Display advertizers are hoping that new ad formats will breath new life — and money — into brand advertising online.
Today the Online Publishers Association announced three new ad formats designed to bring more brands into the display market. The hope is that larger ad units will allow for more creative — and more expensive — display advertising.
With publishers eager to find more lucrative ad options, 37 sites — including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters.com and CNN.com — have signed on to test the new ads. The true test, however, will be whether readers pay attention to the ads over the next few months, or simply find new ways to ignore them.
Display advertising has gotten a bad rap because it has such low conversion rates online. Google estimates that on average, Internet users click on only 0.1% of display ads. But click-through rates jump to as much as 0.37% for half-page and vertical rectangle ads. The key to get users' attention, apparently, lies in surprising them.
And while standardized ad formats have helped publishers scale their ad efforts, they also help online viewers know where to look for ads — and what to ignore.
It's a problem that IAC chief Barry Diller says is killing display ads online. He said earlier this month: "Display ads have been completely commoditized. I can't imagine how that's going to change. Once you've commoditized something, going back is incredibly hard to do."
But display is getting some relief of late. ComScore released numbers last week that show display ads have a positive effect on sales rates, even when people don't click on them. And Nielsen released figures this month that show large brands are increasing their display spending by 27% this year in the first quarter over last.
Online publishers — and OPA — are hoping that new, bigger and more interactive ads will help grow sales rates.
The new ad formats include "The Fixed Panel," a box 336 wide x 700 tall which remains constant as the user scrolls to the top and bottom of the page; "The XXL Box" a box 468 wide x 648 tall, which opens for seven seconds to 936 wide x 648 tall; and "The Pushdown," a box 970 wide x 418 tall, which opens to display the ad and then rolls up to 970 wide x 66 tall after seven second.
And while the new formats are focused on growing brand recognition, OPA is less concerned with click through rates. President Pam Horan tells PaidContent that the reliance on click-through measurements has hurt both creativity and the value of branding campaigns:
“So much of the ads that rely on click-throughs are direct response advertising, and advertisers know that they can’t simply rely on those sorts of campaigns.”
While readers may pull back from more intrusive advertising, it is something they will have to get used to. Because once they get used to these formats, more will surely be coming down the pipeline.