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Dynamic Social Sites, Yet Static Ads

  |  October 5, 2007   |  Comments

As information and data help create more dynamic Web sites, why is so much Web advertising slow to catch up?

The word "social" seems to be everywhere. All over the world, people have tuned into digital media to find each other, collaborate, create, and otherwise socialize. The Cannes Lions Grand Prix winner this year, Dove's "Evolution," wasn't an ad run in traditional media, or even traditional online media. People socially, or virally, spread the message. Radiohead's new album release as a name-your-price digital download is being regarded as a social experiment.

Dynamic social behavior seems to be all around us. So why does it seem that most ads around this content are so static? The average animated or flashy rich media and video ads seem to deliver the same message wherever or whenever they run. With the lack of dynamic content delivery and appeal to consumers' inherently social behavior, is there really any wonder why click-through and interaction rates tend to languish? Why has it taken so long to see mass-market forces adapt to proven successful approaches to consumer behavior?

Google's AdSense network pioneered the dynamic delivery of contextually relevant text ads. The company's recently announced Gadget platform seeks to do the same, but it delivers ads that bring dynamic content to the consumer while giving consumers the ability to display them on their own inward- or outward-facing pages and profiles. The widget has also been doing a lot of growing up lately, but most other rich media and video advertising must do the same.

If you're looking at how to do this at your agency or with your brand, there are several tools you should integrate into your ads. These tools will make the ads not only more effective but also more relevant and useful to consumers.


On the social Web, new tools can be created from portions of existing ones to create useful utilities. If you're a brick-and-mortar retailer and you want to let people know how to get to your nearest store, why not plug into Google Maps' API (define) and display the stores in their area? If you think you can beat Amazon's prices, why not plug into its API to prove it in real time? If you want content delivered to your ads, why not hook them into Twitter's API? Many sites make their APIs openly available, and they're likely far more popular than your ads. Taking advantage of these utilities can create a far more interesting experience for potential customers, thus making them more likely to interact. The ad appears as something that can actually help them in their search for the product or answer you're advertising.

Interactive Flash: Video or Not?

With flash video becoming the standard for in-stream video advertising, why are most video ads :15 or :30 spots? Overlay advertising is also increasing in popularity and opens a previously closed door. Without restraints that mandate a message be delivered in a designated brief period, we don't need to rely on content's typical, passive delivery. Why not let the consumer dictate the experience? This can be done with a game, a video experience whose path the consumer can choose, or a tool that gives users information they might be interested in. The overlay, while delivering a basic message, can also be a tease for a payoff. The more appealing that payoff is, the more likely the message will realize its potential as a portal to a deeper, more engaging experience.


News travels fast. It changes ever faster. If you've ever walked through Times Square, you've been bombarded by news alerts and stock tickers on signs lining the buildings. On ESPN or CNN, you can't miss the news crawl on the bottom of the screen. These grab attention because they deliver up-to-the-minute, relevant information. RSS allows for the syndication of news, data, or any other pieces of information into any format. I've seen ads that make use of current information delivered dynamically perform better than ads that don't. If your brand is part of a particular lifestyle, why not stream information relevant to that lifestyle into your served advertising? Whether that information is data or headlines, audiences will be more likely to click through for more -- or at least more likely than clicking on more information solely about your brand.

Easy to Embed?

An ad that takes advantage of social elements can serve as a useful consumer tool. Think of it as another item in a consumer's Swiss Army knife of information access, except in this case she can show it off to friends, readers, or perfect strangers. If you run an ad with elements that help in a decision-making process, ensure it's possible to embed that ad into pages, profiles, and blogs. Make the ad easy to embed, search, find, and index, and the nonserved ad impressions you receive will extend your paid media's value. If you don't, you're doing your brand and its ad a disservice.

Follow these simple guides and watch your ad performance improve. Being dynamic in social situations has never been more beneficial.

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Ian Schafer

Ian Schafer, CEO and founder of Deep Focus, consistently redefines the way entertainment properties are marketed online. Ian founded Deep Focus in 2002 to bring a holistic suite of interactive marketing and promotional solutions to the entertainment industry. The company's clients include America Online, Dimension Films, HBO, MGM, Nickelodeon, Sony/BMG Music, 20th Century Fox, Universal Music Group, and many others. As former VP of New Media at Miramax and Dimension Films, Ian was responsible for their most popular online campaigns. He's been featured as an expert in online entertainment marketing and advertising in numerous media outlets including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Advertising Age, and CNN.

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