Is Robert Pattinson heartbroken about his breakup with former co-star Kristen Stewart? And did he really have a "wardrobe mishap"? Readers on the Daily News site who checked out articles on the "Twilight" heartthrob last week - in New York for the premiere of his new movie "Cosmopolis" - may have gotten answers to those questions.
They also may have found themselves watching a short clip of the film, which launched in New York and Los Angeles on August 17. Shots of Pattinson on the site were embedded with a link in the lower left-hand corner that gave viewers the option of watching a 30-second short of the movie, billed as an edgy thriller in which Pattinson plays a tormented Wall Street billionaire. When played, the clip overlaid the original web page but didn't open up a new screen. Interested viewers could click on to the film's official website or Facebook page.
It was all part of a pre-launch online advertising campaign by media firm Entertainment One Group to promote its latest film. The company ran its first campaign using a relatively new technology called in-image advertising, in which photos are overlaid with text, banner, or Flash ad units related at least tangentially to the photos. Incorporating image-recognition and keyword technology developed by Santa Monica, CA-based GumGum, the ads appeared over images related to the film's cast members and director David Cronenberg, as well as in articles using the word "Cosmopolis" or even "Twilight."
They ran on selected sites in GumGum's network of entertainment publishers, which besides Daily News included Screen Rant, BuddyTV, Teen.com, TV Fanatic, Crushable, and Zap2it.com. Entertainment One was trying to raise interest in particular among males in their 30's and set aside about one-quarter of its (undisclosed) advertising budget for the in-image photo campaign, according to Melissa Davis, manager of theatrical marketing at Entertainment One in Los Angeles.
"We felt this was a good opportunity to engage audiences and it was effective to use its director and its star - who has been in the limelight recently - to raise interest in the movie," said Davis, who said she approached GumGum after being impressed by in-image ads used for Universal's "Snow White and the Huntsman" earlier this year. "We love that the ads engage users and give them the option to go to our other social sites. When people are already looking at the images, they are already looking for entertainment, so it's not a surprise then for them to click on a link like this. It comes in context."
If this sounds like a far cry from the screaming Internet banner ads of old, that is no accident. In-image ads tend to be downright discrete and tasteful in their appearance; nothing is popping out at the viewer or demanding attention. The main selling point of such ads, offered by GumGum and competitors such as Luminate and Vibrant Media, are that, instead of annoying viewers into submission, they ostensibly get more people engaging than conventional Internet ads. "We don't get any hate mail," said GumGum CEO and founder Ophir Tanz. "We believe the ad should be in line with the text and relevant to the context. It's less of a sledgehammer and more of a targeted message."
Generally, GumGum develops creative for the advertiser. The publishers don't go away empty-handed, of course. Advertisers pay GumGum on a CPM basis, and this revenue is shared with the site publishers, which besides niche Internet sites also include companies such as U.S. News and World Report. GumGum claims its ads draw 20 times the click-through rate of traditional display advertising.
Davis said the Cosmopolis campaign, which ran for one week starting August 13, drew more than 1.4 million impressions and a click-through rate of 0.43 percent, which according to GumGum is higher than the average of around 0.25 percent to 0.30 percent for this type of content. The campaign also saw a relatively high video completion rate of 49 percent, with an average viewing time of more than five minutes per user, "which I'm told is very good," said Davis. She says the company will definitely be looking at the format for other campaigns in the future.
While popular for use by entertainment companies, in-image ads are also being used by everything from automobile manufacturers to home retailers. GumGum's client roster includes automobile manufacturers - BMW, Chrysler, Toyota, and Jaguar just to name a few - as well as companies such as Toshiba, Kmart, Axe, Jack-in-the-Box, and Hyatt. The level of interactivity and the direct relation to the subject matter on a website varies with the campaign. An ad for a Chevrolet Silverado on an auto website called TopSpeed, for example, lets users who click on the ad price a pickup truck. An article on "Hollywood's Hottest Lips" on the Elle website gives viewers the chance to mix and match a new line of Clinique lipsticks. And recently, BP ran a clip on its sponsorship of Olympic athletes linked to photos of U.S. Olympic basketball players on the Daily News website.
Though GumGum was founded in 2007, Ophir said it took the company a few years to experiment with the best use for its technology. While it began thinking that it would link photos to e-commerce opportunities, the company found that didn't result in meaningful sales results. Now it has refocused on different ways to extract value from its ads, from enhancing brand recognition to generating sales leads. "We ask the user to come. This is a lot less invasive, and we can capture events in a powerful way."
UPDATE This story originally listed Walmart as a GumGum client instead of Kmart. Also, it noted that the firm was founded in 2008 rather than 2007.
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.
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