Online Advertising Glossary: Superstitials

We wrote last week about Interstitials, a form of Internet advertising that runs “between” the pages a web visitor is viewing. And as usual, just when we think we’ve added clarity, more confusion surfaces. “What is the difference between an interstitial and a superstitial?” we were asked.

Well, it’s simple. “Interstitial” is a general term for any ad that runs in the dead time while pages are loading. A “SUPERSTITIAL” is a trademarked name of an ad technology product provided by Unicast, the New York-based, rich media company.

According to Unicast’s site, “The distinguishing feature of SUPERSTITIALs is that they load ‘behind’ a web site, which means a user doesn’t see the ads until they’re totally downloaded and ready to run.”

Unicast points out that its technology is different from that of the interstitial (same sort of video experience as SUPERSTITIALs but load up “in front” of the web site), leaving users waiting in front of a blank screen until the ad is ready to roll.

Now, we don’t have a preference about which technology advertisers and sites choose to use. And, we know lots of smart people have good things to say about the many different technologies available for ads that run in the spaces in between. We do want to caution our readers (and especially those salespeople trying to differentiate your site’s ad offerings from other options available) against tying your sales pitch to a particular advertising technology, rather than selling the value of your site’s audience, reach, interest, involvement, qualifications and responsiveness to ads.

Whether you use a branded delivery or a homegrown solution, we can guarantee that new and different ways of delivering ads online will continue to evolve. The smart salesperson sells the lasting value of the site, not the technology du jour for getting the ad message to the viewer.

This is not intended as a slight to Unicast or any other supplier of cool, rich media capabilities. We are big fans of all the technologies that help advertisers achieve better awareness and recall for their marketing efforts. But don’t let the particular technology distract you from the real issue of who an advertiser can reach by running ads on your site. Any sort of ad…

We read recently that RealMedia, a leading ad sales network of over 1,000 sites has formed a partnership with Unicast, allowing all the RealMedia handled sites to run SUPERSTITIALs. That’s great! Strong ad networks must enable their member sites with leading-edge technology and their advertisers with the means to run more effective ads. But the news (as we see it) is RealMedia’s commitment to the highest level of advertiser effectiveness, not the particular technology chosen. Because tomorrow or next month, Unicast or a competitor might announce the next new, great ad-delivery vehicle, and ad salespeople will need to shift to selling that.

The technology, though essential, is not the focus of the sale. To paraphrase Clinton’s mantra from the 1992 campaign: In the advertising business, it’s the audience, stupid.

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