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Expect the ads you see on premium sites like *ESPN*, Forbes.com and iVillage to get a bit more gaudy and in-your-face over the coming weeks, as these publishers, as well as nearly two dozen other members of the Online Publishers Association (OPA), plan to roll out a trio of new display units aimed at grabbing visitor attention better than the average banner ad.
The units include a “Fixed Panel,” which scrolls to the top and bottom of the page as a user scrolls; the “XXL Box,” which in addition to being extra-large, allows users to “turn” a page within the ad; and the “Pushdown,” which fills about half the screen at first, then rolls up to the top. They’re designed partly to help advertisers get more creative with their display presentations, but also to help publishers make more money from fewer ads — since an overload of inventory is what has been dragging their display revenues downward. More after the jump
But there’s the issue of how these new, bolder units will impact the user experience. While most web users understand the trade-off between free content and advertising, a survey by Opinion Matters and Howto.tv found that 59 percent of users said they’d stopped visiting a site because of obtrusive or irrelevant ads (via Brand Republic). Pop-ups, and ads that were otherwise difficult to minimize were included in the mix; if these new units eventually drive down page-views and unique visitors, then publishers will be back where they started again: with standard banners and more rudimentary rich media. Still, even *Google*, with its hallmark clean, sleek search interface has been forced to shift to attention-grabbing, expandable units to make more money from display. Release.
— David adds: I spoke to OPA President Pam Horan about the new ad formats. The expanded display units are more of a recommendation as opposed to a “standard,” which Horan noted would be in the purview of the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Asked about analyses that suggest search advertising’s clear promise of ROI will permanently trump the revenues related to branded display ads, Horan said the new design suggestions could lead to a balancing between the two forms. Horan: “There is a very healthy place for direct response and search ads, but the opportunity is much greater on the brand side. If you look at what marketers have always tried to accomplish on TV and in print to drive brand awareness, the same opportunity exists online. We haven’t scratched the surface with regard to display.”