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Ads That Say More

  |  August 1, 2002   |  Comments

There's been uproar about 'intrusive' ads. Here's an alternative.

Media buyers have seen some distinct trends in online advertising creative come and go over the past few years. Do you remember the "teaser" banner, with its blatant but vague call to action, such as "Special offer! Click here"? And how about the gaming banner, that "Punch the monkey" model that tried to lure Internet users to the advertiser's site with the imprecise promise of big winnings and big fun? Legitimate advertisers, with real expectations to meet and results to deliver, rarely employ these concepts. Why? They provide precious little information about the actual product or service being advertised -- information that is a must if you're going to succeed in compelling a potential customer to visit your site because he is genuinely interested in what is being offered.

A new trend in ad design has emerged over the past year few years, and it's beginning to take hold -- so much so that I venture to say the days of struggling to fit a coherent ad message into a 468 x 60 pixel banner are coming to an end. The ads, and the company that creates the technology behind them, are called Point·Roll, and they're providing advertisers with much more space within a banner than was previously available. The Point·Roll ads combine JavaScript and DHTML technologies, conform to numerous standard ad sizes, and expand when the user rolls her mouse over the banner. Those mouseovers reveal up to eight additional "panels" -- extra real estate, if you will, that advertisers can use to get their messages across. Although the ads have been around for two and a half years, only recently has this rich media format begun showing up everywhere. So far, it's been employed by the likes of Coke, Sony, and General Mills, along with a laundry list of top interactive agencies.

The beauty of this type of ad placement is obvious. Incorporating one into your campaign is essentially like having a mini version of your client's site wherever you choose to advertise. You can use it to build brand awareness and encourage product recall or to capture data and generate leads. With this much space to work with, your options are manifold, and Point·Roll can track user interaction with each ad to an incredibly precise degree.

There has been some concern about these ad placements taking up too much editorial space, and if you've ever accidentally rolled over one while reading some online content or trying to get to another link, you understand why. A poorly placed Point·Roll ad can aggravate surfers to no end, so it's important to speak with your account executive about your placement in advance. A good rep will have your ad tested in various positions throughout his site before making his recommendation, as it's in his best interest to ensure that your potential customers -- his dedicated users -- don't run into any problems.

What makes the rise of these ads so interesting is that many advertisers believe Point·Roll banners are less intrusive than other, more aggressive ad formats, such as pop-up ads, and will therefore be more willingly accepted by consumers. There is one distinct difference between the two formats: Point·Roll ads are user initiated. Unlike other ad units that have been the source of so much controversy, these aren't meant to assertively push your ad message on a potential customer. The design of the ads encourages brand interaction without coming on too forcefully. The ads are page based, so frequency caps are rarely used. Users have the option of interacting with the ads just as they would with a standard GIF or HTML banner. These banners simply reside exactly where they are placed. If users are interested, they'll respond of their own accord.

One could say this marks the return to a more passive type of advertising -- if any type of advertising can be labeled passive. It's all about "planting a seed and nurturing an idea." The rest is up to the consumer.

The team at Point·Roll has made a conscious effort to design a format that is progressive and addresses this industry's limitations, even those that are only beginning to emerge. As one Point·Roll representative points out, the ads allow advertisers to evade potential impediments such as an increase in the consumer employment of ad-blocking software, something that Point·Roll believes is an "inevitable future event." Many advertisers are already concerned about this imminent threat. Could Point·Roll be their deliverance?

Point·Roll estimates close to one thousand sites already accept its technology, with more being converted all the time. Some industry professionals speculate this could be the next big trend in online advertising, and it could even mark the end of the traditional banner ad. What do you think?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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