Let’s look to Newspapers for the future of Display Ads

In order to stop display ads from withering on the vine publishers and advertisers must get more creative with online ads, and one good place to look for ideas is traditional media.

As Mitch talked about in his blog post, display ads are in trouble.

Are they going to go away?  No, banner ads are the primary vehicle to obtain reach online, and can carry a brand message to millions online.  Yet no matter what we do creatively, or how we push the limits of behaviorally targeting, display ads still seem incomplete.

Why is that?  Why do we as marketers feel like we are missing something with a banner ad, that we get with a TV ad?

Some of it has to do with advertisers giving way to much credit to TV ads. Are they all that much more effective than a well done roadblock or pre-roll ad online?  Maybe a little, but  TV advertising has had over 50 years to perfect it’s approach.

So what must be done to evolve display ads so they are more effective? First we need to think outside the current IAB box for display ads.  Publishers also need to work in tandem with advertisers to find the best placements.  They can no longer say, we place banners here, skyscrapers here, and big boxes here.

I know some publishers are offering this, and pretty much anyone would for the right price, but it needs to be easier.  Why not open up the entire page to ads, and charge different rates for different areas of the page?  Then publishers could make the content fit around that? Obviously their needs to be some limitations to this, but this same approach has been done for years in print.

A newspaper advertiser can choose pretty much any placement for an ad, as long as they stay to within basic column and row heighth specifications.  This gives the advertiser much more flexibility to create ads that grab attention.  Plus it makes it harder for readers to train themselves to ignore certain sections of a page where an the ad is always placed.

Sure to deploy this on websites would involve customized site layouts for each approach, but how hard would it be to come up with 30 different layout options for each placement? Again, the papers do it.

And this is just one option.  Other creative ideas such as unique shapes and sizes of creative need to be developed as well.  What about instead of a box or rectangle we use a circle, or even the shape of a logo? Sure that would not work for everyone, but over the years we have trained viewers to stop paying attention to colored boxes and rectangles online.  How do we break this pattern?

Only by getting creative, and thinking about new implementation ideas beyond IAB standards, are publishers going to be able to differentiate and take control back from the ad networks.

Too much inventory, too many sites, too many options.  Yes, that is a problem, but if can increase demand by using more effective placements and creative some of those problems will go away.

  • http://echofaith.com Jesse J. Anderson

    Part of the problem is the user annoyance rate is much higher on the web. On a newspaper I can quickly and easily see what is content and what is an ad, and scan from one to other in an instant… but on the web there isn't always an obvious font/color combination that indicates “this is the real content” and even worse, I may have to scroll to find it, depending on the ad placement. There is much more 'thinking' involved with determining what the content is on the web which makes it very easy to get annoyed when it's not easy (because ads are in the way).

    Also what you are talking about would require a very one-on-one relationship which doesn't happen very often. From the advertiser's position it isn't worth it to talk individually with a publisher on how and where to design and place your ad unless they get a large amount of traffic – it's much easier (and cheaper) to design a few ads in different dimensions and send those to all the publishers. If you do find a publisher with enough traffic to justify an individual ad and placement, most likely that publisher (with all that traffic) has too many advertisers and will prefer the plug'n'play “set an ad placement and let it run with different advertisers” approach which is fast, cheap and easy.

  • http://www.changeitmarketing.com kevinurie

    Good comments Jesse. I see your point on the design cost, and annoyance factor. I think the key is to find that fine line, between annoyance and effective. Something I am sure will be done with some trial and error over the years of testing.

    No matter what publishers say, they need to start working more closely with advertisers. I have heard from at least three sites in the last month that have a lot of traffic, but have very little revenue. They are tired of dealing with networks and Google for revenue, becuase there is little of it. These three called myself, or my agency for help, and that's not even what we do.

    If they could take some time and work with their ad partners I think it would be better for everyone. TV, Radio, and Newspapers have great relationships with agencies and constantly work together. I do not see why online publishers can't do the same. Obviously by doing this we as advertisers are going to need to put more time is as well in design.

    Hopefully their will be standards to all of this, to make it easier to implement. We just need to make sure they are not the limited ones like we have today.

  • http://echofaith.com Jesse J. Anderson

    Part of the problem is the user annoyance rate is much higher on the web. On a newspaper I can quickly and easily see what is content and what is an ad, and scan from one to other in an instant… but on the web there isn't always an obvious font/color combination that indicates “this is the real content” and even worse, I may have to scroll to find it, depending on the ad placement. There is much more 'thinking' involved with determining what the content is on the web which makes it very easy to get annoyed when it's not easy (because ads are in the way).

    Also what you are talking about would require a very one-on-one relationship which doesn't happen very often. From the advertiser's position it isn't worth it to talk individually with a publisher on how and where to design and place your ad unless they get a large amount of traffic – it's much easier (and cheaper) to design a few ads in different dimensions and send those to all the publishers. If you do find a publisher with enough traffic to justify an individual ad and placement, most likely that publisher (with all that traffic) has too many advertisers and will prefer the plug'n'play “set an ad placement and let it run with different advertisers” approach which is fast, cheap and easy.

  • http://www.changeitmarketing.com kevinurie

    Good comments Jesse. I see your point on the design cost, and annoyance factor. I think the key is to find that fine line, between annoyance and effective. Something I am sure will be done with some trial and error over the years of testing.

    No matter what publishers say, they need to start working more closely with advertisers. I have heard from at least three sites in the last month that have a lot of traffic, but have very little revenue. They are tired of dealing with networks and Google for revenue, becuase there is little of it. These three called myself, or my agency for help, and that's not even what we do.

    If they could take some time and work with their ad partners I think it would be better for everyone. TV, Radio, and Newspapers have great relationships with agencies and constantly work together. I do not see why online publishers can't do the same. Obviously by doing this we as advertisers are going to need to put more time is as well in design.

    Hopefully their will be standards to all of this, to make it easier to implement. We just need to make sure they are not the limited ones like we have today.