where they composed their messages.
“From Microsoft’s perspective, that was perfect, because that’s where the
eyeballs are,” says Melissa Wilson, a Microsoft (MSFT) spokesperson.
But users, fearing that these ads would be sent to the recipients of the
e-mail, voiced and e-mailed complaints to WebTV. The next day, the company
yanked the ads.
“The key issue that customers were worried about was that the ads were
being sent to their friends,” Wilson said.
The ads weren’t sent along with the e-mail, but were meant to be viewed by
the subscriber as he composed an e-mail message. WebTV had placed ads on
the e-mail screen before, but never in the box in which users compose their
In future, Wilson said, Microsoft will inform customers via e-mail when new
ads will appear, so they’re not taken by surprise. The company is still
deciding whether to return the ads to the e-mail read-and-write area. If
they are returned, they’ll be re-designed to look, “less threatening,”
according to Wilson. The company will also decrease the rotation of ads, so
they appear less often.