Ford “Takes Over” Yahoo! Home Page

As part of a major buy across Yahoo Inc., Ford Motor Co. is promoting its new Ford Explorer with exclusive front-page placement on the portal for the duration of Friday.

It’s more than a simple inventory buy, however. Yahoo’s front page sports a rich media “takeover” ad for the 2002 Explorer. In so-called “takeover” deals, dynamic HTML and Flash advertising content move around the full page, briefly covering content in an effort to capture users’ attention.

While Web purists might balk, “takeover” ads are becoming increasingly common as advertisers push for more space in which to create bigger ads, which many believe have more branding power than banners. Eager to attract brand-focused traditional advertisers, Web publishers have for months been offering larger and larger portions of online real estate to clients.

That effort has reached a new level in recent weeks, with portals like Terra Lycos and iWon.com striking deals to use ad units that briefly obscure their content with ads.

Now, Yahoo has joined the pack. The company’s in-house team handled the technology, while the design was executed in conjunction with Ford’s agency J. Walter Thompson, a WPP ad group firm.

The creative features several crows in a small Ford Outfitters banner underneath the main Yahoo logo. After a few seconds, the crows fly out of the banner to a pile of seed on the right of the page. As the crows eat away the seeds, a small banner for the Ford Explorer “02” is revealed.

That’s only half the story. Clicking on the Explorer banner makes the screen shake, while playing a sound clip of an engine ignition. Simultaneously, Yahoo content on the page — its directories — are replaced by a 425×260 animated Flash ad for the truck. (Users can click “Close Ad” to re-display the Yahoo content.)

Friday’s effort marks the second time Yahoo has sold an advertiser exclusive billing on its front page. In March, Pepsi received full-page signage on the www.yahoo.com site during the weekend of the Oscars. The effort aimed to support Pepsi’s new TV commercial, starring Britney Spears, which debuted during the Academy Award broadcast that Sunday.

Like Pepsi, Ford has been a sizable Yahoo advertiser for some time. In January 2000, Yahoo rolled out a co-branded microsite for Ford owners, and contributed media to the launch of the Ford Focus that spring.

Unlike the work for Pepsi, however, Friday marks the first time that the site’s used “takeover” ads and sound on the front page for an exclusive advertiser.

“This is the kind of program we thought meet Ford’s basic needs, which in this case was the biggest value for their dollars,” said Yahoo corporate communications director Nicky Dugan. “We offer one of the largest audiences on the Web, and [the creative] certainly catches your attention in that it’s interactive … [consumers] are not used to seeing birds flying across the page.”

Friday’s Ford buy — of which terms were not dislosed — also includes more traditional banner, “skyscraper” and button ads on the portal’s sports, autos and personalized content page, myYahoo. Those buys will continue for several weeks.

Spokespeople for Yahoo declined to discuss whether the company has similar plans in the works for other advertisers. However, Dugan did say that following “very positive” feedback from consumers, Yahoo is “committed to coming up with comprehensive programs for clients.”

“We’re doing a lot of … working with agencies to figure out best ways to integrate their clients campaigns into our network,” Dugan said. “We’ll continue to offer programs that offer a large value for advertisers … and the home page is perfect opportunity to do that. We’re really pleased with the results.”

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