Trends in digital advertising: Valuable Disruptions

The following text is a guest contribution by Zach Glass from RED Interactive Agency. It has also been published in the American Advertising Federation’s Digital Resources Guide.

Mobile: Advertising as Utility

96% of marketers say that mobile is currently part of their marketing mix, or it will be in the near future. The fact that mobile has graduated from buzzword to reality over the past few years is not news, but neither is the fact that most mobile advertising is terribly uninspired: Tiny static ads stuck to the bottom of the screen that get tuned out as quickly as your own thumb.

I’m happy to say that the big, shiny promise of mobile ads is finally coming to fruition. Location-specific, useful information updating in real-time, interactivity, and silky-smooth animation are now achievable in the mobile ad space. If you’ve ever read an article about mobile, you’ve heard the term HTML5. The problem up until now is that HTML5 (which is really just HTML) has been costly to serve at any reasonable scale, and just as hard to develop within stringent publisher specs originally written for static images.

That is why we at RED work with animated ads using real-time information in HTML, served through standard ad tags. That last part is important because it means that they’ll work with every major mobile publisher and ad network directly — making it cheaper and better for publishers because the ads won’t require any special technical integration.

So what do we do with this space now that it’s there? Take advantage of the fact that our ads go everywhere the customer goes. The New York Times recently started offering Starbucks customers 15 free articles a day. Disney came up with an app that helps families navigate their parks. These companies are adding value to their existing products in a way that complements a customer’s existing routine and aspirations. Mobile devices are tools. Ads and marketing apps should make those tools more useful.

Video Pre-roll: Every Second Counts

Pre-roll video suffers from an identity crisis. Is it a TV ad or an interactive canvas? Users who are watching video content on their tablet might be able to quickly interact with a pre-roll ad, but the only time that could possibly happen is if they felt that the experience offered in the ad was more compelling than the video they wanted to watch in the first place. That’s a tall order–and 99.9% of the pre-roll advertising we’ve seen doesn’t meet that standard. So what then?

The good news is that pre-roll doesn’t have the same tune-out issues that plague most advertising. Viewers will hold their tablet with rapt attention as each agonizing second ticks away before they can finally see that video of cats playing patty-cake. The marketer, therefore, has a captive audience–a golden opportunity–a rare five seconds of undivided attention.

The challenge is to make the most of the time you have. Get your message out quickly, and make it memorable. There’s no secret formula for that–just damn good creative. And, in the world of “skip after 5 seconds” the audience will have some appreciation for the fact that you made your point quickly and strongly.

Online Digital Display, or: The Return to Relevancy

Online display advertising is seen as something of a dinosaur these days–the only difference is, it would be much harder to ignore a dinosaur. The average American sees an absurd number of display ads every day, and the vast majority click on exactly none of them. In order to return to relevancy, display advertising needs to disrupt an experience to be seen, and add value if it doesn’t want to leave a bad taste in a consumer’s mouth.

A valuable disruption can be anything that grabs the user’s attention and then delivers a powerful, informative, awe-inspiring, share-worthy, or just plain funny message. It’s even better if it entices the user with a reason to interact. The tools are there: Flash isn’t dead yet, and it can do some really impressive stuff when it comes to video, animation, and interactivity. Use it to deliver high-concept and truly valuable, disruptive creative.

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