New Approaches to Ad Banners

Regular readers of this column will recall that we’ve discussed the limits of the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) banner standards and strongly advocated developing larger, more customized ad units to ensure client satisfaction. These kinds of “radical” views led to disparaging emails from various agency types, who looked down their noses at a publisher (i.e., the lowest part of the online food chain) who would propose such a ridiculous idea.

So it is with some degree of satisfaction that we are starting to see new approaches to banner shape, design, and positioning being developed and championed — not by the almighty interactive agencies or the IAB, but by the publishers themselves. Our friends at CNET developed a new 360 x 300 “Messaging Plus” ad unit, positioned prominently on a content page, which complements another type of ad unit long in use on ClickZ: the “skyscraper,” which measures 100 x 600 pixels and can’t be missed.

Folks, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that an ad that takes up only 15 percent of the available screen space might not be as effective as one that takes up two to three times that amount. It just stands to reason.

Two and a half years ago in this space, we were talking about the 468 x 60 blind spot that has developed in many of our readers’ vision as they peruse our pages. It took a major industry downturn and a recession to get industry leaders to think past the standards. But it was those of us with our butts on the line — the site publishers — to actually do something about it. Truly a beautiful thing…

So for you, our fellow site publishers who are looking to survive and thrive while your brethren are dropping like flies, it’s time to abandon the standards and do whatever you need to do to create value for your advertising clients. It might mean developing larger, more compelling ad units on your content pages. It might mean experimenting with ideas you steal from magazine and newspaper layouts. It might mean developing mini-Web sites within your site for your most valued sponsors.

Your sponsors have to make tough choices now in how they invest their limited advertising dollars. You need to do everything possible to ensure that you are delivering value in a unique and compelling way. You need to be their best friend.

Offer the standard “same ol’ same ol'” at your own risk. You will be easily forgotten and abandoned.

Offer the unique, the compelling, the customized, and see your business thrive during troubled times.

Focus on doing everything you can to deliver value. Weed out the extraneous, the nonessential. Deliver value as if your life depended on it.

The fact of the matter is that it may not be your life but your business’s survival that is on the line.

So use this “recession opportunity” to come out on the other side strong, healthy, and prosperous. Playing it safe and adhering to standards will never get you there.

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