This week, Twitter announced that it was going to start inserting adverts from companies you don’t follow into your tweet stream.

We understand that Twitter has to “monetise” its service somehow, and it’s probably confident that it can implement the adverts, much as Google has done, while minimising irritation for userspartly by making them relevant to your interests, and partly by making them unintrusive (like any other individual tweet is).

It remains to be seen whether Twitter can pull this off. It’s certainly not an easy task to get adverts noticed without them becoming obnoxious: as consumers we’re increasingly sensitive when it comes to adverts intruding into the digital services we hold dear. As well as banners on websites and promoted spots on Facebook, and the ubiquitous Google text ads, we’ve now got to put up with such new innovations as in-app ads filling up the precious space on our mobile device screens. More worryingly, it seems that advertisers are in an arms race of sorts to get their messages seen above the noise.

If you go to nearly any business news website to read an article, you’ll be confronted by an “interstitial” spot that you have to skip, defeating your carefully configured pop-up blocker. When you hit the article itself, it’s wrapped in Flash spots, banners and skyscrapers, often animated and laden with auto-playing audio. The article itself, almost overwhelmed on the page, is split into ten one-paragraph chunks so you have the “opportunity” to see more adverts before you get to the end. If there’s an embedded video, lucky you: you get the online equivalent of the unskippable DVD piracy warningsa 15-second advert draining your paid-for bandwidth before you get to see the content.

Frankly, all of this bothers us. If you have to work that hard to get your message in front of readersif you have to shout that loudlyyou’re not going to make the best impression on the poor consumer. It’s the online equivalent of slashing a prospect’s car tyres to stop them leaving the store: you get their attention, but they’re not exactly going to be receptive to your pitch.

Advertising is never going to be something consumers actively look for. The best we, as marketers, can hope for is that they tolerate it in principle (perhaps because they get a free service in return) and find the occasional advert funny, inspiring or useful. And the best way to stay on the right side of our consumers is to minimise irritation wherever possible. Use data to keep our propositions relevant. Make our adverts lightweight and unintrusive, using standard technologies. In short, stop shouting, and let our messages do the talking.

So, what advertising practices annoy you the most? Who are the biggest offenders? Time to name and shame…

Posted by John on 1 September 2011