Monolithic new ad units conceived by Online Publishers Association (OPA) members earlier this year have started to show up on several sites, including Discovery.com's Planet Green and BizJournals.com.
Hearst-owned Cosmopolitan.com last week became the latest major property to carry the formats, which are designed to provide greater branding impact than industry standard banners. Commanding advertisements for Garnier appeared on the site's homepage Friday (pictured below) using an ad type the OPA is calling a "pushdown." When a page loads, the unit expands to display a nearly full-screen ad.
Other advertisers that have tested pushdown units include Frito-Lay, which used on them with Discovery.com about a month ago, and CNA Insurance Services as part of an ad buy on Bizjournals.com.
For Cosmopolitan.com, the new format is part of a larger redesign that also includes the introduction of new metrics, said Christopher Johnson, VP, content and business development, in the digital media unit at Hearst magazines. In addition to time spent on site, he said the publisher is starting to track other metrics for engagement, such as "content velocity," which identifies content that's driving a significant amount of page views. Johnson made his comments while speaking at the Internet Strategy Forum in New York Friday.
Pushdown Ad, Closed:
Pushdown Ad, Expanded:Oddly, Hearst is not an OPA member. OPA President Pam Horan declined to speculate why it is using the new formats, and Hearst was not immediately available for comment after Johnson made his remarks.
Hearst's execution also does not appear to conform to the OPA unit's specs, which cap the ad at a frequency of one and ordain that it collapse after seven seconds. An "expand" button gives users the option to reengage with the ad. While the Garnier ads on Cosmopolitan.com were capped at a single user impression per day, they did not close by themselves after seven seconds. Instead the user was required to close them.
"It may be because they don't have that part of the spec," Horan speculated.
In addition to the pushdown format, OPA members will also test a "fixed panel," a 336 x 860 panel that appears embedded in the browser and scrolls to the top and bottom of the page as the user scrolls, and an "XXL Box," a 468 x 648 monolith that can accommodate multiple pages and video.
More than two-dozen OPA members have agreed to debut at least one of the new ads by the beginning of July. They include ESPN, The New York Times, MTV Universal, and Condé Nast Digital. Horan said many members have undertaken Web site redesigns to accommodate the new units.
Hearst's experiment with the new OPA ad units begins as the trade association trumpets new research meant to prove the branding building power of online display ads. According to comScore-conducted analysis, one in five individuals exposed to an advertiser's display ad conducted related searches, and one in three visited the sites operated by the brand. Additionally, those exposed to the ads spent more time on site than the average visitor, and 10 percent spent more money.
Anna Maria Virzi and Doug Quenqua contributed reporting.
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