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?

2 Answers 2


My preferred approach is this:

Promotion Via Blog

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:

Promotion on page with new functionality


@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:

Promotion via New Page

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're not allowed to create a page to describe the new feature but are allowed to use javascript then you can still use the red button and have clicking it or text beside it unhide more information directly below. If you're only allowed to put the actual advert text always visible actually on the high traffic page, then talk the restrictions over with your client, and say what you'd like to do. You can remove many of the normal advertising 'tells' but if the informational text is in a normal ad spot, people will still likely treat it as an ad.

  • 1
    How would I advertise a new page from an existing page if that new page cannot be reached from the primary navigation? Your red "new" approach only works if the new page is part of the primary navigation. I agree that advertising directly on the new page is best approach, but due to some bad business decisions by management, I am forced to implement something to advertise the new page from an old page.
    – JoJo
    Jun 1, 2011 at 17:20
  • I can ask management about adding a blog. Can new features just be promoted on the homepage, or should they be promoted on a whole separate blog page? Which will be more effective?
    – JoJo
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:26

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.

  • Are you talking about this? It took me a while to find an ad on Stack Exchange. I went to 5 or so Stack Exchange satellites and only managed to find an in-house ad on cooking.stackexchange. // And what do you mean by "site wide message section"? Do you mean open a new blog where we exclusively talk about new features?
    – JoJo
    Jun 1, 2011 at 5:48
  • @JojJo We only have one side bar ad banner on the homepage of the sites, not single question view pages.
    – Jin
    Jun 1, 2011 at 5:50
  • I thought I posted a screenshot of the homepage of cooking.stackexchange... I'm confused. So far that's the only ad I've ever seen for a long time.
    – JoJo
    Jun 1, 2011 at 6:32
  • @JoJo sorry I wasn't clear. Only our graduated SE sites have sidebar Ads on their homepages. Beta sites(with the sketchy theme) do not. You should see an Ad banner on the home page of every launched(non beta sketchy theme) site. For example, Apple.se. As for the "site wide message," see on our Home Improvement, the site message currently calls for community moderator election.
    – Jin
    Jun 1, 2011 at 6:58
  • I see now. You show questions from other SE sites as ads. Whenever I see in-house ads I ask, "is this a malicious ad masquerading as actual content?" I'm familiar with SE, so I don't have too much tension, but I bet some first time users will be asking the same thing. It's a little similar to Digg's deceiving advertising tactics. With all the money to be made on the web these days, many once noble sites have resorted to trickery. This has a negative impact on designers trying to regain trust from the typical web surfer through an in-house ad
    – JoJo
    Jun 1, 2011 at 7:21

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