Summary:

In order to close the gap between the amount spent by large brand advertisers online and offline, display ad service providers are looking f…

Mike Cassidy, CEO, Undertone

In order to close the gap between the amount spent by large brand advertisers online and offline, display ad service providers are looking for ways expand their customer base from low cost direct response dollars found in basic banner to the larger formats that promise to deliver more “engagement” and interactivity. That’s the premise behind online ad tech company Undertone’s PageSkin unit, which it’s releasing today.

Undertone CEO Mike Cassidy is careful to note that making ad units that have more appeal to bigger spending brand advertisers is not meant to be an either/or situation with respect to direct response dollars; the nature of online advertising as a basis for impulse buying and acquiring sales leads is too great and is not about to go away — any company that eschews direct response will surely lose out on a lot of money.

Instead, Cassidy tells paidContent that PageSkin, which surrounds a page’s content by making use of a page’s borders into a large canvas, has been designed primarily with brand advertisers in mind, it also should continue to attract direct response marketers as well. At any rate, given the higher prices that such larger units command, it could also help improve the perception of direct response from strictly hard-sell, “click here now!” banner ad purveyors.

To back that notion up, Cassidy pointed to a study last month that was done by campaign analytics company Unicast saying that high impact wallpaper units, which are a similar creative treatment to PageSkin, yield 10.1X increase in clickthrough rates vs. standard in-page banners. “This indicates that the new product may also resonate with DR advertisers,” Cassidy said.

PageSkin is meant to build on Undertone’s PageGrabber takeover ad unit, which it released last fall. Competition among the various display advertising services providers has created a crowded marketplace for large takeovers as companies race to capture the higher spending being funneled into display. In February, the Interactive Advertising Bureau tried to create a sense of order around the various big ad units out there by awarding six formats its “rising stars” award. Among the winners were AOL’s Project Devil and Pictela Pushdown, along with the Google/YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) Masthead format, Microsoft’s Filmstrip and the Genex Slider, which was produced by Unicast & Mediamind.

As the already weak economy appears to teeter back into recession, that could reverse the gains that display has made since coming back strongly in 2010. The reason is that branding campaigns tend to fall by the wayside as marketers seek direct sales and leads through lower cost ads. The hope among the current display providers is that marketers won’t have to choose between ads that only promise “awareness” or direct sales, as the larger formats are still meant to drive both. Still, these formats are still pretty new and it remains to be seen how much of an appeal these formats will hold for publishers and as well as marketers.

Full Disclosure: Undertone sometimes advertises on paidContent.

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