Commentary

Where Is All The Great Online Creative?

Good creative is hard to find, and when you find it you don’t always notice why it could be considered good.

For years people have been polarized by Geico's television ads, which had everything from camels to cavemen and a talking gecko.  I admit I never fully realized what the company was trying to do.  It felt disjointed and somewhat haphazard to have so many different kinds of messaging in market.

 That being said, I’ve come around as a result of having the benefit of hindsight — and now I “get” it.

My personal epiphany comes as a result of Geico's newest campaign, which seemingly resurrects all its previous campaigns and reruns them all over the place.  It’s a great chance to reflect back but also tie together what seemed disjointed at the time.  

Geico successfully changed our opinion of insurance ads and got us talking about a category that was always considered dull at best, or a massive annoyance and inconvenience at its worst.  Some were funnier than others, but they always got us thinking.  We were forced to pay attention and wonder aloud “what does this have to do with insurance?”  It was, and is, a pure awareness and image campaign, and it works great.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and every other insurance company followed this strategy.  Progressive has Flo.  Allstate has Mayhem.  Even The General had Shaq at one point.

These days, online creative is still pretty dull.  Sometimes an ad shows up that is more interesting.  Sometimes they tap into humor.  Most of the time they simply build frequency.  

As we have shifted toward programmatic and native ads as the primary lens to look at and engage with users, online creative has become an awareness and frequency medium.  

Advertisers used to try and find ways to do full-page takeovers, but I feel those days are gone.  Working with a single publisher to come up with something innovative seems to be a thing of the past, and a little bit of me is sad about that.  There are a few of us who remember when Disney “spotted the web” for the launch of “101 Dalmatians,” with Dalmatian spots in the backgrounds of websites all over the place.  

“Roadblocks” were a strategy in the ’90s, where a brand would buy all the ads online at a certain time to make sure they had 100% share of voice.  

Those creative concepts are a thing of the past.  Now it’s standard sizes or native embedded ads that build frequency and support other channels like TV.  

I’m not actually saying there’s anything wrong with it, but you have to call it what it is.  The web is not a stand-alone channel for big brand advertisers.

Could it become one some time again?  Yes.  Brands could find a way to be innovative online again if they are willing to spend the money.  

The web is the highest volume, most engaging, most dynamic medium in the world.  It could absolutely be used as a viable lead creative medium if brands were willing to do this once again.  Personally, I am very much looking forward to a brand trying this tactic.

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