Avenue A | Razorfish and Pluck plan to combine their experience in technology, and digital and social media to develop what they hope are more engaging banner ads. Code-named AdLife, the social ad unit is expected to become available later this year.
"Within the social realm, banners don't always work as effectively as we want them to," said Shiv Singh, VP and global media lead at Avenue A | Razorfish. "What if we have consumers influencing each other... reaching in an ad unit, participating in the conversation? Because customers and consumers are more influenced by eachother, it makes it intuitive, insight-driven."
AdLife units will be standard IAB banner units with areas where Web users can input their own comments and media. The ad unit may call for text, such as a product recommendation or mini-review. Depending on the execution the ad could allow users to upload photos, video, provide opinions, or rate other content.
"Some applications will be more suitable than others, and that's going to be the learning process we go through with Razorfish," said Adam Weinroth, director of products at Pluck.
Demand for a social ad unit, according to Weinroth, was called for by clients of both Avenue A | Razorfish and Pluck. "This is a joint initiative that we're doing because we've heard a very strong need for it from our respective customers. This is a matter of the market pulling us into this. How do you make advertising more engaging?"
Advertisers are currently in beta, though Singh wasn't able to name any specific clients.
This isn't the first ad unit to employ social networking features. Chitika created a tabbed ad unit that let users comment, review, and rate products. The ad primarily runs on blogs and Facebook. Newsgator also developed a discussion-based ad format in conjunction with Edelman, while Technorati has plans to unveil one later this year.
"Our focus is the mainstream sites, and that's what differentiates this," said Singh. "There's some great tools in the social networks. But imagine if you go to Yahoo.com, and you have an interactive ad unit and have interactive elements, or you go to the New York Times.com, or CNN. We see potential with mainstream publishers, not just in the social space."
Avenue A | Razorfish brings to the deal the digital marketing, advertising, social media, and media buying elements. Pluck is the developer of the technology that powers the ads. The firm enables social media technology on media and brand sites including USA Today, The Washington Post, Discovery, Circuit City, The Dallas Cowboys, and Scotts. Some of those sites themselves may carry the AdLife unit once it's on the Web later this year.
While aQuantive's Avenue A | Razorfish remains somewhat separate from its parent company, Microsoft, it does plan to work with aQuantive-owned Atlas for ad serving and dashboard management. Measurement will also be made available to clients, either through Atlas, or the agency's Rich Internet Applications tool known as RIAx, developed last year.
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