Perception vs. Reality

Throughout my career I have witnessed examples where one true tenet exists: Perception is Reality. What the customer or the media believes to be true will be accepted. Currently, Interactive advertising is demonstrating a contradiction to this tenet - the perception is false, and we live in a Virtual Reality.

The perception is that we have immediate access to data, and the ability to make immediate changes to campaigns to improve performance and increase ROI. The reality is that though we do have immediate access to data, and that media optimization is easily undertaken to improve performance, the strength of this medium lies in the correlation between media and creative and the creative process is much more difficult here than in any other form of media.

In the traditional advertising formats of television, radio and print, the longest portion of the creative process is the development of strategy and design. Once a proof or comp has been developed, it can be rather easy, with the current suite of editing tools and design programs, to make changes resulting in a finished product. The only downside to these forms of advertising is that it takes a longer period of time to accurately measure ROI and overall performance of the campaign.



In the Interactive space, the strategy and design process is similar, but the development of the ads themselves has become a very time intensive process due to the lack of standards and the number of formats that are exposed by the immediate availability of data.

The lack of standardization for our industry exists in spite of the “declarations” of the IAB and other groups. I was recently putting together a campaign recommendation for a client and upon analysis of the sites we were considering (all of which were top 20 sites or networks according to Media Metrix), it became apparent that 2 of the sites utilized 42 different ad sizes and more than 4 different formats for these ads (including Gif, Flash, Java, HTML and other technologies). Each of these sizes had different specifications and requirements as well as different restrictions for where and when they could run.

This does not represent a “standard” to me! Just imagine if print vehicles accepted 42 different ad sizes and you could use 4 or more different types of paper stock for each one? The simple solution for this Interactive ad dilemma - 5 ad sizes. No more, no less. We would all benefit from a true survey and integrated decision between agencies, publishers and leading corporate companies to design the standard 5 ad sizes that will be used to reduce clutter and improve response rates for online advertising. Once we have true standards, we would be able to focus on making our advertising effective.

With the lack of standard sizes, also comes the lack of formats. The Web is exciting because of the number of varying technologies that can be used to break through the clutter and entice the user to respond to our advertising. However, requiring creative departments to stay on top of each of these technologies, and the simple problem that executing initial development and revision in a program such as Flash, are very time intensive can create process paralysis. This process paralysis was recognized by traditional agencies from the beginning and is why they have not delved as deeply into the Interactive space. What we see is the immediate availability of data and analysis coming from the media departments within agencies matched with the creative departments’ desire to make changes immediately to improve upon performance, however a lack of understanding and empathy for the creative departments that are required to make these changes.

This is an age old problem, and one that I don’t expect we can solve right away, but we need to recognize that the tools at our disposal to develop intriguing creative need to evolve to a more designer-friendly format so that we can truly take advantage of the power and immediacy of this medium! The solution is that Flash, Java and the other technologies need to develop faster methods of revising creative executions.

Once these specifications have been revised and standardized, we will be one step closer to finding the ways to truly integrate the creative and the media together to give advertisers and customers an efficient means of speaking to one another and improving the total effectiveness of the online ad space. We will be one step closer to merging the general Perception with the actual Reality of online advertising.

Cory Treffiletti is Media Director at Freestyle Interactive in San Francisco, CA.

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