Digital advertising: perhaps the worst is over
If you’re like most people, chances are only .1 percent that you’ve ever clicked on a banner ad. And while that number is pitifully low, it might even misrepresent whatever enthusiasm exists. I know in my case the only time I open an online ad is by accident. Who needs them when there’s Google, YouTube and Twitter search?
The reason, of course, is that most online ads suck. They interrupt us, pop up and take over our screens, or delay our getting to the content we actually seek. Plus in most cases the lack of an engaging concept of any kind sends us looking for that little “x” which we’re practically programmed to discover within a nanosecond at most.
But change may be on its way. Both Apple with its iAds, and the Interactive Advertising Bureau with its effort to develop new standards, are acutely aware that it’s been a mistake to leave OLA in the hands of the quants instead of the creatives.
Recently I sat through an impressive presentation on iAds by Apple’s Scott Witt. If you’ve seen an iAd, you may not be an instant convert to Apple’s belief that it can inspire advertising people actually love, but at least you’re leaning a little toward the side of optimism. The good ones are absorbing, entertaining and informative.
(If you haven’t seen or experienced an iAd, download the app Tiptitude and open it; it usually displays the Nissan Leaf iAd at the bottom. You can tell an iAd from a regular banner because it identifies itself with the iAd label in the lower right hand side of the launch banner. Then click. You’ll experience something pretty cool. If you get the AT&T ad, just keep trying. The latter has some utility but it’s not as compelling as the Leaf iAd.)
Anyway, Apple is hoping that iAds deliver a quantum leap in advertising story telling as they have the potential to combine the cinematic beauty of great TV advertising (visceral imagery, animation, special effects), the interactive nature of the web (games, choices, navigation), the sharing and involvement of social media, and the tactile (digitally speaking) sensation of turning pages.
The Leaf execution for example has some brilliant film, interactive presentations of the car’s features, tools for comparison on mileage and operating costs, and more. In fact, it’s closer to an app than an ad. Same can be said for early Nike and Dove executions.
This is promising stuff. It acknowledges the need for digital advertising to be more creative and it encourages marketers to make utility and content first, sales pitches second.
True, iAds will call for a new kind of creative thinking (story telling + technology + user experience) but Apple is there to help (or control, depending on your point of view), acting as creative directors and gatekeepers for any initial iAd concepts. The reason, according to Witt, is that if Apple puts its name on something it wants to guarantee users the Apple standards they’ve come to expect. Apple also justifies its control with the argument that since iAds use all the capabilities of the iPhone OS who knows better than the guys who created it. That may or may not be the case, but if you want to get on the platform those are the rules.
In some cases Apple’s God-like role may be a bit too much for advertisers and agencies to take — I know of some brands that have opted out when Apple wouldn’t let them do what they believed was necessary to be effective. On the other hand, if a digital ad is only as good as the number of people who click on it and Apple’s reputation with users can increase engagement, then maybe submitting to the company’s tightly clenched security measures is worth it.
What will it take for iAds to really succeed? A lot. Brands have to sign up and fork over some serious money — $1 million to $10 million before production. App developers have to sell space on their applications, though with 60 percent of the revenue coming their way there’s a decent incentive. Users have to believe that all iAds are worth clicking on. And finally, advertisers have to see results.
Nevertheless, I’m hoping Apple’s efforts influence the way all advertising is done and that as iAds show us what’s possible with paid digital ads we’ll see online ads become more experiential, offer genuine utility, and even turn into miniature apps themselves.
Up next, part two of this topic: some thoughts on what the Interactive Advertising Bureau is doing in its quest for new standards.
In the meantime, your thoughts? Have you seen iAds in action? Does Apple’s name alone make you want to click?
They force people to look at their advertisements. The important thing about advertising is to get the word out.Thanks
Edward do you think its the location of the advertising vs the advertising itself? Is the advertising on web pages/browser where people want to see ads? I embrace the changes you discuss to improve digital engagement. I just don't know if that is a solution...or maybe no matter what is tried square peg round hole?
Will the click through or engagement rates increase significantly once the aura wears off? And if the volume of Ads is a lot the % being engaged with will be low (maybe better than now).
I think the broken spoke was when we were never forced to view/engage with ads in exchange for free content online. We pay for access and assume we have paid for unlimited use of all free content and to hell with how the content is supported. That is a business model vs an advertising model issue.
Yes the iAds are unique and the Apple name is a draw for now. Clearly they have identified a niche, but one with a very high price tag. Why is it that Facebook ads do better than other ads? They provide ads of value. When I start talking to friends about a trip I start to get ads for places in that city. I once got an ad for a restaurant that I would have never thought of if not for that ad. To me the question is what is missing between Facebook ads and iAds? USER VALUE.
I recently advised a client to change their value proposition. They were building a website to share college notes and I suggested that they offer more than notes...offer a service to help improve college graduation rates. The idea is that millennials want to make a difference in the world so offer a service that not only helps them, but their peers as well. The addition to the business plan...a scholarship fund. OK...so what is the tie in here? They now can offer advertisers a chance to donate to the scholarship fund and have their ads branded as such. Students see value in choice because it helps grow the scholarship fund. Advertisers not only get targeted ads, but one that students see a value in purchasing products. I'll admit, it may not be as sexy as iAds, but for the small business it is a way to offer value to advertisers and to those who use their service. Time will tell how this approach works.
Online companies and advertisers need to adjust their work to fit the needs of their audience. Until more companies and advertisers truly understand the needs of the millennial generation there will be many missed opportunities. Same goes for the other generations which are rapidly adapting to new technology...we must adapt with them.
DavidALee Dave, one reason Facebook ads do well is obviously good "targeting" (hate that word) and the fact that there is a low barrier to "like" a brand we already like. Your idea for ads that are part of "doing" something makes a lot of sense. Check out @benkunz's blog Thought Gadgets where he talks a lot about this kind of media. http://bit.ly/b7jPtM
edwardboches LOL...you must have hated the email I sent you comparing my Army experience of artillery "targeting" with how I approach marketing.
To me targeting doesn't always mean engage. I use other words like listen, educate, inform, etc. Hence, the need to have "scouts" (Chief Listening Officers) watching the "battlefield" to determine the appropriate munition (media) to accomplish that task. As the expression goes "no plan survives first contact" and therefore the military (marketing) must be adaptive. My limited experience gives me the impression that many marketing organizations "fight the plan." In the quickly changing pace of today's marketing efforts organizations need to be able to adapt to the needs of their potential customers. I modified the process in terms of TASK (who and what), PURPOSE (why), METHOD (where, how and when further defined in terms of priorities, resource allocation and restrictions) and EFFECTS (ROI or ROO). To me targeting is a fluid and not static process. Also, targeting requires integration of multiple assets to achieve the desired effects.
Would like to know how you describe the process if it isn't targeting.
Thanks for sharing Thought Gadgets link....very thought provoking...and simple enough for this old Army guy to understand using words like target and trigger. :-)
awolk Smart thinking as always. However, what if we stop thinking of these as ads as we've known them but as utility? Would that change our interest? Also, if web advertising is only a response vehicle, and response is so low, does that limit its long term potential? What if advertising could ever be as effective as Twitter at its best. I seek out certain people (brands to follow) because they share with me relevant content (not always theirs) that makes me depend on them and become loyal. And, of course, to know and trust them. I don't have answers but believe that perhaps the best of digital content from brands could be more useful, informative, social and worth engaging with. Maybe. Maybe not.
Two big problems these ads need to overcome:
1. We've sold the web - mobile and otherwise-- as an interruption-free medium. Users expect a non-interruptive experience and so they'll tolerate banner ads (easily ignored) and be mildly annoyed by pop-ups (easily clicked off) Contrast that with television, which has <i>always</i> come with interruptive commercials. Consumers expect them and tolerate them, even, on occasion, look forward to them. But we'd be lying to ourselves if we said that if both options were free, consumers would choose to watch a TV show with commercials versus one without (e.g. iTunes style) Getting consumers to accept ads - no matter how clever and engaging-- as a part of the mobile experience is going to be a tough sell. We're pretty far along into the adoption curve and changing behavior and expectations is not going to be easy.
2. We've sold advertisers on the notion that web-based advertising is a direct response vehicle. In 1996, that made sense, when clicking on a banner led you to someplace as interesting as where you were. But the idea of the web as a trackable, click-through-based medium persists because it's an easy sell to clients who want to be able to pretend to know the effects of their advertising dollars. Awareness, likability, and their kin are all squishy metrics, not easily measured, and advertisers are not easily converted to using those metrics.
Note that this stream goes from bottom to top, unless you hit a reply to someone. Livefyre comment system is still in beta. Share your thoughts about this with me or livefyre.
uberblond, the reason for not just making an app is that Apple can serve these ads in remarkably targeted ways not only to users of specific apps, but based on all kinds of knowledge of their behavior. Secondly, over time, these ads will actually be listed in iTunes and be ranked by users and consumers. Two huge possibilities there. One, brands will be called out for bad work and celebrated for good work. And user endorsement could drive more people to actually seek out an advertising experience. We have a tendency to rush to conclusions and predictions on all these kinds of things, but as Clay Shirky reminds us, we can't predict how consumers will behave, we can only create opportunities for their engagement. I'm somewhere between totally sold and cautiously optimistic. Though the price tag shuts out smaller, more innovative brands, the likes of OkCupids or Daily Grommets.
edwardboches I love the voting mechanism, as a consumer I don't mind having extra content shot my way if it's valuable (blah blah blah) but moreso speaks to the kind of standards that I was referencing below that are vital to this kind of ad platform. It will keep us on our toes. Bring. it. on.
uberblond Initially, the only real reason to buy these things as an advertiser is that you are getting Apple's loyal and forward thinking customer base and the patina of having Apple-like content as part of your brand. Everyone wants to be part of the Apple glow, if you will. The second part of this, and I'll try and scribble some thoughts up in the next day or two, are what may (or may not) come out of the IAB's effort to make display advertising work in the digital space. We all know that OLA is heinous and yet, as more people spend time online rather than with old media, brands need to find ways to make their presence felt, ideally in a welcome vs intrusive way.
(Bud, thinking about your interruption argument...) Here's an off-the-cuff thought:
We have two factors here - the almighty creative-beast Apple controlling creative (but also "blessing it" through it's approval) and a pretty steep cost of entry. Could iAds be the Super Bowl spots of the digital age? (and yes, I'm trying to make you digi-freaks shudder by referencing old-school paradigms in this new-school medium).
If the content and experience standard remains incredibly high over a long amount of time (driven by both the Apple seal of the approval and the inevitable pressure that will be felt by the agency and brand knowing the amount of investment in the execution), could iAds turn into a medium of where consumers seek out the advertising because a high standard has been established (and never broken)? One culturally white-hot iAd execution could set that standard, it would be up to "us" and Apple to keep the bar high and ultimately justify the investment that this medium requires.
My first thought is that that is almost vital to the survival of this medium. Because as Bud notes, we are asking to more blatantly interrupt (more than a spot on the Super Bowl). And not only are we asking for a smidgen of brain power from a consumer ala old-school OLA or a :30 ad, we're asking them to dive into a whole different experience that they weren't planning on diving into at that moment.
If we don't create this aura around these ads, why wouldn't I just make a kick-ass app that I give away for free?
The Nissan Lead iAd is surely a beauty, but I'm not as optimistic as your title hopes to be. These still seem like beautiful interruptions. They may contain some service value, but it's ultimately interrupting the experience the user chose to pursue. And advertisers should be cautious, these iAds are definitely not for everyone, as this article demonstrates: http://www.crossforward.com/2010/08/25/iad-for-developers/
bud_caddell Bud. not arguing with those results. But, once again there's an assumption that the only metric for OLA is traffic, redemption, etc. Those aren't the metrics we use for offline awareness advertising. In fact, that is the whole problem with all online advertising. Display doesn't work because the creative sucks and the options are limited. You could make an argument that as TV and print become less and less important that the future of digital advertising is brand preference, awareness and emotional connection. Those are different metrics than we have typically used for digital and OLA, but they may still be relevant as we move more and more toward digital content and communication.
edwardboches bud_caddell I agree with you , Edward. How many times has Nissan been sited for creating such a different ad? A good deal of unpaid media and conversations about it for sure. Plus, is there something to be said for even having created an iAd? I "tapped" through the Dove one not long ago - not just because I was interested in Dove, but interested to see what the experience was. If it becomes a desire for experiences, then the iAds will win. Yes, I see Bud's points, but also ask if the Audiobooks iAd any good, did it live up to a great experience and was it appropriately targeted? I think iAds provide great potential. Similar to the rest of advertising, you can have great creative or great strategy, but it takes both to get a great ad and change the world. Great dialogue here regardless.