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Home Sweet Home Page Ads

  |  May 21, 2009   |  Comments

How online advertisers and publishers are effectively deploying synched ad units, home page takeovers, and a combination of video, companion ads, and skins.

Considering the ad clutter that Internet users encounter when they arrive at a site, it's pretty easy for them to forget the majority of the banners they see. Behavioral targeting is one way of combating this, upping the odds that the ad will be relevant to the user's life and current state of mind. Or, you could take a less subtle approach to improving ad recall and plaster the site's home page with your brand.

Many home page campaigns are just about that simple: they make key elements of the advertiser's brand so apparent that they're impossible to miss -- and unlikely to be forgotten. This works particularly well for familiar brands such as Coca-Cola. Brands like this have a leg up; they can skin (or wallpaper) a site's background with their logo and call it a day. But many take a more creative approach and choose instead to tell a story consumers will remember. These, along with less universal brands that must work harder to compose a scene that highlights their brand and the benefits of their products, are responsible for many of the best home page campaigns we see today.

In Synch

Synched ad units are one of the more popular choices for home page campaigns. Their technical sophistication allows marketers to create a more engrossing advertising experience equivalent (think of it as surround sound versus stereo), and consumers are more likely to be drawn into this if they see it before they get captivated by something else, namely the site's content.

Take this week's Mac ad on the home page of NYTimes.com. The placement employed three units -- a leaderboard and two vertical banners -- to carry on its "Get a Mac" campaign. While the leaderboard remained static and featured new Forrester Research data that rates Apple "#1 in Customer Experience," the two additional units used video to reference the static banner as well as interact with one another. The three banners, which appeared above the fold, were the only ads on the screen.


The coordinated interaction of synched banners can capture a user's attention so thoroughly that, for a few brief moments, there may as well be nothing else on the page. Takeover ads have the same effect, without leaving the possibility of a content-induced distraction to chance. By blocking out home page content with a takeover ad, marketers are guaranteed complete share of voice. But this comes at the risk of offending Internet users who, clearly, didn't land on the site looking for an all-encompassing advertising experience.

Still, this format, which has been in rotation for nearly a decade, continues to find favor with advertisers, although to its credit it has evolved some over the years. As reported in January, Ford teamed with ESPN.com to create a video home page takeover for its new F-150 truck. The ad (a thumbnail of which can be viewed here offered an interplay between the brand and the publisher as the truck, in the foreground, splashed mud on an SportCenter anchor, video of which ran in the background of the overlay ad. Besides being impossible to ignore (for better or worse), the ad succeeded in displaying a relationship between Ford and ESPN -- which boasts legions of loyal users -- that surely had some positive associative effects on the automotive brand.

Video, Companion Ads and Skins

This combination is fast becoming the trifecta of home page advertising. Advertisers get a video unit front and center, accompanied by an additional banner unit or two, and a background skin for a branding-friendly campaign with serious impact.

Women's content publisher SheKnows.com pulls in advertisers like Electrolux and Mott's -- both of which have advertised on the home page in recent weeks -- with some combination of these units. Each used the background skin to support its campaign story by showcasing its products, Electrolux with its Eco-Friendly Washer and Dryer, and Mott's with the trademark apple crate consumers have come to know through its Marcia Cross "Wake Up" campaign. Both campaigns managed to grab users' attention upon their arrival at the SheKnows home page, without interfering with their navigational experience or delaying their access to site content.

Next week, the focus will be on roadblock ads and the challenges advertisers now face when employing them. Because elaborate units like these, along with increasingly unique campaign ideas, should have media buyers thinking, "There's no place like home."

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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