Over the weekend I was shopping with my wife for some storage boxes for vacation keepsakes. (Don’t ask. It’s too complicated. The short version is that I like to keep memories from our annual family vacations, but I’m too lazy to bother with trying to create scrapbooks.) We looked at the usual suspects – A.C. Moore, Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc., and even tried Walmart. I thought I’d visit Walmart’s website as well, and found the strangest thing.
walmart banner ad duck insulationBanner ads. But not for Walmart. (They had those too.) For other companies. Tony’s Pizza. McCormick Spices. Aquafresh. (Or maybe Sensodyne. I can’t remember – it went by too quickly.) Straight Talk phones. And Duck insulation. In just a dozen page views. That doesn’t even include the “sponsored links” section at the bottom of every page with text links. (Including one for the Sears Outlet Center! Isn’t that like a link to Chevrolet on the Ford website?)

(I also found a listing for a Rubbermaid Canvas Shoe Box, which seems like an odd brand extension. But I digress.)

Am I just now noticing this? Is this a trend? Advertising for other companies on your own company’s website? Sure, if that’s part of your company’s business model, e.g., a publication’s website, or a movie review site, or a music site. But for another brand?

Should a freight hauler sell banner ads to a pallet manufacturer? Or a packaging company sell banner ads to meat processors? Or maybe a network cable manufacturer sell ads to a PC company? It would certainly dilute the primary brand presence on the site. Is that worth the revenue the ads would bring?

I’m not sure how I feel. Your thoughts?