Imagine Mrs Kellogg’s. She’s totally loaded, but remains dedicated to selling her cereals to the people of the world. To do this, she makes cardboard boxes with designs on them to stand out on shop shelves. Now imagine if Mrs Kellogg’s went to Miss Tesco, Ms J Sainsbury and Dame Marks & Spencer asking them to stock her latest cereal on their shelves. Miss Tesco would love to stock her new cereal, but only if the box is 2cm shorter. Ms J Sainsbury and Dame Marks & Spencer will also gladly take the cereal, but they also request different sizes of box because they all think their size is the best.
It’s certainly possible for Mrs Kellogg’s to do this, but she is rather busy and, quite frankly, has better things to be doing with her time than worrying about the shape of boxes. Particularly as each market across Europe has similar requests and she then has to think about different ways to transport the different size boxes. If she were to produce every different box it would lead to packaging her one cereal in at least 40 or more different boxes – and she has over thirty different types of cereal! Mrs Kellogg’s is exasperated.
She thinks about choosing just one shop, but to maximise reach her cereal has to be on the shelves of all of them. In a bid to make her life a lot easier, Mrs Kellogg’s hosts an afternoon tea party for all of the ladies and after much discussion, they agree on one size of box for all shops. Mrs Kellogg’s is now extremely happy because she can display her new cereal in front of as many people as possible. Miss Tesco, Ms J Sainsbury and Dame Marks & Spencer are particularly happy because they receive money for every box of Mrs Kellogg’s popular cereal sold in their store. What a rip roaring success!
Internet advertising in its many forms is exactly the same. There are thousands of different websites that sell advertising on their pages. The most successful websites for online advertising are search engines. They’re successful because: 1) search ads work 2) almost everyone uses search so advertisers can target every audience 3) there is only one ad format, so it’s incredibly easy and time efficient to use. Likewise, online display advertising works and everyone accesses websites with ads on, but I think it is suffering on ease and efficiency because of a lack of advertising standards.
Of course, search has it easy, there are only a tiny handful of search engines. For online display and video advertising there are hundreds of thousands of websites on offer and the types of adverts on each varies enormously. In the US, the market works together to establish standards to make it easier for the Mrs Kellogg’s of the world to use the same advert across all of these sites without modifying the box size. The UK does the same, but there doesn’t seem to be the same appetite to develop new standards.
In particular, I believe that online video advertising and new online display formats are being held back significantly by a lack of standards across publishers. I’m ready and willing to help and, indeed, there are some knights in shining armour in the industry who are already helping to fix this problem. However, this is a problem that everyone in the industry needs to understand and help solve. If we can all get this right, we can continue to grow online display advertising and make it better for everyone.
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