Publishers and advertisers alike are looking for ways to offer readers engaging and less interruptive experiences with native/branded content. Some are experimenting with different ad formats and sizes like the Immersion Unit developed by Flite, a creative management platform.
The New York Times started using Immersion Units late last year and the format has quickly evolved as a go-to format that the Times has incorporated into premium ad offerings.
As described by Flite, the units are designed to deliver content-rich native experiences with non-standard ad sizes. These in-stream ad units are helping publishers increase engagement rates.
The Times has used the Units and incorporated them into its style guide, according to Michael Anthony Villaseñor, the Times' creative director, ad innovation and experience in advertising.
As The Times, like other publishers, is highly protective of the reader experience, it takes a critical eye to evaluating ad formats. “We looked at how we introduce an ad format or product to our core reader base that lives up to the quality of the Times,” Villaseñor said. The Immersion Unit is an ad unit that uses 100% of the width of the mobile screen and roughly about 75% of the height, taking advantage of most of the small-screens’ real estate.
Villaseñor wanted to make sure the reader was able to see above and below the ad. “We don’t want to be disruptive to readers. We felt that the brand has ample room to tell its story, but the reader is still in the article experience,” Villaseñor said.
The Times began using the Immersion Units for desktop and is now using them for mobile phones and tablets. The units are also being used with branded content as part of The Times’ offerings through T Brand Studio, its branded content unit.
Villaseñor offered an example of a native campaign for an advertiser in the arts category. The advertiser gave the Times creative team a medium rectangle ad unit that achieved a .01 click-through rate. When T Brand took the creative and migrated it to the Immersion Unit, the ad reached a noticeably higher click-through rate of .72 In this case, the click-through was a slideshow and a call to action to purchase tickets. Readers didn’t have to leave the article page to engage with the unit. With desktop, the Times tested the units against leaderboards in a house campaign and found a lift from .13 to .96 in engagement.
The Immersion Units also allow ad creative to showcase lush photography that’s illustrative of the advertiser’s product, service, or offering. They allow readers to engage with the brand.
So why are Immersion Units working for The Times?
The unit doesn’t shrink or expand, and readers can move past them if they're not interested. In addition, the format loads more quickly.
“They’re well-crafted ads that aren’t misleading," said Villaseñor. "They’re non-expandable, in-stream, and pay respect to the reader experience. They’re not disruptive and don’t deteriorate the experience of the article page.”