Are bigger ads better?
While the new formats have been well received by publishers and agencies alike, most mainstream press reports quickly surmised that the so-called super-sized ads would be a bigger headache than anything else.
Reuters called it "Creativity in your face," while The Los Angeles Times characterized the shift as, "In-your-face web ad formats popping up all over," making a subtle allusion to digital's most notorious ad unit.
But the emphasis on the size of the ad unit misses the point, says Andreas Combuechen, CEO of Atmosphere, a BBDO agency that has already begun designing campaigns for the larger palette.
"You hear a lot of press about applications, but it all comes down to creative," Combuechen says. "Historically, online hasn't gotten a lot of visibility from a creative prospective. You hardly ever hear someone talk about a banner. But these new ad units have the ability to attract a different level creative."
That different level of creative will also operate in a less cluttered space, according to Horan, who says that publishers are finding that a less-is-more approach is preferable when it comes to selling their premium inventory.
One of those publishers is ESPN.com, which recently agreed to join in OPA's experiment. According to Lisa Valentino, VP of digital sales for ESPN, the big opportunity presented to advertisers is the ability to speak without a lot of competition.
"First and foremost, we are coming back to the idea that context and environment really do matter," Valentino explains. "These ad units are about breaking out of that clutter and leading the industry toward more engaging and innovative creative."
But that's a commitment that won't just be measured by the size of the ad. According to Combuechen, one wild card in all of this is something entirely new that he believes should inspire advertising creativity that rivals -- and surpasses -- other media.
The wild card is a permalink function that allows users to share, save, and return to ads they like -- something that's been nearly impossible for most of the banners currently out there.
But will people save and share ads?
"Yes," says Combuechen, "if the creative is compelling and relevant."
While it may sound like a stretch for those who spend their time dodging banner ads to begin wondering how they can save and share them, the truth is that Combuechen could be on to something. Visit YouTube and type in your favorite television commercial and you're bound to find at least one video (usually more) with thousands, if not millions of views. The reason? The creative is great.
And that's precisely what has agencies like The Visionaire Group so excited. A small, Los Angeles-based creative agency, The Visionaire Group recently launched a super-sized YouTube ad for the new "Fast & Furious" movie.
While the ad wasn't part of the OPA-backed consortium, the agency's CEO Dimitry Ioffe cited the larger palate as a key factor in the campaign's success.
"With more space, we're able to do just so much more," Ioffe says. "For this ad, we started with the full theatrical trailer, which we were able to show in HD right when the user engaged with the ad."
From there, the ad allowed the user to watch more video, such as behind-the-scenes footage and exclusive videos. And for those who exhausted the ad unit's video offerings, there was a desktop widget and a racing game -- all in the same ad unit, all without leaving YouTube.
"It's almost that functionality of a microsite without leaving the publisher's page," Ioffe says, adding that even the most basic campaigns will be able to increase the number of messages a brand is able to put out there."
But beyond the ability to disseminate a range of branded messages, the super-sized ads also mean increased opportunities for publishers to work closely with agencies and marketers, says Jack Rotherham, SVP of strategic sales and partnerships for Metacafe, which isn't part of the OPA test, but has since launched its own custom super-sized ad unit.
"We see a lot more custom ads coming out of these larger units," Rotherham says. "I think that's a good thing because it puts digital on par with other mediums in terms of giving brands a range of touch points in the editorial space where they can connect with users."
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