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Advertising Online: What to show perspective (Part 4 of 9)

October 27, 2008

Online Video Advertising

Thanks to broadband, watching video online is becoming a routine activity for most internet users. Over 50% of internet users watch at least once a month, a bit more than 25% watch at least once a week, and a hard core 5% watch daily (OPA 2005). We expect consumers will watch more as video becomes available and video sharing expands.

What are people watching? AccuStream iMedia Research tells us that the music is the most popular streaming video content category, followed by news, internet TV, sports, entertainment, and movies

To determine how video impacts branding, Dynamic Logic studied 108 different online video ads across a number of product categories and surveyed 125,000 consumers. Top-performing ads lifted brand awareness as high as 38%, while poor performers barely registered a gain. The best ads shared a number of characteristics: The brand was central to the creative elements, the interactive power of the web was used to offer links to more brand information, and the online ads related to their offline campaign counterparts. Among the poor performers, consumers weren’t sure what brand was being advertised

Standard Online Advertising Formats

Every medium has its ad standards, like the 30-second spot in television or one-quarter page ad in print. Because the web started as a page-based medium, online advertising originated by dividing the page into defined units that serve as containers for display advertising. These started small, as clickable text buttons and banners, and then expanded into a variety of shapes and sizes. Technology advances in ad creation and ad serving, coupled with widespread broadband penetration, are beginning to fill these containers with everything from clickable print ads and graphics pictures that push advertising to richly interactive brand experiences that pull consumers in, engage them, and prompt them to take actions marketers desire. Some are reaching levels of sophistication so high that consumers need not leave the site they are visiting to have their activity interrupted by a side trip to a brand’s website.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) recognized that standard ad sizes were needed to initially develop the market and, with industry consultation, created a set of specifications. Those specs were formalized as voluntary guidelines. Now widely adopted, they serve their purpose, bringing consistency to ad specifications, ad buying, and ad serving while leaving creative executions wide open and virtually unlimited. Biannually reviewed, the guidelines are revisited and refined, ensuring their freshness and fit with advertising practices.

Creative Factors That Influence Display Advertising Effectiveness

Which creative elements communicate the message and work to engage the consumer? Several studies of this question explored branding impacts (awareness, knowledge, persuasion) across a variety of aggregated campaigns or case studies. Their results showed that, yes, creative factors affect branding measures. No surprise there. But which ones do?

Uncluttered banners raise brand awareness and recall. Large logos, or repeated logos, clarify the message and offering. Large banners clarify the message, too. They and the presence of a human face increase consumer desire to learn more about the advertised product or service. Online, a clear, visible, rapidly comprehended message with human interest works

Key findings of the CNET Networks studies include best practices for developing ads that get attention, communicate, and engage their audience.

CNET Networks’ research demonstrates that the strongest ads get attention with powerful images, color, and contrast. Their guidelines:

Use powerful images. Big, expansive photography gets ads noticed. Emphasizing contrast between the foreground and background, especially a black background, gives ads a three-dimensional effect and visual drama. Bright, eye-catching colors such as red, blue, golden yellow, and green generate impact. And models who look straight at the viewer resulted in higher Noted scores.

Keep it simple. The “most remarkable” ads, the study reported, “are often the most simple executions with a clear focal point.” Cluttered ads didn’t hold viewers’ attention, nor did ads that distracted with shaking, flashing, and related animation gimmicks. Creative elements need to work together, not at cross-purposes.

And visual balance counts. Ads with elements that were cut off, slanted, or askew in some way got lower scores.

Prominent logos, clear ad flow, and ad formats matched to the jobs they need to do are associated with communicating the ad’s message effectively. Specifically:

Follow the flow. Online the eye is drawn to motion or animation first, and then turns toward the copy. Make certain that the ad takes advantage of this pattern. When motion and text compete for attention, the motion tends to win.

Understand and leverage the unique strength of each ad unit. Not all are equal or interchangeable; each has specific strengths. The IAB standard medium rectangle worked best for visually rich graphics and motion, giving the advertiser the ability to present complete images. The leaderboard makes its point quickly, capably communicating product image, benefits, features, and price. The most successful skyscraper ads take full advantage of the vertical format to communicate, revealing the message as a user scrolls. Commenting on this finding, CNET Networks’ Kim Black adds that “it is useful for the brand logo and benefit statement to appear at the top of the ad unit, or at both the bottom and the top.” That gives advertisers the means to repeat and reinforce brand messaging and increases opportunities for consumers to read them.

Recent eye-tracking research conducted by Jakob Nielsen produced revealing “heat maps showing how and where consumers pay attention to ads” . The researcher recorded how 232 users looked at thousands of web pages. Think of weather maps that show colored bands of temperature or infrared photos, and you get the idea. Eye-tracking visualizations show that users often read web pages in an F-shaped pattern—two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe—and that their main reading behavior is fairly consistent across different sites and tasks

Rich Media Advertising on Broadband

Macromedia Flash, Java, dynamic HTML (dHTML), animation, and streaming media have taken internet ads from just words and pictures on a page to exciting, engaging, and cinematic motion. These technologies, dubbed “rich media,” are making the internet more like Times Square, TV, and games. Why? Consumers are better able to experience rich media due to broadband adoption. Ad networks have made the ads more affordable by reducing premiums for rich ads. And new capabilities by the ad-serving industry have reduced the complexity of running, tracking, and reporting ads .

Rich media ads also come in many shapes, sizes, and feature implementations. To simplify these, DoubleClick researchers describe most rich media executions by the following standard formats:

In-page: standard IAB ad unit shapes that may include advanced rich media functionality, such as embedded games, animation, video, registration forms, or interactive marketing brochures, and that may allow for larger file sizes through polite download technology.

Expandable: similar to in-page units, but they expand in size when a user moves the mouse over the ad or clicks to interact with it. Some publishers are experimenting with ads that automatically expand when the page loads, then retract after a small delay. These ads are sometimes called push-downs or server-initiated expandables.

Floating: ads that appear as a layer on top of the user’s current page; these are typically free-form ads that can move across the page in a variety of shapes and sizes and may resolve into an in-page ad on the same page or a smaller floating reminder ad unit that continues to float above the page.

Pop-ups: ads that launch a new smaller browser window that appears above the open page.

Transitionals: also known as between-page ads or interstitials, these ads appear between one page and another as a user clicks through a site.

Rich media ads claimed over 40% of all ad impressions served by DoubleClick in 2004

Ad Sizes

The IAB defines three ad categories: rectangles and pop-ups, banners and buttons, and skyscrapers. Like print media, online ads are sold in different shapes and sizes. They are called interactive marketing units or IMUs. The Standards section of the IAB website ( provides the most up-to-date guidelines and examples.

What are the most common sizes advertisers use? Four sizes accounted for over half the ads in 2006. According to Nielsen’s study of roughly 92,000 unique ads during one week in March 2006, the leader-board (20%) is number one, followed by the medium rectangle (13%), full banner (10%), and wide skyscraper (10%).

The remainder, including the standard skyscraper, rectangle, large and small buttons, square button, and nonstandard sizes, each came in between 4% and 5%. Other (undefined), a relatively large group (17%), rounds out the size list, indicating there is still a signifi-cant amount of custom, nonstandard sizes employed.

That advertising units are measured in height and width gives them characteristics common to print advertising in newspapers, magazines, or out-of-home media. Given this practice, it is easy to lapse into printlike habits of thought, which is to consider the units as space to be filled and used primarily for static push advertising (“Oh, we just need a one-sixth page ad here”). We urge marketers and their creative partners to find great ways to engage consumers by reaching out and bringing them in through the box

Games: An Emerging Online Advertising Medium

Gaming is enormously popular. Just witness the excitement when a new console comes to market or a new entry in a game franchise is released. The Mario titles, for example, have sold more than 193 million units. Pokemon comes in at 155 million. And Madden’s NFL has sold over 56 million (Wikipedia 2007).

More than 40% of Internet users play online games. Publishing high-quality online games is already a big content business. Within games, brand placement is forecast to grow from a $75 million market in the United States in 2007 to about $1 billion by 2010. This shift in allocation reflects the trend toward increased online spending generally under way and a determination to target and reach consumers with relevant advertising.

Guidelines for Creating In-Game Advertising

  • Don’t allow product placement in video games to diminish game-play quality.
  • Do provide opportunities to promote action. Look beyond branding— video games are interactive, and in-game marketing should be as well.
  • Don’t rely on traditional creative and media models.The immersive environment of video games allows marketers to unleash their creative genius.
  • Do know your audience.
  • Don’t be afraid of self-deprecation. Gamers tend to be sophisticated, savvy, and somewhat cynical, with a uniquely interactive and critical relationship to the content. Gamers are more likely to enjoy a brand presence in their games when the campaign is ironic and self-aware,
  • Do use Easter eggs. These are hidden features buried inside the code of interactive entertainment. They have become a way for programmers to reward engaged and enthusiastic audiences.
  • Don’t ignore audio.
  • Do be sensitive to privacy and regulatory issues.
  • Don’t imitate.

Pay Attention to Online Advertising Clutter

A survey by Burst! found that web users generally accept advertising on a web page. However, their findings also show that for a large majority (63%) there is low tolerance for more than two units; one-third of web users said they could tolerate a single advertisement per web page, and another 30% of respondents said they could tolerate two ads per page.

More than one in three (36%) respondents said they would immediately leave a site if it appeared cluttered with advertising. This finding is nearly identical for men and women, and for all income segments analyzed. Teens (13–17) are more likely than other age segments to abandon a site perceived as cluttered.

Message effectiveness on a cluttered site will deteriorate. Nearly 70% of respondents who remain on a site they perceive to be cluttered said they pay less attention to the ads. One of the most resounding findings from this survey, however, is the negative impact advertising clutter can have on consumers’ perception of advertisers’ products and services. It found that 58% of respondents said they had a less favorable opinion of an advertiser’s product or service when it appeared in advertising on a web page they perceived as cluttered.


· Online advertising has two unique characteristics—flexibility and real-time feedback—that permit advertisers to experiment inexpensively and quickly with different appeals and formats. Successful brands use online advertising in a “learn as I do” marketplace—a continuous quality improvement mind-set.

· Ad types, ad sizes, and the use of rich media video, games, and other new creative forms impact branding and advertising effectiveness. Research from a variety of perspectives suggests guidelines. Use them and test your ad’s creative elements in a variety of formats, sizes, and online environments to determine the optimum type, size, and mix that will achieve your advertising goals.

· The world of online advertising is changing and evolving faster than any other advertising platform. It is critical therefore to try out and test the effectiveness of emerging approaches. Some are emerging, like streaming media, online games, and handset advertising, due to technological advances in broadband (approaching 100 million subscribers) and wireless. Other new approaches are emerging from innovative concepts, consumer insights, and interactivity.

· The most popular text format today for online advertising is the leaderboard, which is comparable to a 30-second radio or TV spot or a single-page print ad. Popularity, however, does not always mean effectiveness. The majority of research and learning indicates that dramatizing a relevant benefit is more effective than any single format. Figuring out the “what’s in it for me?” from the vantage point of the customer is the best predictor of success. Additionally, think beyond pushing advertising through the ad unit box, and start thinking about interactive ways to pull consumers in and engage them to promote brand involvement and underscore brand benefits.

· Creativity is critical. Colorful, engaging executions with eye-catching headlines or interactive capabilities will be needed more and more as clutter increases and as brand advertising becomes more interwoven with content. Think through and bring about those concepts and capabilities that brand consumers want, enjoy, and value.

One Comment leave one →
  1. sbroomfield permalink
    October 28, 2008 12:20 am

    Adding to the strategic primer – think about adding in interactive / clickable video to really improve the engagement levels. We help publishers a vloggers do this in a simple and intuitive fashion –

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