Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Major Web Portals Running Logout Ads

Big online properties, such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, and Microsoft are trying to further monetize the millions of eyeballs who visit their sites every day. In particular, web mail services are used multiple times a day by users. Google (Gmail) and Yahoo! Mail have employed behavioral targeting ads based on scanning email contents for a while. Microsoft (Hotmail) has recently started to do something similar. I don't know about you, but I've developed ad blindness to these ads which often appear on the right hand rail and can be creepy to some users.

Recently, the major "portals" have created ad spots that appear when you login or logout of webmail or Facebook.

Actually, Yahoo! has done this for a while. And it's a good brand advertising unit because you definitely can't miss it when you go to login to Yahoo! Mail:

But when you logout of Yahoo!, it goes back to the regular home page, with its standard ad placements:

As for Gmail, Google's ad sales teams have been promoting an ad unit (i.e. State Farm ad) that appears once a user logs out of Gmail:

And unlike Yahoo!, Google doesn't currently have ads on the Gmail login page:

Hop over to Microsoft's Hotmail and there does not appear to be any advertising units when you login: 

...Or when you logout. Hotmail throws you back to MSN home page, similar to Yahoo!:

What about Facebook? It's not a webmail service, but it certainly has millions of users communicating with each other on it daily. Facebook recently announced log out ads at its first Marketing Conference. Come April it could look something like this when you log out:

Also, there doesn't appear to be any changes to its familiar home page for logging in:

But here's the big question: How many people ACTUALLY logout of webmail or Facebook?

Facebook claims 37 million people logout daily. Assuming there are 483 million daily active users, that's almost 8% of active users who logout each day and may see an ad. Certainly a respectable number of impressions when you are as large as Facebook. But I'm still shocked people logoff. I, like most people, are always logged in and only logoff when I have to shut down the browser tab or window, in which case I would not see the ad.

But let's say I DID want to log out. I am usually doing that intentionally in order to accomplish another task. Sometimes it is so another user or I can login as a different user. So, how long am I really paying attention to that page? Also, I can see another use case where one logs off because s/he is on a public machine (e.g., library, school computer lab, Apple store) in which case you'd probably close the browser window completely ASAP and go on your merry way. Are you really going to pause and say, "Oh wait. I think I'll watch that State Farm video on YouTube before I go..."

Moreover, beyond ad impressions, I'd like to see click-through rates for these ads. Yes, I'm skeptical about the effectiveness of these logout ads. Are you?


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