Here Come the Big Banners

OPA members, representing almost 30 major online publishers and 66% online reach, have joined together to combat “banner blindness” and introduce big new display ad formats. From the press release out today:

The Online Publishers Association (OPA) announced today a new initiative designed to help stimulate a renaissance of creative advertising on the Internet that meets the needs of marketers by better integrating their messages into the fabric of the Web. As part of the announcement, a broad group of its members will implement new interactive, display advertising units across their sites. Starting in July, these new units will be available only through the publishers’ direct sales teams.

The proposed new advertising units are:

  • The Fixed Panel (recommended dimension is 336 wide x 860 tall), which looks naturally embedded into the page layout and scrolls to the top and bottom of the page as a user scrolls.
  • The XXL Box (recommended dimension is 468 wide x 648 tall), which has page-turn functionality with video capability.
  • The Pushdown (recommended dimension is 970 wide x 418 tall), which opens to display the advertisement and then rolls up to the top of the page.

These ad formats are non-standard units, outside the IAB framework. The IAB will be compelled to embrace them or lose control over formats in general. Many people have criticized standards for limiting creativity in online advertising. Accordingly, the rationale here is to boost creativity among other things:

  • Inspire creativity and high-quality advertising: Develop display units that will inspire a creative renaissance in high-quality advertising by providing a larger canvas for creativity, content and functionality.
  • Provide a greater share of voice for the advertiser: Increase the relative proportion of advertising space (in a single unit) to editorial content and, where possible, run fewer but more captivating ads on the page.
  • Introduce a measurement to capture impact: Develop a metric that emphasizes the impact creative advertising can have on Web viewers while preserving the Internet’s well-established ability to engender response.
  • Enhance interactivity to build user engagement with brands: Offer a broad range of interactivity built into units such as video players, lead capture and advertiser content that will be sharable and have permalinks to spotlight and encourage the best in creativity, while weaving the advertisements deeper into the social fabric of the Web.

In a “big picture” sense there’s a great deal to say about this.

In general this is probably a good move for publishers. Online advertising should move away from the “tyranny of the click,” which is actually a relatively opaque metric to a range of metrics that are tied to campaign goals. The proposed “metric that emphasizes the impact creative advertising can have on Web viewers” is an effort to get away from the click. More creative, engaging ads will also help. Improved targeting will also help (however consumers are resistant to BT and tracking).

Here’s a relevant quote from a recent Atlas (Microsoft) report on the digital purchase funnel (mentioned in my post at SEL this a.m.):

The large number of ad exposures consumed prior to purchase may come as a surprise to marketers who are used to discussions of frequency that revolve around site  or campaign metrics. Measuring only the last ad in a  conversion history conceals the true length of the relationship an advertiser has with each consumer. When we focus our view on individual converters’ histories and apply the funnel concept to their ad consumption, we discover that their histories are much longer and richer than typically assumed. These results confirm other research showing that advertising reaches consumers from multiple advertising campaigns and across channels.

This basically asserts that “conversions” are a result of multiple exposures to ads across the Internet and that no single place/format/publisher should get isolated credit for conversions. This is essentially an argument against Google and the so-called “last click” phenomenon. But it’s also largely accurate.

Even though they’re now in something resembling free fall, there’s also a substantial role for “offline” media to play in online campaigns. Offline “stimulus” –> Online (re)Search –> (offline) Conversion.

At the brand and at the local level we’re starting to see more sophistication about the relationship between search and display advertising (and other platforms, including mobile). Display ads, like the stock market in the US, have lost most of their pricing value this year. This OPA initiative is an attempt to restore the credibility and perceived effectiveness of display. Yet there are existing, latent effects on purchase behavior from display ad exposure regardless of whether a click happened. (See comScore’s Gian Fulgoni’s blog post as one piece of evidence.)

The online ad market isn’t entirely rational. Pricing of online display appears to be a response to a glut of supply and lots of low quality ad inventory in multiple ad networks — as well as a lack of transparency regarding the “latent” effectiveness of many display ads.

This “big ads” move isn’t going to solve display’s problems but it could help quite a bit.


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