When was the last time you clicked on a banner ad? If you are like most Americans, the answer is probably sometime in 2002. Display advertising (run-of-the-mill banner ads and stationary images running down the side of a webpage) is on its way out. The every-day consumer has become jaded and now ignores banner ads (studies have actually shown that many users don’t even see the ads, filtering them out in their minds). Online marketers need to find more impactful ways of grabbing people’s attention without being in-your-face obnoxious.
In response to the falling popularity of display ads, publishers are developing advertising innovation groups to create engaging and interesting ad campaigns. But with this “wow-factor” comes a higher price tag. This higher price tag is fantastic if you are a publisher selling ad space, but can be a financial risk if you are a company paying for the ad space.
Businesses are taking higher financial risks to make a splash in their digital advertising. But is the cost really all that much different from your standard forms of advertising? TV and outdoor advertising is expensive – it always has been. Digital ads were relatively inexpensive in the past, so business owners became used to the lower price tag. But the nature of the Internet does not allow you to become complacent and business owners should understand that digital marketing is the future of successful advertising.
Enter the magnanimous advertising innovation groups. Publishers like The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Weather Company are all taking inventive approaches to digital advertising.
The New York Times IdeaLab
The New York Times launched the ten-person IdeaLab development team in 2010, taking a more editorial approach to digital advertising by developing ads that are elaborate, visual, and nuanced. Some examples of their past work include an interactive Pablo Picasso story in 2012 and a Wisk ad that allows users to erase dirt from a shirt.
The IdeaLab has been busy, cranking out 12 campaigns in 2011, 19 campaigns in 2012, and approximately 9 in 2013. So far this year, they have already developed 7 campaigns, telling us their production is ramping up.
Washington Post’s “Ad Innovations Unit”
The six-person “Ad Innovations Unit” was established in 2006 with the sole purpose of developing new ad experiences across digital platforms. The unit develops ads for mobile, desktop, social, and video. The Washington Post hopes to quickly adapt to market changes with their in-house development team, providing brands with effective and creative alternatives to the typical digital ads. The Washington Post also recognizes the importance of mobile when it comes to digital advertising, with over half of their traffic coming from mobile readers in March 2014.
The Weather Company’s Ad Products Team
The Weather Company has an interesting perspective on the emergence of mobile as an advertising platform because they were pursuing mobile from the beginning. The company’s 25-person team focuses on more than just consumer applications. They are looking for ways to implement The Weather Company’s datasets into advertising. By utilizing WeatherFX, advertisers are able to target users based on their local weather conditions.
The one common thread among the three examples of the ad development teams is innovation. The key to successful digital advertising lies in your team’s ability to be adaptable, innovative, and interesting. The mundane doesn’t cut it in the fun, interactive whimsy of the modern Internet, so you need to think outside the box. (A good place to start is not to use cliches like “think outside the box.”)