When the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) announced its Rising Stars Ad Units in 2011, digital marketers took notice. Culled from publisher, agency, and technology company submissions, the new rich media units were intended to improve the display ad experience. Since the initiative first ran, the IAB has branched out to digital video and mobile media, and marketers now have at their disposal a host of new validated formats with which to work.
While advertiser creativity and user engagement were top of mind for those involved in developing and approving the new units, so too was prominence. Web pages had become woefully cluttered with all manner of ad placement, format, and size, and the Rising Stars units promised a solution. Bigger ads like Pushdowns, Sidekicks, and Sliders would mean fewer ads per page, and that would mean higher interaction rates. In fact, the IAB's research shows that consumers are two and a half times more likely to interact with a Rising Stars ad than a standard display ad, spend twice as much time with Rising Stars ads as standard formats, and react twice as quickly with mouse actions to the Rising Stars as to a standard banner.
So why are we still seeing so much clutter?
Visit a site at random and you're likely to find it overwhelmed by ads. Leaderboards and rectangles compete with full-page interstitials, making it nearly impossible to focus on the page content itself. In this kind of environment brands can't possibly achieve the level of prominence they desire. It's a cacophony that puts the publisher at risk of offending and upsetting its users. And yet the IAB's units still haven't managed to gain traction. Some speculate it's an issue of practicality; while many sites have already laid the groundwork for the units, new formats mean new resources, and rich media assets can be costly. Could brands just be slow to invest? Or perhaps the apparent delay comes down to campaign goals. Rich media ads aren't for everyone.
Whatever the reason, the units aren't taking off as quickly as we might have expected, and that leaves advertisers in a quandary. While we await the mass adoption of Rising Stars ads and what will surely be a marked decrease in page clutter, how can we ensure that ours stand out?
There's no telling when we'll see a significant change in the way sites lay out their ads, but if the enthusiasm with which many major publishers and brands are already embracing Rising Stars is any indication, it won't be long now. In the meantime, at least we know that there are ways to rise above the clutter on our own.
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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