When Marketing Sucker Punches Your Design

I’ve seen this time and again from both personal experience as well as watching friends who work in web design go through it. You come up with a good design and it really works well. People are in to it and then just before it gets deployed, the marketing department says something to the effect of, “Oh, but we need to have ads in there!”
I’ve never quite figured out why these things don’t get thought of much more in advance, but I’ve found that there is a reason ads look out of place on sites: they’re an afterthought. I think it comes from the general scope of marketing in that they don’t seem to be able to think big picture (in my experience) and that is really ironically, their biggest job. Web designers are then forced in to a position of having to take these things in to account or just not giving a damn about what happens to their design after they hand it off. I try to find a mix of these two paths and it’s worked well generally.
To illustrate this, I point you to CitySearch San Francisco which was redesigned in the last few months. I never cared much for this site before, but I found the new design very appealing. I say ‘found’ because the first time I was looking at it, I liked it and then the last thing to load was some banner ad on the top from an ad server that was, as usual, slow to load. This then pushed the whole design down and had a blocky, crappy element on the top of the page that mangled everything. It was sad really, because this ad was the same ad that appeared within the page. Let me state that I’m not completely against ads, they just need to be more subtle. When you see something like a banner ad on the top or to the side (like in SF Gate), we’ve all become conditioned to the point where we ignore it because we’ve been seeing these buggers for over 10 years now. An ad within the content looks more like content and is something that you’re likely to click on. Ever wonder why Google has been so successful with AdWords? This is why.
Beyond eliminating ads from a site altogether, a site like Diablo Magazine is a little bit better done. While this is a publication with next to no content and mostly ads, it’s obvious that they were planning to have ads in the final layout, unlike Citysearch. Of course, I have to criticize those colored buttons on the left of the page, because yes, they do stand out, but in an obvious marketing way that shows no loyalty to the original design which is actually quite nice when you ignore that.
The ultimate joke in all of this is that a lot of us are seeing less of these ads these days. People using Firefox with Adblock installed as an extension don’t see any of these ads. I suspect that as time goes on, the entire way that the web is making money will have to be re-evaluated because tacking ads and other sham-looking things in to a site are short-term solutions to making the web profitable.
I might add that below, I have included some simple instructions on how to make the Citysearch design work better that their marketing people might be able to understand.
When Marketing Sucker Punches Your Design