Last week's column on expanding ads illustrated just a few of the reasons why expandables, in their new and more thoughtful forms, have a lot to offer digital media buyers. Few marketers would turn up their nose at a unit that can deliver multiple levels of brand and product content in an impactful way. But despite the improvements made to this unit, it isn't the only viable option available to brands eager to demonstrate their product offerings in an interactive ad.
Meet Spongecell, creator of a series of multi-windowed ad units that can incorporate video, coupons, social media, and more into singular banner ads, thus negating the need to expand over site content. With the ability to feature multiple messages and links within an ad unit, advertisers can deliver messaging that's dynamic, engaging, and timely – all without straying beyond the confines of a standard 300x250, 728x90, or 160x600 ad placement.
According to Spongecell CEO Ben Kartzman, the company transforms standard banner ads into dynamic flash ads with rich-media functionality. "It is possible to get the same excitement and engagement with consumers from standard units that can scale and don't frustrate users," he says. "Our ads can run anywhere including exchanges, through DSPs, ad networks and of course directly on sites - they are also not hamstrung by requirements to drop code in a publisher's page."
Typically a Spongecell ad will feature at least three special offers or calls to action, ranging from coupons to in-banner video. In one campaign promoting a major consumer packaged goods (CPG) advertiser, Spongecell recorded more than 182,000 screen views, 50,000 coupon interactions, 88,000 social media interactions, and 43,000 map interactions over the course of 45 days.
For a CPG company, travel company, or automotive manufacturer tasked with promoting individual dealerships or inventory, these types of multi-windowed units have a lot of appeal. Spongecell's Dynamic Carousel format, for example, can be used to rotate multiple recipes for a food product, photo galleries of hair styles or hotels for beauty and travel brands, or images of multiple car models – including special offers and a retailer locator tool.
The latter strategy uses the familiar dynamic display advertising format that's becoming increasingly popular in classified verticals through companies like British Columbia, Canada-based AdPerfect. Its "inventory-driven display ads" pull in up-to-the-minute apartment, home, and car listings to allow the consumer to browse without having to click away from the current screen.
While many of AdPerfect's banners allow the user to scroll to view more product or listing information, others then offer the option to expand for even more promotional content. The advantage of this approach over typical expandable ads is to give site users an option; they aren't required to expand, as they're able to view ad content within the scrolling banner, but they can proactively interact with the unit to see even more, thus qualifying themselves as potential customers.
Media buyers know full well that the so-called "death of display advertising" is a myth. Just ask Google, which closed the recent 2010 IAB MIXX Conference and Expo with a presentation describing its predictions for the future of online advertising. Among them were the expectations that by 2015, 50 percent of brand campaigns will feature rich media, and that display advertising will be a $50 billion industry. It clearly isn't the static banners of old that will make it happen; rich media, multi-windowed creative, dynamic ads, widgets, socially-enabled formats, and the like are the units proving themselves to be effective today, and that will surely be adopted as industry leaders tomorrow.
Expandable banners may have played a huge part in paving the way for these predictions to come to fruition, but in the process they've spawned an excess of creative alternatives. If new rich media creative is about giving the consumer choices – the choice to expand, to view multiple products and features within a single unit, to save an ad for later or e-mail it to a friend – then it's also about giving the advertiser choices. And those choices can make all the difference.
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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.
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