The ads effectively complimented the content viewers were there to absorb, and in doing so matched the affinity viewers may have had with both The Returned and Channel 4.

It was a classy, enduring touch. Jonathan Allan, sales director at Channel 4, said at the time,

It should really make the ads fit within the context of the show and surprise the viewer, cutting through to the audience.

The Channel 4 sales team devised a similarly memorable ad break, in collaboration with Mindshare, back in August 2001.

The broadcast of the 100 Greatest Kids’ TV Shows was always going to be a nostalgia-fest. Channel 4 and Mindshare endeavored to harness the warmth and affections felt by most adults towards their childhoods by devoting an entire ad break to classic Kellogg’s Cereals ads through the ages – from Frosties to Coco Pops.

It was the first ad break I’d seen that felt entirely seamless, and an effortless extension of the content.

When care is taken over the relevance, quality and placement of advertising for both on and offline media titles, it can add real value for the consumer.

It’s often said that people buy Vogue magazine for the ads, and it’s no joke, there’s truth behind it. Vogue US’s Fall edition was a 902 page edition, 74% of which was ads.

Vogue is nothing without them. Not just in terms of page volume, but in terms of quality. The premium content, supplemented by premium brand advertisers, establishes the luxury environment Vogue’s readership crave.

Today brands often have more money to spend on creative talent and ideas than media owners – so it shouldn’t be surprising that some of the content brands produce is worth engaging with.

Online, there’s little excuse for running ads which pay little or no homage to their environment. The cost-effectiveness and versatility of the digital landscape enables brands and publishers to deploy ads which creatively complement their surroundings.

Advertisers have to respond to the increasingly high expectations of online consumers. Savvy web-users will simply go to other sites if they’re bombarded with intrusive, interruptive and irrelevant ads.

Consumers are now expecting a more thoughtful, creative approach from brands looking to engage with them online than is often currently the case. For a long time the standard banner ad economy has stifled brands’ creativity.

Put simply, it’s just been easier and cheaper to force ad creative into templates. Yet consumers are increasingly failing to see these standardised ads, whether through “banner blindness”, ad blockers or because the functionality of mobile devices means they can avoid ads – and engagement rates are falling.

Amidst falling CPMs many publishers are simply running more ads around their content. The increase in ad ‘noise’ and the ineffectiveness of standard ads is forcing advertisers to rethink how they engage an increasingly ad-resistant audience.

At the heart of the problem are user experience considerations, and the solution lies in publishers and advertisers meeting in the middle.

In the past few months, I’ve noticed that publishers and agencies are increasingly – through both desire and necessity – starting to think outside the 468×60 pixel banner and are looking to create more engaging, inventive ads.

This has coincided with technical developments that have made delivering tailored, bespoke, original ads possible, such as: browsers with advanced capabilities, new ad servers, new content formats, responsively designed sites and ad formats, and high speed internet connections.

Memorable, meaningful experiences can now be created, made available across every device, and delivered in-page without being interruptive, using design principles that are in keeping with the digital publisher’s environment.

Howard Gossage once said:

The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.

If brands and media owners take the opportunity to collaborate more often then what interests people will be an ad more often.