How do you do an effective in-house advertisement? An in-house ad promotes a feature on your site. For example, you just launched a new forum. From some existing high traffic page, you put an ad telling people to go to this new forum. How should these in-house ads be designed to not appear like a normal ad, which most people ignore?
My preferred approach is this:
It's changing the dynamic from it being an advert to it being signposting. In this case you're being signposted to the
advert information. This largely overcomes the ad-blindness problem.
The most important place to advertise new features is on the page the new feature will be used from. If your acme-data-munger now supports acme2 imports, it's important to signpost this on the acme-data-munger page. People who are using your site may be interested, but the most likely to be interested people are the people who are already using acme-data-munger.
So be sure to signal it there:
@JoJo - From your comment I take it one of the bad business decisions is not to have a blog, so that you don't have a natural place for an announcement! Are you allowed to create a new page that just has the announcement about the new feature? If you are you can still put a red button in the navigation bar and have the button link to that page. Visually you'd have something like this:
The 'new' alerts the user that there is something new, but not what. It's not as good because it is less obviously clickable. To overcome that the word 'features' replacing the word 'blog' would work. On the linked-to page have a summary of key site features, with the newest one at the top and marked as new.
If you want to do it via Ad banners (leaderboard/sidebar) then I'd style the banners visually consistent with the rest of the site design. This way they'll stand out from the random Ad banners. However, the downside of Ad banners is that most people are conditioned not to look at them regardless, especially on the sidebar(aka junk drawer).
Since your goal to is promote a new site feature, it's best displayed in the site wide message section.
Take Stack Exchange sites for example, we have standard sidebar Ads on the homepage. People may or may not look at them. When we want to make a key announcement of the site, it appears in the site message section on the top. It gets much more visibility, and people immediately know it's from the "site owner" not some random Ads.