Oovoo is a video call application which claims to be very popular. However, if unwanted advertisement had a score, Oovoo would be one of the top-10 with the most annoying way to advertise. It starts with a splash screen which no matter if you click “Don’t show again” or not, it will appear next time the application runs (is it an intentional bug)?
Then comes the main window of the application which has two places for advertisement:
Please pay attention, there is actually one sidebar dedicated to advertisement! Fortunately the user can close it. Roughly 30% of the screen real estate is devoted to advertisement. Oovoo claims to be a rival of Skype saying “8 out of 10 Skype users prefer Oovoo”:
I guess I’m one of those 2 people who prefers Skype over Oovoo. You know why? Because of super-annoying advertisements which has sound and appears while in a video call. Yes, you heard it right! In the middle of a video call (or voice call), you may hear strange voices which comes from the Flash advertisements that Oovoo shows to you. The first time I encountered this issue, I was in the middle of a call. I had to turn the volume up because I could hardly hear my friend. Suddenly I heard a loud scary sound of car engine, then there was shooting and screaming. It was like the sounds from a war movie. The person who was talking to me thought that I am starting to watch a movie in the middle of the conversation. I couldn’t find the source of this annoyance. I closed my browser windows and checked the TV. None of them wasn’t showing a war movie. Then quite surprisingly I found out it is a little advertisement banner on the very same window that is used for the video call!
If you have several windows with advertisement open (almost all Oovoo windows), sometimes the noise from advertisements can play at the same time and sound like a mess! For example even this chat window has advertisement:
And here is the video chat room window. So basically all the windows of Oovoo have some sort of advertisement:
And remember all of those red rectangles in the above pictures can contain advertisement in Flash, that means annoying animation, unwanted sound and stealing your bandwidth which can reduce the user experience while in a video call: the main purpose of installing the application!
First of all: don’t be evil. Don’t force people to see what they don’t like to. If you are talking to another person, you don’t want to be distracted with annoying advertisement whether it is noise or flashy animation. I am not a Skype employee but I use it a lot. Skype has its own problems and that is why I decided to try an alternative. It would be really interesting to know where Oovoo has done its market research where 8 out of 10 people prefer it over Skype? Probably in Oovoo headquarter office in New York.
I recommend not using any sort of advertisement while user is in a call because:
- They are already engaged in an activity and unless it is boring to death, they will not pay attention to distractions so there is no point in showing an ad that doesn’t have a good chance of being paid attention to
- Users are ad-blind. That is: their brain automatically filters flashy animations and colors which look like an ad.
Oovoo probably earns some money with advertisement. But I would not pay Oovoo for advertisement. I don’t want my brand to be associated with annoying and interrupting advertisements in the middle of people’s conversations.
The last solution is: if Oovoo really really has to show advertisement, make sure the ads respect a few standards:
- They don’t play any sound at all: in a video or voice call application, sound is a part of the user experience.
- They are not flashy: no one likes to have a blinking flash light under their TV. So don’t put flashy animating ads under a video call.
- They are not heavy in term of network usage: many users don’t have fast internet. Their bandwidth better be used for the higher quality of voice and video rather than ads.
- They are not CPU-hungry: some of the ads are games like point and shoot or even play music. Many people use a small laptop or netbook to connect to others while on a trip. Utilize that little CPU power for calls not ads.
I contacted Oovoo’s support team pointing out to this issue. They replied within one day as promised on the Oovoo support page. Here is what they said:
…We do serve third party advertisements but they are prohibited to run audio; it is extremely intrusive as you noted.
… We will reach out and have it removed right away
…We offer a lot of services for free and as a businessman I’m sure you understand that these services cost us money to support; we cannot offer these features without advertising.
…This summer we are making additional changes to further enhance the ooVoo experience, at no cost to our customers.
We do not run ads without conscience. Our Director of Advertising created strict criteria for the content and proactively blocks the below listed ads. And because we are worldwide, we rely on our users to tell us if they are seeing something that is out of line or running audio.
- Adult /Provocative/ Suggestive Ads
- Non-Premium Dating sites
- Non-user initiated Audio Ads
- Expandable Ads
- Shaky or Flashy Ads
- Survey Pops
- System Warning / Window Box ads
- Anything deemed to be offensive to our users
Well I appreciate Oovoo’s attention to user feedback but I didn’t see any link or button under the ads that reads “Report Ad”. Moreover during the installation and after it, I wasn’t informed that I can report those kinds of ads. By the way, I have seen ads about gambling in Oovoo and I guess that should be easy for the “Director of Advertising” to spot them. My overall impression of Oovoo is: they have good support team, bad advertisement team, amateur user experience designers, good programmers and high video call quality. So who knows, maybe a Microsoft rival will buy them and refurbishes the user experience and then we can all happily use it as a serious alternative to Skype. But till that day, Oovoo has a lot of work to do in my humble opinion, specially on the user experience.