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Back From the Dead - 3 Units You Thought Were Goners

  |  October 27, 2011   |  Comments

As media buyers, we must watch our backs and look out for those things lurking that could negatively impact our campaigns.

The thing about horror movies is that just when you think the villain is gone, he comes back stronger than ever.

Digital ad units aren't so different. If you think back to the formats that were hot five years ago, you'll likely find many of them are either still in rotation or back in an updated form. Not unlike the zombies of the season, they may not look exactly like what you remember, but their purpose is clear: to facilitate a killer campaign.

Static Banners

Utter the words "static banner" around your production team and they'll probably look at you like they've seen a ghost. These ads were once in fashion not because they were a best practice, but because few other options existed. Flash and multimedia web design changed all of that, leading marketers to produce more sophisticated and elaborate banner ads, but static banners are back. These old rogues have found a new home in mobile media.

No doubt you've heard that static banners are about to meet their demise in this medium as well. I say don't hold your breath. There's no question that mobile media has much more to offer than the static banner alone, whether it's video or something even more extravagant (Ralph Lauren's shoppable storybook app comes to mind), but static banners remain a popular option, and will for years to come. Part of the attraction is their accessibility; mobile ad networks run them en masse, and they're cost-effective to boot. Without the clutter of the web, the lowly static banner can even deliver complete share of voice, and that isn't something marketers would be wise to overlook.

Text Links

For most digital marketers, text links have a very specific connotation. They're viewed as outdated, outmoded, and just plain useless. These limited messages couldn't compete with the clutter and were washed away by the bigger, bolder units that now occupy the typical web page. So, they shrewdly faked their death and went somewhere else.

Over the years, text links have reinvented themselves as everything from blog ads to mobile messages and most recently, Facebook ads. An accompanying image and the ability to target by location, age, interest, or education may offer some disguise, but the unit is the same at heart. This is a format that delivers a no-frills message made to stick, and stick it will with a little clever copywriting (which we can easily handle, thanks to all of those hours spent penning search ads). Best of all, in its new body the text link no longer has to worry about clutter, quickly capturing the user's attention on a mobile phone or Facebook News Feed page. This is certainly a case where a unit left for dead has come back with a vengeance.


Microsites enjoyed a position of power for many years. Every marketer had to have one, whether for their search initiative or their display ad campaign. With an eye toward improving campaign performance, microsites were redesigned and optimized in the style of Frankenstein's Monster. Unfortunately, the outcome wasn't always pretty.

The microsite may not have croaked just yet, but thanks to Facebook it's certainly on its deathbed. Click around the web and you'll find all the latest big brand campaigns skip the microsite completely and deliver users instead to a branded Facebook page. Here consumers can learn more about the product, just as they would at a product minisite, but they can also enter into an active conversation with the brand and see what their peers have to say about it. That holds far more value for advertisers than redirecting these potential customers to a primarily stagnant page.

As media buyers, we must watch our backs and look out for those things lurking that could negatively impact our campaigns. In their new forms, these units aren't among them. Embrace their afterlife.

Just don't do it after dark.


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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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