Online Now Sets Media Trends

When online advertising began to take shape a decade ago, we took many cues from traditional media. This was a natural; we were constructing an entirely new marketing model and needed both to work out the logistics and to put offerings into terms advertisers accustomed to offline would understand.

Those with traditional advertising experience were no doubt surprised to find familiarity in the new medium and to see us follow their lead. Even today, online sponsored content opportunities are broadly known as advertorials, as they are in print. Buying advertising across all major portals on the same day is called a roadblock, just as in TV when ads are run simultaneously on all the major networks.

Podcasts offer format “spots” not unlike radio advertising. Online directories and classified ads closely resemble their Yellow Pages and newspaper counterparts. And what are banners if not billboards placed on the Internet rather than the interstate?

As this industry matured and evolved, so did advertising opportunities. Though we still retain some characteristics inspired by traditional media, we’ve also branched out to invent our own. It’s interesting, then, that after all these years and a history of drawing from offline advertising, we now see offline media taking cues from us.

Pervasive Banners

For some time now, banner ads have been appearing in some far more traditional venues than Web sites. Advertising on kiosks — from the job search variety stationed in libraries and nonprofit centers to the virtual concierges found in hotel lobbies — comes in banner form, complete with a pricing model that mirrors online. TV networks such as MTV and VH1 have also introduced banners as a way of promoting upcoming programming without the need to cut to a commercial break.

In Canada, satellite channels such as Bite TV post online content — including banner ads — that is sourced from and references its Web site, bitetv.ca. The network touts its ability to “seamlessly integrate television, the Internet, and mobile technology.” Viewers can even “chat to screen” and have their online comments appear during Bite TV programming.

As eye-catching and dynamic as it is, offline media implementing this online advertising staple isn’t completely unexpected. But it’s certainly bizarre to see a decidedly online ad format when we’re away from the Web.

Spam Blocking

Spam is an online advertising product that certainly isn’t revered offline, but I’d argue the concept of removing unwanted advertising is. Before online media, consumers were essentially required to take what they were given in terms of ad content.

Now, satellite radio and digital video recorders allow users to filter and control the advertising they receive. This combined spam-blocking and opt-in model has greatly improved mass media in the minds of countless consumers.

Interactivity

Interactivity is perhaps online media’s most coveted characteristic and something virtually all offline media have attempted to replicate. I recently heard about a new automotive classified advertising service on digital television. Touting such benefits as the ability to include dynamic color photographs and extensive vehicle information, accurate measurability, and “quick and easy” publishing, the ads closely resemble online classified placements. Viewers can navigate the content as they see fit, using a TV remote instead of a mouse.

Presumably, the expanded offerings are intended to compete with online classifieds, which compose 70 percent of the $5.3 billion in local advertising spending expected by 2010, according to JupiterResearch. Given the medium that actually spawned classified advertising is on the decline (newspaper classified spending shrank 8.5 percent in 2005, says the Newspaper Association of America), why wouldn’t digital television strive to incorporate the interactivity that makes the Web so alluring to media buyers?

It took traditional media centuries to hone their channels. It’s taken us just over a decade to develop an industry they’re eager to emulate. And though we certainly had a leg up thanks to a foundation laid by offline marketers, I think we deserve a pat on the back.

After years of following, it’s nice to be the leader for a change.

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