Display advertising is changing -- no longer can one think of online display as just banners. Now there is a wide array of creative formats marketers can utilize to engage with consumers. These formats are quite literally exploding out of the box. The level of creativity in online advertising has, no doubt, improved over the years. It is still changing and improving as marketers strive to grab consumer attention without overtly annoying them, thus effectively communicating the message.
Thinking back to the beginning of online advertising, pop-ups were everywhere and the quality was, well... let's just say online advertising quality has come a long way. To summarize the early days of the internet, pop-ups were synonymous with online advertising. Then came the banner, a much less intrusive "standard" format that can vary by size and shape and is still used effectively in many campaigns today. Banners were followed by rich media options that, in turn, were followed by video -- so, what's next?
Now, online media opportunities expand far beyond "banners" to microsites and social media pages, making the landscape even more complex. Yet, display remains the major reach vehicle in most digital campaigns. Average click-through rates are still very low, so marketers are increasingly attempting to deliver the branding messages within the ad itself, using expandable formats and interactive features that often replicate part of the experience of a microsite or social media page.
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In line with this objective, display formats are constantly transforming, and many new ones are emerging. Here are a few trends in display that we think are likely to catch on more widely in 2011:
Media planners are discovering neat ways to combine multiple formats on the same page. Background wallpaper ads, often used on the homepages of websites, can enhance the impact of regular banners with the same look and feel that doesn't cover any important content.
The doubling or tripling approach can also include combinations of ads appearing on the same page, and they can be interactive, such as the Tipp-ex "hunter shoots the bear" ad where the video interacts with the display ad on the same page.
Expandable formats allow consumers to view more information about the brand or product without leaving the page, which we have seen is favored by consumers in some of the recent online creative pretesting that we have done.
Slide-up formats use small but intriguing imagery to capture attention on the web page. Once the viewer rolls over the ad image, it then expands into an overlay or full-page ad that can include video. This format is reminiscent of the brief reminder that appears on the bottom left-hand corner of the screen when watching a TV program. Except, of course, with the online format you can click on the ad, expand it, and get more information seamlessly.
Slide-up formats can be clever and subtle, and if it intrigues the visitor, then there's an opportunity to find out more information about the advertised brand or product without necessarily leaving the page you are on. It's a way of inviting users to find out more, but doesn't overtly force the message upon the viewer.
Marketers seeking to integrate banners with their social media campaigns are increasingly incorporating a taste of live social activity, such as their Twitter feeds, as part of the ad. Among other display predictions, Google recently claimed that 75 percent of all ads will be social in nature by 2015. With more people joining social media sites and sharing information with friends online, it only makes sense for marketers to think of ways to easily combine social media and advertising in ways that are creative, relevant, and suited for their brand.
Finding the right balance between attention-grabbing and annoying is a challenge for all marketers. However, thanks to some of the new creative thinking, online advertising is becoming more adept at communicating and engaging with consumers. As new formats emerge and old ones drop off, it is still important to measure campaign effectiveness and what works well as a whole, as not everything will work for all brands. No doubt, 2011 will bring other interesting interactive formats and ways to communicate brand messages using online display. Certainly the hope is that we, the industry, continue to raise the bar on creative quality and out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to digital advertising.
Christina Goodman is director of digital solutions, Europe, at Millward Brown.
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