Bigger Ads Roundup

A lot of disagreement on the new OPA initiative. Only Jonathan Mendez seems as enthusiastic as I am. Some other views below (I should note, if my comments seem snarky, that these are the views of people whose opinions I follow and respect.)

Why Super Banners are Lame, Noah Mallin on SearchViews.

Let’s face it, the banner ad is an inherently broken model. To some extent this is due to the unreasonable expectation that because it’s online it should be measured by clicks. Really, it’s a static ad like a billboard or a print page and it shouldn’t be expected to function as much more beyond that. Forcing the ad into a bigger and more obnoxious format will only make the user experience suffer.

Funny how nobody talks about the user experience of TV viewers suffering from ads, or the horrible user experience of trying to find the actual content amid the ads in a typical issue of Vanity Fair. This isn’t because the user experience doesn’t suffer, it’s because we’re okay with this as a tradeoff for subsidized content.

New OPA Display Ads to Help Ad Networks and Exchanges on AdExchanger.

The OPA continues to try to avoid the insight and power that technology provides in the advertising marketplace through exchanges and networks. We predict that selling premium impressions “direct only” will not yield efficient ROI for advertisers in the long run… If it wasn’t for those gosh darned ad networks and exchanges which keep monetizing their unsold inventory, their CPMs would be so much better! … When is the OPA going to understand that technology is its member publishers’ best friend rather than worst enemy?

I think they’ll realize technology is their friend when it starts delivering them CPMs high enough to pay for the content. The middle piece of the quote is sarcasm, if that doesn’t come through after my cutting and pasting. On thinking about it, I don’t disagree with AdExchanger that these ads may be sold through a network or exchange, but if there is remnant inventory of these ads, they are not working. The whole point is that these are scarce, so command a better CPM. If they can’t be sold out by the publisher then it’s a failed experiment.

Online Publishers Hope Bigger, Bolder Ads Can Save Display
by Tameka Kee on PaidContent.

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 found that 59 percent of users said they’d stopped visiting a site because of obtrusive or irrelevant ads … 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…

This article was pretty balanced, but the idea that people won’t read the New York Times because they have to watch an ad seems overblown. There are some sites where these ads won’t work–most sites actually–but if a consumer values the site highly enough, they will suffer through the 15 second interruption.

Coming to a Web Site Near You: Bigger, More Obnoxious Ads by Peter Kafka on AllThingsDigital.

The reasonable thing to point out here is that there’s nothing that prohibits advertisers and publishers from doing interesting and creative stuff with these formats… And if you’re really lucky, you’ll find that the ads are even about stuff you’re interested in learning about… But if the ads aren’t interesting and aren’t relevant to you? It’s the kind of thing that could drive a mild-mannered person to install ad-blocking software.

If the seizure-inducing animated lead-gen banners haven’t caused you to install an ad-blocker yet, nothing will. Certainly more relevant ads perform better and the publishers can still target, but keep in mind that brand advertising is often not meant to be too finely targeted. Who is P&G selling Tide to? Do you wash your clothes? Reach and frequency in brand advertising aren’t used just because there are no other metrics, they’re used because they mean something.


  1. Thanks for the mention. Howard Gossage said it best, “People don’t read advertising, they read what interests them… sometimes that’s advertising.” Unquestionably these sizes allow for more interesting ad content and experiences to emerge. If executed properly that will be a good thing for everyone.

  2. I agree that bigger Ad units can work, but they need to be unintrusive at the same time (is that possible?)

    If I’m half way through reading an article and it disappears and an ad pops up, I’d be fuming, and rest assured that back button would be pressed in no time.

    Personally I’m for user behaviour targeted ads, even if a lot of people are worried about privacy. At the end of the day, I’d prefer someone knows my habits and advertises products/pages I would be interested in, as opposed to a mass overlay of a film I don’t want to see.

  3. I agree, although I would amend “as unobtrusive as possible” to “predictably obtrusive.”

    There are two things to think about. The first is that your attention to the ad is what you pay for the content. If the ad ‘costs’ too much attention, then the content isn’t worth it. Higher value content will merit you paying more attention, so more obtrusive ads will work.

    Second, attention is more than obtrusiveness, it is flow. An ad that covers your screen for fifteen seconds before you start reading an article is far less demanding on the reader than one that pops up midway through reading a sentence. TV programmers have become quite good at this, to the point where, when watching a show on cable without commercials, I can still see where the makers had left a ‘chapter break’ for the commercial. I’m never sure if this is because the makers weren’t sure how the show would be distributed (commercials or commercial-free) or if it’s because it has become an unconscious part of the idiom. In any case, the content makers and advertisers have essentially cooperated in providing an obtrusive experience that still doesn’t cause attention inefficiencies.

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