In the early days of interactive advertising, interaction was a matter of clicking on an ad. The click was king. Ads were designed and evaluated based on their ability to induce a click. It was a pass-fail exam, and consumers adapted accordingly.
Fortunately, the industry proved as adaptive as consumers. Today's web ads are truly interactive; their capabilities extend well past choppy animation and primitive interaction to full-featured content, high-quality video and complex interactivity. They have more in common with marketing-oriented microsites than with the animated GIFs of yore.
Robust back-end XML enables advertisers to deliver specialized content and tailored messaging based on geographic, demographic and behavioral information. These personalized ads engage users in ways that earlier ads couldn't, and more and more users are clicking on ads.
Anything that makes ads more personal will get a better response, and XML accomplishes this in several ways:
- Geo-tagging detects users' locale and can reconfigure text or select creative iterations that relate specifically to them. It's well-suited for campaigns that are location-specific or appeal on a local basis.
- Behavioral tagging (or Sequential tagging) "marks" the user with a cookie and can deliver a series of ads in their proper order to build a message or adapt to user behavior. It's effective in building engagement or trust with consumers and moving the audience from lead to close.
- Data capture ads do what they say they do: collect information and transmit the data to the advertiser. This can be email information, product preferences, et cetera. Data collection ads are a favorite for lead-generation campaigns.
As expected, this technology resulted in a performance breakthrough. We have seen a marked improvement among advertisers who use XML tagging.
One client, a leading health and beauty brand launching a new product formulated for city life, used geo-tagging to target users in major metropolitan areas. The company produced 10 creative variations, each featuring the skyline of a U.S. city. Users residing in those cities were exposed to imagery of their hometown. There was also an eleventh variation, with default creative that the company delivered to users outside of those geographical targets. The campaign performed fantastically well, and user interaction with the geo-targeted creative doubled that of the interaction with the default image.
Another advertiser used sequential tagging to deliver creative based on individual users' prior exposure to the ads. The major credit card company wanted to develop leads for its card products. The campaign qualified consumers in the first round of messaging and funneled users into different product tracks based on their responses to each message. Sequential tagging proved highly beneficial for the company's purpose, as it was able to drill down to individual consumers and build their messaging accordingly. The specificity and personalization not only helped the credit card company develop leads, but it resonated well with consumers, who felt valued and engaged.
One last case in point, from the other end of the spectrum: We had another advertiser who, rather than identify leads, launched a campaign to promote brand awareness and positive engagement. The client integrated tagging, video and rich media features into one campaign. The campaign consisted of three ads, beginning with a short video.
Using analytics and dynamic tagging, we were able to identify which users had viewed the whole video, and followed up by sending those users two synchronized banners. Of those two banners, one contained a text entry box, and the other displayed the user's response, along with other user responses all over the world. This interaction set the stage for the third engagement, in which the advertiser was able to collect user information.
The campaign took users on a "journey" from passive viewer (nearly 50 percent watched the video), to engagement with the premise (more than 5,000 people submitted answers), to interaction with the brand itself.
These ad units are revolutionizing online advertising, taking several more steps toward fulfilling its promise of being truly interactive. Tagging takes the guesswork out of identifying niche markets and moving consumers toward a sale.
What's more, the increased functionality brings a new dimension to interactive advertising. When users can experience content and engage with the brand directly in the ad itself, they don't fear clicking on the banner as much. Attrition drops, and the engaging experience grows.
The old distinction -- static ads vs. rich media -- is nothing compared with the new interactive landscape, where dynamic advertising rules.
Yoav Arnstein is VP/general manager, North America at Eyeblaster. .