Amazing Banner Tricks

Banner ads can be animated, enabled for video, and expanded in size, but until recently they still couldn’t do it all. Missing was the ability to deliver a live message to Internet users and truly bridge the gap between off- and online media.

You may have seen this groundbreaking display last week, when rich media developer PointRoll, with content provider Akamai Technologies supported one of the first Live Flash event to take place within a banner ad. The 300 x 250 ad ran on the MSNBC home page and on interior Yahoo and AOL news pages on May 24 at 6 p.m. EDT.

It was part of General Electric’s ecomagination campaign, developed to demonstrate the company’s commitment to the environment through eco-friendly products. To mark the two-year anniversary of ecomagination, GE hosted an hour-long moderated discussion at Universal Studios in California between GE’s chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The event was made available to Internet users through the banner with just a 4-7 second delay. The banner began displaying the live feed on arrival at the site page, but accompanying audio was user-initiated so as not to intrude on visitors’ experience. The media buying strategy behind the campaign included selecting properties for their propensity to deliver pages with significant view times. Consumers typically remain on the chosen MSNBC, Yahoo, and AOL pages for well over a minute, PointRoll says.

PointRoll worked with GE and its agency Stinson Partners, who brainstormed the creative and media execution throughout the campaign. This was part of a multiweek campaign that included on-demand videos developed exclusively for the Web. Aside from a tardy Governator (Schwarzenegger arrived late to the discussion), the live banner went off without a hitch, says PointRoll product developer Christian Spinello.

“The goal was really to bring the event to the user in the ad unit, break down that barrier,” Spinello said. “The bigger initiative is to not have a disconnect between offline and online, but to connect the user with what’s going on elsewhere, right now.”

PointRoll has always been a marketer favorite for its innovative ad units, collectively referred to as “The Boys.” This new capability, which Spinello says took advantage of the ability to deliver live video in the new Flash 8 vp6 format through a partnership with Adobe and Akamai, delivers an equally exciting opportunity.

We love being able to display extensive product information within a banner using expandable units, particularly because it doesn’t require the user to leave the context of the target site. Live video provides the same benefit, along with the added anticipation of exclusive live footage of anything from a corporate shareholder meeting to a far-away concert, press conference, celebrity appearance, or book tour.

Spinello is right to suggest that with this type of online advertising, technology isn’t a barrier, but a catalyst. Marketers often struggle with how best to integrate media and ad channels. Here’s a way to maximize offline media spending on local events and product launches by delivering that content to the Web, instead of limiting it to in-person attendees.

Brands travel cross-country to deliver their product message in person; this allows them to host one live event and broadcast it through a banner for all target customers to see. Best of all, they can do it in the context of a highly relevant, content-specific site page that already receives hundreds of thousands of visitors. Try generating that level of exposure for an event delivered through a media player on your brand site.

Reducing event marketing costs is a great benefit of live banners. But let’s not forget about their potential to solidify the connection and loyalty a customer feels for a brand. By providing access to exclusive events regardless of their tangible location, marketers can indeed bridge the gap between off- and online media.

Can one banner do it all? It can come pretty darn close.

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