New Banner Ads on My Yahoo!

During the past few weeks, My Yahoo!, which has remained my homepage for over 8 years despite everything, has changed its banner advertisement style and service. It hasn’t been noticed much in the media, for some reason, but I’ve really paid attention to it.
First, the banners appear to be the same size as a typical, large rectangular banner than you might see on other sites: 728 by 90 pixels. But Yahoo! is serving them in Flash instead of JPEGs or GIFs. This is unusual for banners that are static. It seems to be a waste of resources but I’m betting that Flash is allowing Yahoo! to measure rollovers and other visitor behavior that more static media will not.
Second, these are designed to be modular and similar in style. It looks as if there is a small team of Yahoo! designers that take the advertising specs from a sales person and then build the banners to look alike, but not too alike. For instance, the banner I’m looking at now says “home theatre systems” in large type on the left and “Everything You Need to Know About home theatre systems. Find it here.” And then there is a smaller link on the bottom left reading “” and a dark arrow points to it. Why is the first part of the sentence in title case and the second part in lower case? It’s either because the sales person didn’t write it down correctly, the client didn’t approve the final copy properly, or the designers are pumping these things out. Or all of the above. Or, it’s just some cool way of writing copy these days.
Third, there are no images in these ads. Because a design agency isn’t art directing the banner ads, there’s no muss and no fuss. No product images, no logos, no fat heads rolling their eyes.
Fourth, these ads use the same typefaces throughout. The font is a bit thin for my tastes but works very well in the context of these banners.
I don’t mean to be critical of this methodology of advertising. Google pioneered (or, actually, simply popularized*) the use of plain text ads. We’ve gotten quite used to advertisements looking the same but reading differently. For Yahoo!, I think it means that they’ve come across a semi-novel way of consolidating their advertisement display while not making it plain text, which necessarily takes the shape of Verdana or Arial these days. Yahoo! is on to something here – keep the banner ads clutter-free and clear but compelling to read because they’re distinctive. Because these ads are unlike anything else, my eye gazes at them, in part thinking they’re news and in part thinking they’re of interest.
What is disappointing about Yahoo is its total lack of care for potential customers. When I click on the “Advertise with Us” link at the bottom of the My Yahoo! page, I’m taken to an outdated (the copyright date is 1994-2004), uninformative, relatively useless page that requests much too much information. It’s no wonder that Google, whose clearly written and constructed advertising page, earned $3.66 billion last quarter.
Yahoo!’s profits during the same quarter dropped seven percent. Couldn’t Yahoo! spend $10,000 to revise its advertising page and hire a couple of copywriters to review their new banner ads?

* It was Metafilter that got the ball rolling way back in 2001 with its TextAds, a system homegrown by publisher Matt Haughey.
P.S. A little further digging shows that Yahoo!’s <a href="main advertising page is different from the crappy My Yahoo! one. It makes me think My Yahoo! is not being updated or upgraded and that iGoogle and Netvibes really are the future of portal homepages.