Signs Of Recovery
You know the types of ads I'm referring to. They impact the entire home page of a website, usually employing disruptive, layer-based technologies like Eyeblaster, United Virtualities' Shoshkeles or a home-grown DHTML solution to place a high-profile animated ad across the home page of a popular website for a specific length of time. Lately, we've seen several iterations of such ads from Pepsi, Microsoft, Ford, Jaguar and many other high-profile advertisers.
Why does this give me hope that we might be seeing a turnaround toward better fortune in the industry? For one, it shows that high profile advertisers are now open to the idea of placing value on the audiences of specific websites. Typically, home page takeovers are given a frequency cap, not only to avoid annoying the site's audience with repetition, but also to maximize reach to the site's audience. When Microsoft takes over the home page of InformIT for a couple of days, it says to me that Microsoft sees value in the audience of that website, and that's a step in the right direction.
For a while, we've been heading in the direction of commoditizing online advertising, with the standard unit of measurement being the ad impression. Home page takeovers are antithetical to that commoditization. Rather than placing value on the ad impression, home page takeovers place value on the audience of a site. From my perspective, this is a step in the right direction. Not only is it a vote of confidence in the web as a medium for mainstream advertising, but also it is a step away from commoditization and thus proof that it's not all about getting the lowest price possible to scatter a bunch of banners all over the web.
Now that we're seeing widespread experimentation with this type of advertising, let's make sure it's not just a flash in the pan. We need to prove that home page takeovers aren't just buzz-generating gimmicks. The first thing we need to do is measure the impact of these types of ads. We have to measure interaction, as well as what that interaction means for the brand. It's not just measuring how many people downloaded the Britney Spears MP3 from the Yahoo/Pepsi promotion, but what that MP3 download did to switch competitive soft drink consumers to Pepsi, how it solidified the loyalty of brand loyalists and how it may have increased consumption. Brand advertisers need to understand, through sound research, how home page takeovers can contribute to the lifetime value model for their consumers.
The one mistake we need to avoid making all over again is accepting the notion that clicks and click-to-buy metrics are the only ways to measure the success of these new ads. We need to concentrate on what the ads did for the brand.
I think we're on the edge of a breakthrough here. As brand advertisers begin to see that the audiences they desire is reachable on the web with this type of advertising, it could lead to an increase in online ad spending.