Publishers and social sites in 2013 delivered integrated formats, sponsorships, mobile units, and native ads enough to see us well into the New Year.
Every year, digital media is bestowed with enough new ad formats to fill our stockings to the brim. Site redesigns, new technologies, and shifts in user behavior create the need for updated ad product strategies and better marketing options for brands.
Not to be outdone, publishers and social sites in 2013 delivered integrated formats, sponsorships, mobile units, and native ads enough to see us well into the New Year. What follows are some of the year's ad product highlights, along with a peek at what they have to offer media buyers and their clients.
Tumblr In-Stream Sponsored Posts
Of all the ad units that piqued our interest this year, Tumblr's in-stream ads may have received the most buzz. Shortly after it was acquired by Yahoo, the site started selling sponsored posts that appear on users' Web and mobile Dashboards. The ads look much like traditional Tumblr posts, but bear a dollar sign icon to indicate that the content is paid.
So far, they've been purchased by such brands as Converse, Denny's, and Gap, which ran a mobile ad Tumblr takeover in August. By inviting Tumblr users to share their original content and promoting the best submissions through Tumblr Sponsored posts, Gap was able to combine content marketing with quantifiable ads.
Yahoo! Stream and Billboard Ads
In February, Yahoo launched its news stream. In April, it introduced ads to go along with it. The first of these "new, more engaging advertising formats" appears within the stream itself as a highlighted block of text.
The second, called Billboard, focuses on content: a banner for an upcoming film might feature videos, a photo gallery, and a list of characters.
Yahoo's new units are very much in line with the trend toward delivering more integrated and immersive ad content. The units are prominent without being intrusive - the holy grail of banner-style ads.
Facebook's Ad Format Updates
Earlier this year, Facebook made a number of changes to its ad formats. In addition to increasing the size of the images featured in its ads, the social network made it possible for advertisers to use the same creative for desktop and mobile platforms. Recently, ClickZ ran a great post on how to make the most of the revisions and updated features like an increased character allowance. You can find all of the "essential tips."
NPR's Center Stage
When NPR.org launched its new home page, it included a new ad unit - one that blends a sponsorship with video without completely eschewing the traditional banner ad.
Called Center Stage, the unit is integrated into NPR's home page news feed. According to the company, "the right mix of engaging content, technology and transparency allows our journalists, our sponsors and our users to move forward together." Indeed, the unit provides brands with ample high-impact space for content, along with a sponsorship credit that goes a long way toward engendering gratitude and trust among consumers.
New York Post New Ad Suite
In September, the New York Post followed in NPR's footsteps by launching a redesigned Web site of its own. Naturally, that produced the need for an enhanced suite of ad units. The new formats include large display ads to accompany standard banners, as well as a content studio to help brands build native ads, which the publisher is calling "dispatches."
On the whole, the site can now provide exclusive sponsorships, roadblocks, takeovers, and custom galleries, along with mobile options. Because the new design includes blocks of content, many banners appear less disruptive, while larger ads (one of which temporarily replaces the top story on the page) are intended to combat banner blindness.
Facebook Mobile App Ads
In October, Facebook made a change to its mobile ad offerings, as well. To engage those who have already downloaded apps - and keep them coming back for more - Facebook added seven new calls to action. Within their mobile ads, social media marketers can now ask users to "Use App," "Shop Now," "Play Game," and so on.
It's a welcome update for brands that have invested in apps and are eager to build a loyal user base. One brand used the feature to encourage its customers to book a spontaneous getaway. With one click on "Book Now," Facebook users were able to open the app and start viewing travel deals.
Twitter's Promoted Accounts for Mobile
Until this week, Twitter's Promoted Accounts (a Twitter marketing strategy designed to attract new followers) weren't particularly noticeable on mobile devices. Twitter has augmented the format, however, by bringing it to the mobile timeline. Now, users can see Promoted Accounts even if they aren't utilizing the Discover feature in Twitter's mobile app. This added visibility stands to up engagement rates, and "make it easier for businesses to connect" with consumers.
As we roll into 2014, consider incorporating some of these fresh placements into your campaigns for a truly New Year.
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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