Commentary

The Back Page

  • by February 21, 2002
I felt heartened shortly after this year’s Super Bowl when I visited Yahoo! and saw their Pepsi/Britney Spears homepage peel/rind creative. For one thing, at least I know someone over at Yahoo! is reading my articles, specifically Is that a skyscraper in your pocket?

It is widely accepted that of the Big 3 players left in the market today, Yahoo! has taken the proverbial bull by the horns in terms of innovating and implementing industry-altering executions. Their new back page execution is no exception. What is even more encouraging is that it’s clear they’re learning and getting better as they go along. Comparing the abovementioned Pepsi “rind” to their Ford Explorer creative is like comparing the Bulls with Jordan to the Lambs they are today, without him.

For the life of me I just didn’t get what birds flying across the screen eating birdseed had to do with a car. And whilst I accept that Yahoo! was going where they had never gone before – by letting both church and state boogie together on their homepage – together with trying real hard to find that careful balance between intrusiveness and disrupting the user’s experience, I just thought the whole thing was way too complicated, not to mention contrived.

But that’s all changed with their latest offering. Here’s what impressed me about it:

1. Application of Back Page philosophy – if the Yahoo! homepage is the front cover of the “magazine” and clicking on any homepage link takes you deeper into the magazine, then it is conceivable that peeling away the top layer does reveal what is pretty close to the back page equivalent of a website. The one exception being the dynamic, interactive experience within the new layer: proof once again how the Web brings the static nature of traditional advertising to life.

2. Balance between user experience and intrusiveness – if you think about it, this execution is actually no different to the Ford Explorer one in that the user has to initiate the experience with a click of their mouse. But this is so much smarter and the interaction is both natural and seamless.

3. Involving nature of creative – the click in question isn’t your run of the mill transition to a website or mini-site; it’s an involving and quite surprising experience, which can be rolled back and forwards as often as the user desires.

4. Innovation/First – marks must be given for first-mover advantage, which might not be what it used to be, but nevertheless still counts for something. Over time this might become the next iteration of the banner, but until then it does have some breathing space.

5. Optimal use of size – the area of the unit in question (in square pixels) is smaller than the 468 x 60 and yet, it makes the most of its size, nature and position (when last I checked, the eye still begins in the top left-hand corner). Makes you wonder what the uproar about the confines of the banner was all about.

6. Proof that brand matters – the unique combination of Spears and Pepsi works well to get the user’s attention. Certainly, it would have been that much more difficult had it been KD Lang endorsing Clorox (no offense to KD or Clorox lovers)

7. The power of a strategic partnership – Let’s not forget the power of the Yahoo! brand in terms of providing a solid distribution platform for this sponsorship opportunity.

It’s great to see progress evident pretty much across the board these days – whether spanning the four corners of the page as Match.com did on MarketWatch on Valentine’s Day, or in this case, wetting the appetites of the regular Yahoo! visitors in a scantily-clad rind.

I trust we’ll be seeing more of these types of executions in the near future. Besides being something new (which is always a good thing), we might just be witness to the introduction of a whole new dimension regarding the way we view and interact with websites (and the advertisements that come along for the ride.)

- Joseph Jaffe is Director of Interactive Media at TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York, where he works with clients including Kmart, ABSOLUT Vodka, Samsonite, Embassy Suites and Cunard. His primary focus is to highlight interactive's value and benefit in meeting his clients' integrated business and branding objectives.

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