Evolutionary Or Revolutionary?

Technically speaking, the difference between evolutionary and revolutionary is just one single letter. When speaking of technology, however, the implications of each word are worlds apart. While an evolutionary product is a step forward from where you currently stand, a revolutionary product forges an entirely new path. It is different, bold, and risky -- and also has the potential to be highly rewarding.

There are, of course, inherent risks involved in taking the evolutionary approach as well. An evolutionary product can often be duplicated by a competitor or even surpassed by the next step in the evolutionary time line. When you produce the 7-minute abs workout, for example, the 6-minute abs workout is just around the corner, as Ben Stiller pointed out in "There's Something About Mary."

When Microsoft recently launched Bing, its new search -- I mean, decision -- engine, it was a step forward, but far from revolutionary. In a recent MediaPost Search Insider article, Gord Hotchkiss took a deeper look into Bing's evolutionary advances, but also lamented that there was nothing truly revolutionary about it. Alternatively, Google took a revolutionary leap with the announcement of its new Wave technology. While Microsoft was hard at work plotting the next step in the evolution of search, Google chose to throw away the drawing board instead of simply going back to it. Rather than reinvent search, the company took a bold new path to revolutionizing the way we communicate online.

As I pondered these product launches from Google and Microsoft and their respective approaches, I applied the same filter to the online advertising arena. While the evolution in online advertising continues, we seem to be falling short when it comes to revolutionary ideas.

The display ad unit has evolved in size options, creative content and targeting capabilities. We've continued to see the emergence of unique variations on the display ad unit, like the advertising embedded photos from Pixazza, the social media ad unit that Digg recently announced, and a new entry from Premium Access Media (full disclsoure: this is a PV Media Group company) called the Anchor Ad, among others. While the evolution of online advertising is significant, has there been anything truly revolutionary in our industry over the past year? Two years? Three years? Looking back, the last really revolutionary advertising vehicle online was the launch of paid search, and that hasn't changed dramatically since its inception.

For online advertising to continue to grow and potentially overtake traditional media as the medium of choice for both brand and direct response advertisers, do we need another revolutionary idea -- or can we continue to move forward along the evolutionary time line? Is there a new social media advertising model out there just waiting to burst on the scene? Will video sites like Hulu and YouTube be able to create a new standard to successfully monetize both professional and user-generated video content? Is there another team of geniuses like Google's Lars and Jens Rasmussen hidden away in a back office somewhere, developing the next "wave" of online advertising solutions that will lead our industry into the Web 3.0 world?

If I had the answers to these questions I most likely wouldn't be spending my time writing a column that referenced the cinematic genius of Ben Stiller in "There's Something About Mary," which is why I prefer to turn the tables and solicit your expert opinions. Where do you think we are headed? What's the next big idea that is waiting to be discovered online advertising?



5 comments about "Evolutionary Or Revolutionary? ".
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  1. Kamran Razavi from RGM, June 11, 2009 at 11:50 a.m.


    The true revolution in advertising will come from the media firms who focus less on an advertising approach and more on an integration of the brand within the publication. Of course this only works when there is a synergistic fit between the brand and site.

    The example of the Anchor Ad you mentioned is nothing new. This for example is an ad unit we began building and using for clients such as Range Rover and Jaguar in 2006. We call it the Floating Page Overlay.

    From the following link you'll be able to see a number of campaigns we've built and ran for clients, taking this more integrated approach. Which as stated is what I believe the future of our industry will look like.

  2. Jim Dugan from PipPops LLC, June 11, 2009 at 12:34 p.m.

    Seems to me that it's really about time to merge the online term to include mobile since that's really where we're all headed.

    We have other writers for MediaPost - Steve Smith, for example - who state that they do most of their searching on mobile, so he might miss alot of the display ads on the computer.

    So, online, whether on your computer or laptop, will include mobile and when you're a company looking to advertise online and mobile is the revolution and once you start to understand mobile sites such as ours at that offer a place for all advertisers to create their own ads with special barcoded discount offers or links to other sites or videos, edit the ads in real-time, and see real-time analytics, they will start creating their own footprints and instantly see the amazing results of allowing all of us to choose to go to the site where everybody is for instant point of purchase savings.

    GripOffs is the next revolution. It's advertising to the fullest. It's the ultimate mobile monetized site because it's advertiser supported and all of us can go to one site to see all of the ads with deals for free and not irritating us like a constant fundraiser. Much more effective use of online advertising.

    Time for lunch - - click - 2 for 1 at one of the best restaurants in town. Let's go there for lunch!

  3. Kory Kredit from Connection Point Interactive, June 11, 2009 at 12:35 p.m.

    @ kamran - An integrated approach between advertisers and publishers is a much more elegant solution, but I question its scalability. This would work for a small subset of premium brand name advertisers and publishers, but would be difficult to expand to the rest of the long tail in this industry. With regards to the ad units I listed, I was really trying to highlight ads that were a variation from the standard IAB units. With the exception of the ad from Pixazza, I acknowledge that the others have been done in some form already.

  4. Ruben Sun, June 11, 2009 at 2:47 p.m.

    Kory, on the point of MSoft and Google, both are taking preexisting technologies and merging them into new products. Evolutionary vs. Revolutionary in my opinion depends on how capable the products are in changing behavior.

    Paid search is a revolution in the sense that it offered display ads as a service (bringing increased relevance depending on your search terms).

    Our audiences are sick of disruption. This is why that increased relevance of paid search is revolutionary. Build something useful and effective. That's where your revolution can be found.

  5. Dave Thomas, June 11, 2009 at 5:39 p.m.

    I think the next revolution in advertising will be a resulting spin-off of Google Wave. The team mentioned a few times in their video, how they were discovering ways of using Wave that they hadn't dreamed of while developing it. Only once they had chance to experiment with the finished article did they begin discovering more of it's potential. Once the general public gets it's hands on Wave, I think we'll see a new form of advertising emerge.

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