Posts Tagged: internet standards

Online ads: bigger can be better

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.

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We’ve no standards these days

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 ifMrs 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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Why digital advertisers should welcome the extended self-regulatory rules

At the end of last year I wrote about the top priorities for digital media regulation in 2010. One of which was the industry’s extension of the remit of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) into new areas of digital media space.

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Education, education, education (part three…and final)

I’ve banged the drum in previous weeks about the importance of consumer education about behavioural advertising, and the IAB’s recent research has highlighted the need for this.

Today the IAB has published a guide on behavioural advertising specifically for industry, our first step in helping educate the market about this practice (although you’ll be glad to know that this will be my last blog – for now – talking about education). The guide explains how behavioural advertising works, how it differs to other types of targeted advertising on the internet, its benefits to web publishers and advertisers, consumer attitudes as well as online privacy and industry good practice.

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Education, education, education (part two)

A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of informing and educating consumers about the internet. This followed a revamp of the IAB’s website – – aimed at helping internet users understand online behavioural advertising, how it works and how to switch it off if they want to. Today the IAB, in partnership with business law firm Olswang, has published new research confirming that consumers need (and want) more information and education about online privacy and the practice of behavioural advertising.

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Education, education, education (part one)

It’s official: us Brits love shopping online. According to research by price comparison service, Uswitch, 93% of the UK population now shop on the internet (I think that’s 93% of the 2,500 adults they surveyed!). And, as consumers continue to ‘connect’ so advertisers increasingly look to the internet as a platform to get their messages across and sell their wares. The two are mutually beneficial. Some of us just can’t get enough of all this (it’s empowering and addictive). For others the tide of change is uncomfortable and some need help getting connected in the first place (and there’s no one better than digital entrepreneur and Government Digital Inclusion Champion, Martha Lane Fox, to make this happen).

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Is this the ultimate display format?

It’s big, it’s bold, it’s comparable to the amount of ‘page’ a print ad takes up and of course it’s as interactive and measurable as any online advert before it. I give you the relatively new billboard (or double MPU… whatever you like to call it):

If it was possible to fall in love with a rectangular animated advert, I would be asking this one to marry me. It takes up almost a third of the page, is available across most large publisher sites and it actually succeeds in making the page look cleaner. For branding, personally I think this is one of the best formats on the market.

You can see the actual size of the ad (300 x 600) below. Your thoughts?

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Eight things wrong with the internet

Digital Britain was all a bit strange to me. It had very clear, positive aims but to me it
missed a lot of the bigger problems the internet is facing, instead focussing
on issues that people shout about the most rather than demonstrating a genuine
understanding. The problem with this is that it missed core issues that will
affect the long-term use of the internet.

Over the weekend I began jotting down a list of my biggest
gripes with the internet that I believe seriously need addressing. Digital Britain, understandably,
couldn’t and wouldn’t be the relevant route for addressing all of these issues,
but there are some it should have addressed. Hopefully the Government will look
into these in the future. One step at a time and all that…

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Transparency, choice and education is the way forward for online privacy

A parliamentary body of MPs and Peers – the All Party Parliamentary Group on Communications – is to conduct an inquiry into internet traffic, including behavioural advertising and online privacy. The Group asks whether the Government should intervene over behavioural advertising or whether it should leave it to users, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and websites. The Group also asks whether there is a need for any new initiative to deal with online privacy. The Group has sought ‘written evidence’ from interested parties and will be meeting with key stakeholders in mid-June.

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Is the digital industry welcoming newcomers with open arms or are we a closed shop?

I recently had the pleasure of talking to a mature sales professional who had worked in traditional publishing for over 35 years. As a victim of the recession and in particular one of the many employees cut loose from their traditional publisher, he was looking to move into the digital industry.

While I was advising him on what and how much he would need to learn, it occurred to me that we aren’t making it easy for these consummate professionals to diversify into digital. We have created a vast array of acronyms that we then change every 6 months – SEO to NSO being my favourite de jour! We invent a complicated mix of revenue streams – far beyond the DPS, half page or at best, barn door of the traditional sales arena.

We are passionate about our industry and for those of us who have worked in it over the boom, crash, boom short history of digital, expect that those that didn’t jump on board at the start shouldn’t be allowed to walk in easily.

Well, perhaps we should evaluate. We should welcome new and old blood with open arms. That in itself would be the kind of attitude that we all so proudly aspire to have.
When traditional publishers are forced to let good people go, let us be the industry that embraces that talent.

I for one, welcome the mature, seasoned and consummate professional. For one reason, sales, design, marketing or editorial are skills that are acquired over time. Digital for all its complications, can and should be taught to all – irrespective of age or previous career path. Otherwise, surely we are letting good talent go to waste?

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