For everyone from retailers to automotive manufacturers, the concept of expanding banners makes sense. Digital marketers can pack a lot of information into a relatively small space without needing to pay more for additional creative. They can transmit their product message and call to action in a single interactive unit that's bold enough to cut through site clutter. What's not to love?
A lot, according to Harris Interactive. Last year, the research organization - in conjunction with LinkedIn Research Network - reported that 80 percent of consumers interpret banners that "cover the content you are trying to read" as being "very frustrating." Disheartening, right? Google doesn't think so; it added expanding ads to its AdSense network just last year. And MediaMind (formerly Eyeblaster) says these units alone have the longest "Dwell Time" - a method of ad measurement indicating the amount of time a user spends with an ad. Clearly, there are some contradictions associated with this method of online advertising.
The incongruity is, in part, due to the manifold types of expanding ads. Units that are activated when casually rolled over and grow to dominate the site page are a far cry from the "click to expand" variety that require conscious initiation. Banners with prominent close buttons, too, are far more tolerable to consumers, as are those integrated with social media. More than that, though, it's about the fact that expandable banners are growing up.
By culling years of data and tracking consumer behavior with startling intensity, publishers and rich media companies are now able to develop better, more effective banners that are transforming the expanding ad experience for consumers both through Internet and mobile media. The new crop does more to abide by best practices, offering a rich advertising experience than these units ever have before.
The Hover Ad
Internet Broadcasting Systems introduced a new version of this concept earlier this year as a simplified take on an expanding unit. In essence, it does the near-impossible: expands without offending the user. The IB Hover Ad initially appears as a narrow banner at the bottom of the site page, but when it's clicked it collapses into a small branded button that continues to "hover" next to the page content, allowing the site user to click to expand it again at any time.
This unit gives the user complete control over how and when to engage with the marketing message. Visitors to the local media and TV station sites within Internet Broadcasting's network can view the content they came to see without ad interference, while advertisers benefit from the branding value of a persistent button - and the knowledge that their placements aren't deemed intrusive. With the Hover Ad, the ability to expand (and collapse) in this fashion is more about maintaining a respectable site presence than it is about prolonged interactivity, but the result is something both advertisers and consumers can get on board with.
VideoEgg, which will be rebranded as Say Media, offers a refined expandable unit that does it all: offers branding, multiple links, video, and the ability to quickly and easily relegate the ad to the bottom of the site page. Those determined to keep their viewed pages as ad-free as possible can even click to close the banner entirely, whereby it becomes a small link that can be clicked again to expand at any point throughout the page session.
Simply called Doc, the unit can be designed to expand upon roll-over while also offering a countdown to prepare the user for what's coming and offer the opportunity to abort the action. Advertisers can use the unit to link numerous products, services, or, in the case of one campaign, different programs on the TLC network. It can also link to a branded microsite hosted by the ad developer where the ad can be viewed again and again - lest we forget that some well-conceived and executed campaigns would, in fact, easily garner multiple repeat views if advertisers just gave consumers the chance to reengage.
The Adhesion Mobile Ad
Rich media mobile advertising company Crisp Wireless has its own version of an updated expanding ad, called Adhesion Mobile Ad. Like the modern expanding ads that are appearing online, this unit is anchored at the bottom of the screen using "fixed ad placement technology" - either persistently or semi-persistent, whereby the ad reappears each time the user stops scrolling. The banner can be voluntarily expanded to reveal links to anything from a movie trailer to a product commercial. In an ad created by AKQA and placed by Mediacom for auto brand Volkswagen, Crisp's Adhesion Full Screen Expandable format was used to highlight features of the Volkswagen CC through interactive hot spots (the same creative ran on the mobile Web and in mobile apps).
"Because the Adhesion unit does not disappear off the screen as the user scrolls, advertisers get a much more visible and engaging impression," says Boris Fridman, CEO of Crisp Wireless. "In A/B testing conducted by Crisp, Adhesion outperformed standard banners two to one. Moreover, advertisers can measure the display or dwell time of all Adhesion impressions, a first in mobile, and Adhesion is a multi-platform ad format; it can run on smartphones, tablets and even on the desktop web." Beyond the benefits to marketers and its manifold features, the ads are remarkable in something else that they offer to consumers: the ability to save the ad, e-mail it, or post it to Facebook. If a user is in the midst of searching for some timely information, he can save an interesting ad and return to it at his leisure.
Now that's wielding control of an expandable ad.
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.
March 19, 2014