It's got a funny name but a serious mission.
You've probably heard the name by now... and you've probably wondered what it means. I know I have. Oddly enough, Shoshkele, an online advertising technology created by United Virtualities, was christened with the nickname of a daughter of the company's founder. Quite a clever way to immortalize the girl, don't you think?
The name isn't the only thing that's memorable about this browser-driven, interactive ad technology. You know that animated floating ad you saw that looked almost exactly like its television counterpart? It may have been a Shoshkele. (Alternatively, it could have been an ad created by one of the other rich media players making their mark in the online ad world these days, but for this column I'll focus on the Shoshkele.)
In addition to a host of other attributes, Shoshkele technology provides marketers with the ability to create some very sophisticated online advertisements that can include high-quality animation and stereo sound. That's because it's the original "layered ad technology," first on the market back in 1999. You may remember the first campaign that used the technology, launched by a little dot-com advertiser known as Monster. The campaign incorporated Monster's Super Bowl television spot, which United Virtualities optimized and digitized for use on the Internet.
The company has since attracted the attention of other major advertisers -- many of them of the offline variety -- partly because it's able to successfully convert TV commercials into high-quality, engaging online ads. For an offline advertiser taking his first steps in the online space, this type of service is invaluable, not only because it keeps the advertiser's brand message intact but also because it's much simpler and more cost-effective than creating Internet ads from scratch.
If that's not enough to capture the attention of marketers, Shoshkele technology also removes another online advertising disincentive. The ads are designed to reduce the manifestation of a primary irritant that put pop-up ads in the hot seat. Although pop-up ads can impede the download of Web pages, eating up valuable Internet connection time, United Virtualities's technology uses what is referred to as a "polite download." The ads appear only after the site content has already been downloaded, thereby helping to reduce resentment on the part of impatient users.
Recognizing that consumer approval is a constant concern among online advertisers, the company avoids using Java technology, which can be unstable at times and could potentially crash a user's browser, abruptly terminating his online experience. Shoshkele ads are also only shown to users who can actually accept the technology. Believe it or not, some advertisers still don't recognize the effect that requiring users to install Flash to view an ad (which they may not even care to see) can have on people's perception of a brand. If a Shoshkele ad uses Flash technology, it will only be delivered to users who already have the necessary program installed. Because United Virtualities serves its ads itself, effective delivery and tracking become a cinch.
If this is all sounding a little familiar, it's because United Virtualities isn't the only game in town. These days, companies such as Eyeblaster, Bluestreak, EyeWonder, and Unicast are all offering similar technology and enjoying comparable success. But regardless of the source, the ad concepts peddled by these vanguard companies have marketers asking a very valid question: These ads may sound great on paper, but can they produce real results?
There's no doubt they generate clicks. According to Eric Biener, national sales director at United Virtualities, since the second quarter of this year, click-through rates for the company's ads averaged between 5 and 25 percent (not including clicks to the "close" button, of course) and have sometimes been as high as 50 percent for ads placed on site home pages. But are these clicks based on an actual interest in the service being advertised, or are they simply a product of consumer curiosity, driven only by the novelty of what users are seeing?
One way of determining the real worth of this level of response is to have the company track the number of times a user replays the ad by clicking on the replay option or by refreshing the page. This type of action indicates an interest on the part of the consumer, and tracking this aspect of a campaign, in combination with clicks to multiple areas of the ad itself, also helps the advertiser measure the appeal of the creative and optimize it accordingly.
Shoshkele technology, and the creative produced by its competitors, is still new enough that some negative consumer feedback is inevitable. But as Biener is quick to point out, television ads didn't go over so well in the beginning either. He's convinced once the majority of Internet users accept that advertising is necessary part of the industry and get used to seeing it, any existing hostility is sure to die down. When this finally happens, it stands to reason the engaging, entertaining, and technologically advanced ads will produce the best results. If that's not motivation to give this type of ad a try, I don't know what is.
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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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