What Is 'Better'?

As marketers, we are continually working to position our product or service as something "better": better than it was before, better than our competitor, something that will provide a better quality of life. How each of us defines better, however, depends on the context and the audience.

If you are a part of Twitter nation, you may subscribe to the "less is more" theory. Better means 140 characters as opposed to a lengthy email. Alternately, to an email marketer, bigger might be better (at least that is what I'm led to believe if I scan the subject lines in my junk mail folder).

If you're an AIG executive, bigger bonuses are definitely better. As a taxpayer, my definition of better would involve less money out of my pocket that gets funneled to failing financial institutions.

According to Steve Austin, the cost of building a better, stronger, faster man has a six-million-dollar price tag. Alex Rodriguez tried to achieve the same results with a little cash under the table and the helpful assistance of his cousin at the other end of a needle.



Who's right? Is better defined as bigger or smaller? Larger government stimulus payouts or a smaller tax bill? It all depends on whom you ask. The same is true in online advertising. We all want it to be better, but there are apparently many different paths to Internet advertising nirvana. How do we find the greener grass in this digital pasture?  Let's look at a handful of ideas that have generated recent headlines.

Size Matters

According to the Online Publishers Association (OPA), the key is bigger ads. In a recent announcement, OPA proposed three new larger ad units. The theory is that one big ad will replace several smaller ads, increasing revenue potential through higher CPMs, and improving the user experience with a less cluttered page.

While there are valid reasons for these larger formats, we'll have to give this idea some time to see how it works in reality. However, I have a difficult time believing that publishers will not give in to the temptation to simply add the larger formats to their pages in addition to their existing ads, in an effort to generate incremental revenue. I'm also not aware of any uproar from consumers pleading with us, "Please give us bigger ads!"

Create Better Creative

Randall Rothenberg, President & CEO of the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), is on a crusade to improve the creative element in our industry. Rothenberg blogged his "Manifesto on Interactive Advertising Creativity" prior to the 2009 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, trying to ignite a conversation about the need for agencies, advertisers and publishers to increase their focus on creativity in the online advertising space.

This culture of creativity seems to have been lost in translation, somewhere between the teams of creative geniuses who collaborate on a 30-second TV spot and the single graphic designer churning out a 768x90 banner ad. Rothenberg's closing statement from his manifesto challenges our industry to get back to its roots: "Let's return to a time when advertising and media conversation was owned by the creatives, the editors, and the impresarios -- when it was dominated by debates about the craft of persuasion, about what moves people. After all, isn't that the reason we're in this business?"

Premium Pricing

Much has been written and discussed about the falling value of display ad pricing and how to build a foundation for premium pricing models. From the commoditization of ad inventory to the failing economy, there is no shortage of theories for the decline. Some would say that online publishers need to regain control of their ad inventory so they have more control over pricing. Others would point to the overemphasis on direct-response metrics that devalues the significance of brand advertising. There is also the simple law of supply and demand coming into play. The overabundance of inventory, combined with shrinking advertising budgets, are major factors in this conversation.

User Experience

Let's not forget about the other side of this equation: the consumer. We all have our opinions and theories on how to improve online advertising to increase revenues for our industry, but who is speaking up for the consumer? As we look for new ways to monetize digital real estate, is there sufficient focus on the user experience?

So, how do we make Internet advertising better? Do we need bigger ads? Better creative? Different pricing models? What is your definition of better -- and how do we get there?




We'd like to add more regular contributors to Online Publishing Insider. If you think you can write insightful commentary and analysis on the state of the industry, please send a sample idea and your credentials to Phyllis Fine, Columns Editor, at (Please note: We ask columnists to avoid self-promotion.)

5 comments about "What Is 'Better'?".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, March 19, 2009 at 12:22 p.m.

    If you're a Fannie Mae executive, the bonuses are even bigger, but you won't read about it in the NYT. Fannie Mae is our government at work. Both Fannie Mae and AIG were big donors to the Obama campaign.

  2. Lynne Tierney from Nightly Business Report, March 19, 2009 at 1:59 p.m.

    Actually I do like the bigger ads when I read an article on my iPhone....that way the text wraps into a narrower column and I don't have to scroll horizontallly!

  3. Warren Lee from WHL Consulting, March 19, 2009 at 6:17 p.m.

    Engaging article as usual. My comment is that even with these larger sized ads, agencies seem to still be focused on the "spray and prey" strategies of old. It seems that advertisers would rather shoot a huge number of unguided arrows in the hopes of hitting someone who is interested rather then using some of the advanced (read that BT) methods that are available. I've said it once and I'll say it until I'm blue in the face: I do not care how big an advertising unit is. If the product holds no interest for me then the agencies clients are just wasting their money on larger and more complex creative units. Us BT and track my clicks or spending patterns and bring me advertising that is geared to my interests, then I'll gladly pay attention to the ads because, after all, if the AEs have done their job, they will have turned advertising into personalized content for me. Oh, if they can do it and preserve my privacy, that would be just fine.

  4. Kory Kredit from Connection Point Interactive, March 19, 2009 at 6:47 p.m.

    @Warren Lee - Love your "spray and pray" reference. I tend to agree with you on the targeting. I don't think that the size of the ad is the real issue. I believe that better targeting and better creative are two areas we should be focusing on.

  5. Paul Knegten from Dapper, Inc., March 20, 2009 at 1:03 p.m.

    I totally agree with creating better creatives -- and I think a Publisher can have a lot to do with this. They have the content: the user's implicit intent. Make a dynamic creative that can ride off of this intent that's based on YOUR content, and you'll see performance go through the roof.

Next story loading loading..