Doing what they can to survive the tougher economy, websites are starting to relax the rules they place on the size and formats of the ads they run. A WSJ piece doesn’t find anyone admitting to resorting to the “unthinkable” (e.g., spyware). The changes spotted at major sites are more subtle and restrained than that. And they mostly represent a branching out of existing efforts, such as video sites like Veoh and Dailymotion making more use of pre-roll. In two other cases that have been evolving over the past several months, WSJ.com and NYTimes.com have been offering more online real estate space to web advertisers. Still, to listen to these and other web publishers and online ad sellers, the perilous economic situation has nothing — or perhaps very little, really — to do with these expanded ad moves.
— Plain banners won’t cut it: These times cry out for more than just a simple banner ad. Considering that display was already looking sluggish even before the global financial meltdown this fall, the miserable economy surely makes it easier for web publishers and marketers to push the ad format’s envelope a bit, even if it appears to rank as a poor excuse for doing so. For example, this summer saw the introduction of those Mac ads across the top of the NYT’s homepage. The new year will likely bring more “welcome page” greetings from advertisers on the NYTimes.com and other publishers’ pages. More interesting were the ads promoting the theatrical release of The Incredible Hulk on Break.com
— Mixing editorial and ads: There’s nothing new about ads that closely resemble posts on a given blog. But some, like online celebrity gossip PerezHilton are going much further in blurring the line between editorial and marketing. For example, Perez has appeared in a video on his site promoting the romantic comedy Bride Wars. Still, considering that Perez doesn’t operate a hard news site, and he’s become something of a celebrity in his own right, his audience probably won’t hold it against him as long as his shilling is entertaining. Henry Copeland, the CEO of Blogads.com, which helps sell ads on PerezHilton and others, calls the move “absolutely crucial,” again, not because of the economy necessarily, “but because there are so many billions of impressions out there.”