There has been much discussion behind-the-scenes of the marketing industry about new larger online display adverts – is bigger better? Not if it jeopardises user experience to SHOUT AT consumers, but yes when they are being used correctly. The Half-page Ad, the newest and largest UK standard, is around the size of two MPU ads stacked on top of each other and is slightly wider than its predecessor the skyscraper. I have a theory that it is the best online display format available today and I’ll explain why.
To me, display advertising should be treated as visual content – it should be relevant and interesting to the person viewing it. Above all it should be beautiful. If we assume that a display ad is actually just paid for visual content, then I want that content to be displayed in the best way possible. The Half-page Ad is better proportioned than most online ads. It’s wider, so you can fit better imagery into it at a size that can do the image justice. There’s a reason why Burberry have been using it to showcase their latest collections. The Half-page Ad represents a fabulously delicious new opportunity for advertisers to display their wares.
In the above Mercedes example the ad is almost exactly the same size as the image at the top of the content. If users expect images of this size in content – which they do these days because the internet is now a far more visual place – then an ad should be able to match it. Here the ad is clean, uses great photography and animation that wouldn’t be possible on a smaller ad. You can even include vertical video in the Half-page Ad with extra messaging around it in exactly the same way as outdoor digital (e.g. the displays on escalators) where both have no audio and both only have a small window of opportunity for people to see it. It would be bad practice to show someone a smaller image with squashed messaging. Out in the real world, agencies I’ve spoken to that have used the ad tell me they show strong uplift for brand campaigns.
So, why do some people have an issue with larger display formats? I don’t know, but my guess is that people still view online display ads as a direct response format like search ads. Online display is not search. Display ads are not always direct response. If you want direct response, it’s true, smaller ads can work – but the greatest use of display advertising is for delivering a brand message without the need for people to click through. I’m never going to click to buy a Mercedes online from seeing an ad, nor would I personally click to view the website immediately. In the same way I wouldn’t rush down to my local dealer from seeing a bus stop poster. The Mercedes ad certainly left an impression on me however by showing the car’s vertical flip doors in action. It is a cool car and something I may consider when I purchase a car one day – and that’s something I would never have seen properly in a smaller ad.