Unicast Debuts Full-Screen Superstitial

Rich media company Unicast on Monday unveiled the full-screen, 15-second Superstitial, a unit the company believes can draw traditional advertisers to the Web by giving them the chance to mimic their TV ads.

The full-screen Superstitial unit is a standard unit: 900 x 680 pixels and 300k. It plays, with video and sound, as users navigate between pages on a Web site. Although the new version is 63 percent longer and 42 percent wider than its regular Superstitial, it retains the same maximum file size.

A variety of sites, including CBS Marketwatch, ESPN.com and Forbes.com have signed on to run the ads. Unilever tested a Superstitial ad for its Snuggle brand on MSN, with Dynamic Logic finding the unit resulted in a 32 percent lift in purchase intent.

Traditional advertisers appreciate such positive brand metrics, Unicast CEO Richard Hopple said, and can understand the unit because it has the look and feel of a TV commercial. The unit also allows them a big creative palette to craft a message that is emotive and interruptive but not off-putting to consumers, he added.

“If you’re going to show them advertising, you’re going to need to respect them,” Hopple said. “You need to play in the transitional space.”

Hopple believes consumers will accept Superstitials as a fair bargain for getting content for free. According to Dynamic Logic’s study of the Unilever ad, 30 percent of respondents found the ad annoying. This compares to separate research that has found 38 percent dubbing TV commercials annoying.

Hopple said it was up to publishers to toe the line against abusing such rich media units and souring consumers on them in the same way as pop-ups, which are universally tagged as the most vexing Internet ad unit with poor frequency controls.

Unicast has built in frequency caps for its Superstitials, with publishers having the option of setting them at various intervals.

Mike Stoeckel, a vice president of partner integration at CNN Interactive, said frequency caps are an inexact science. CNN’s sites have long run Superstitials and other rich media, and have tried different levels, before settling on two per day.

“Over time, when people understand this format more, the annoyance might go down,” he said.

For rich media companies and publishers, grabbing users’ attention without alienating them is key to continuing the impressive growth of rich media advertisements. According to DoubleClick’s ad serving trends report, rich media was used in 28 percent the 136 billion ads it served in the first quarter. Based on its 10 percent quarterly growth rate, the company thinks rich media could be in 40 percent of all ads by the end of the year.

(DoubleClick has an expansive definition of rich media, including Eyeblaster-type ads and pop-ups.)

One of the reason traditional companies dominate the top rich media advertisers is its measured effectiveness: rich media for automotive and consumer package goods advertisers yielded a 92 percent higher post-impression activity rate than static ads, according to DoubleClick.

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