Add Some Life to Your Ads

A good brand surprises and delights. It offers something unexpected, but not completely incongruent. Like the label on my son’s crib sheet from The Land of Nod, which reads, “Do not dry clean, do not bleach, do not pass go.” Or the directions on a bottle of Sharps Barber & Shop “Kid Glove Shave Gel” emblazoned with the image of a certain barnyard creature associated with the brand: “Massage a thin layer onto damp skin. Wait 30 seconds. Contemplate the goat.”

Online, the element of surprise is equally endearing, particularly when applied to advertising. The most memorable rich media ads are often those that unfold in a way that you didn’t anticipate or even know was possible.

Increasingly, though, consumers are growing accustomed to being sideswiped. The more time they spend online and the more ads they’re exposed to, the more jaded they become about online media and its ability to astonish them.

Consumers who come across an ad for the upcoming Hallmark Channel original movie “Mrs. Washington Goes to Smith,” starring Cybill Shepherd, might find they’re still capable of being beguiled by a rich media banner ad. The ad, which isn’t yet in circulation but is visible on Hallmark Channel’s site, acts as a living movie poster that seems to be an ordinary photograph until it suddenly comes to life before the user’s eyes.

The ad was conceptualized and created by photographer Alexx Henry to help Hallmark Channel promote the movie. Henry used the same digital cinema camera employed to shoot such films as “Angels & Demons” to make the one-sheet (or movie poster), which was designed to work across multiple platforms, including digital mall kiosks and the Web. It blurs the line between offline and online promotion, and as it’s in digital form it’s ideally suited for both — something marketers eager to repurpose their creative during tough economic times are sure to appreciate.

“We’re so used to being marketed to a certain type of way that when we’re caught off guard it can be a pleasant surprise and have a big impact,” Henry said. “In this case, we intentionally set up boundaries — the still-frame poster — and broke them down to achieve the maximum effect — the characters [coming] to life.”

The notion of taking an ad outside the boundaries of an ad unit or even the page isn’t new, but we’re used to seeing the action happen instantaneously and on a grand scale.

The approach taken by the living movie poster is more reserved. Its impact lies in its ability to mimic a static banner before exploding into a full-fledged movie scene on the screen. It’s a bit unnerving, really, how suddenly it springs to life, which of course is where its value lies. It’s an entertainment advertiser’s dream concept: a preview of the film presented in a compelling and unexpected fashion that’s impossible to ignore.

The timing of this concept is pretty perfect as far as the online marketing landscape is concerned. Advertisers are searching for more prominence on sites, and publishers are eager to help them up the effectiveness of their campaigns. The Online Publishers Association’s recent introduction of new, larger ad units is proof that our industry continues pushing the boundaries of rich media creativity.

We haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible with online media, and ironically one of the trends we’re seeing is merging tried-and-true offline advertising methods with digital technology. We saw it happen with video as advertisers put their TV content on the Web. Why shouldn’t a movie poster be next?

Join us for a one-day Online Marketing Summit in a city near you through July 1, 2009. Choose from one of 16 events designed to help interactive marketers do their jobs more effectively. All sessions are new this year and cover such topics as social media, e-mail marketing, search, and integrated marketing.

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