The second half of 2010 saw the launch of new ads on some major social media sites and content providers, many of which are sure to make it onto your media plan in the coming year.
June: Facebook Ads for Pages and Events – Facebook
Ever wish you could up Facebook engagement with your posted events? Facebook delivered this option to advertisers in June with the launch of Facebook Ads for Pages and Events. The new ads allow Facebook users to "Become a fan" or RSVP to an event directly within the ad unit, creating a story on the user's profile page. These actions register as paid clicks, allowing the advertiser to more easily create cost-per-click campaigns based on such metrics as number of converted fans and event responses. Just another example of how online interaction with a brand now takes place in countless ways beyond a visit to the brand site.
July: Fixed Panel and Pushdown in HD – Hearst Magazines Digital Media
The OPA's fixed panel and "push-down" units aren't brand new, but the fact that they're now appearing on Hearst sites with a ton of bells and whistles is. Through a partnership with brand content platform Pictela (which was recently acquired by AOL), the sites now allow advertisers to enhance the OPA ads with high-definition video, photo galleries, and social media tools.
The units were first used to promote Gillette's Venus brand. The high-def videos included advice from a lifestyle expert and a click-to-buy option as well.
August: Canvas Ad - MySpace
Social media game developers have more on their mind than just presenting an engaging product; they must attract players for it, too. With this objective in mind, MySpace began testing its canvas ad, a new placement on the App Canvas page – the "game play surface area" on the MySpace site. The unit resembles Facebook's column ads, with a combination of imagery, text, and links. What's nice about it is that its introduction doesn't alter the dimensions of the site page, thus retaining the integrity of the game space.
September: PageGrabber – Undertone Networks
In the ongoing competition between paper books and their digital counterpart, what could be more compelling than an ad unit that mimics the look of a turning newspaper page on the screen? The PageGrabber is a takeover ad that, after manipulating the site page to capture the user's attention, becomes a full-page ad. It's an interesting concept; at first the ad appears to the user as though it's hiding behind the page content, to be revealed by removing the overlay. So that's what's been behind the Wizard's curtain.
October: Project Devil – AOL
Many would agree that ad clutter is the bane of the digital marketer's existence. How better to thwart overcrowding than with super-sized multimedia ads? This past fall marked the introduction of the Project Devil initiative, AOL's contribution to redesigning online advertising for the 21st century with intended better results for both consumers and advertisers.
Project Devil advertising isn't just larger, it also has complete share of voice with just one ad appearing per site page. It's a content ratio much more akin to the magazine experience, which AOL argues is "more conducive to comfortable reading." Content is advertising too, AOL says, "and should be held to equally high standards."
While AOL initially launched the project for its own properties (word is that it will roll out Project Devil to all AOL properties by March of 2011), plans were announced in October to expand the initiative to non-AOL sites as well. The year to come could see the pared-down placements on sites across the Web.
November: TrueView – YouTube
In November it was announced that YouTube would be launching a new ad program that gives its users the choice of two ad formats to watch while enjoying YouTube's video content. TrueView allows consumers to select an Instream ad format for short- or long-form content, which manifests itself as a pre- or mid-roll video ad, or Inslate, which lets them choose a single ad to watch from among several options.
The ability of consumers to play an active role in how and when they view online advertising is, in all honesty, quite likely to revolutionize digital media. Already Hulu's similar Ad Selector unit has changed the face of pre-roll ads, and found success in the process. We'll be watching to see if YouTube's offering will do the same.
December: SyncAds – Akoo
Chicago-based social television network Akoo, which reaches 90 million consumers each month, launched SyncAds just in time for the holidays – if not for holiday campaign planning. The unit is a mixed bag, described as a video takeover on the Akoo site that allows brands to present TV spots alongside video ads with a mobile component to retail shoppers (what doesn't this ad do?). As an example, a retailer might supplement its online video ad, sourced from its TV spot, with a mobile coupon that can be used to make a purchase in-store.
With so many new ad units to choose from, 2011 promises to be an exciting year in online advertising. These fresh options enhance our ability to produce some truly extraordinary campaigns.
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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.