My last post suggested that maybe (not definitely) Apple’s iAds could be good for digital advertising, making them a bit more useful and a little less interruptive. Only time will tell, of course.
In the meantime, the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) has also come to realize it hasn’t done enough to make paid online advertising appealing or effective enough to attract spending commensurate with the amount of time people spend online. Click rates remain pitiful and no one has yet cracked the code on how to do display advertising or brand building executions in the online space.
While marketers spend $30 billion a year on OLA, $25 billion of that goes directly to search. According to Peter Minnium, who’s helping the IAB develop new standards, the big problem has been too much emphasis on response and too much dependence on the lowest common denominator units – typically the 2” by 3” ads that can be served by anyone from Google and MSN to your local blog.
According to Peter, as a result of standards that have to work for every website out there (in an effort to save advertisers having to create an excess of custom versions) creators face restrictions that drive them toward mediocrity and consumers live with tired, boring ads that fail to capture their imaginations.
The industry knows this. As search starts to slow, all the big portals are looking for ways to beef up revenue. That means Google, AOL, MSN and others will all try to figure it out on their own, but that approach could lead to confusion and fragmentation. Imagine if advertisers had to create totally different units, experiences and executions for every site where they ran ads?
Can the IAB change this? Well they’re trying. They’ve asked a number of creative folks from the advertising industry to help develop new standards. The objective is to come up with something that excites marketers, agencies and media planners.
IAB thinks that the solution, not unlike Apple’s approach, just might be to combine the sight, sound and motion of video with the web’s power of engagement and sharing, then somehow develop new formats that everyone buys into in order that brands can create fewer units and have the option of running them anywhere.
The big question of course is what is the role of branded display advertising on the Internet? In an ideal format, it will allow consumers to get the information they want, learn something meaningful, search directly from the ad, share if they wish to, and experience entertaining content in the process. Oh right, and it can’t interrupt.
Can this ever be achieved? Is there a model that works for both advertiser and consumer? How about the role of tablets to influence new formats?
Right now, advertisers need to move money out of TV and align budgets with consumer behavior. (Relying on memory here, but I believe the web accounts for 30 percent of consumers’ media time but only 10 percent of marketing dollars. Someone correct me if I’m off with these numbers.)
Running TV spots on the web doesn’t work. We’re online in order to discover what we want. Ads that interrupt us find little welcome. In fact, they’re disdained. And finally, as we turn to our social networks directly for the content we want, traditional search becomes less necessary and OLA close to useless.
Put that way it seems an insurmountable challenge.
The promise of digital advertising, of course, is that it serves us as much as the advertiser. It knows what we’re interested in without violating our privacy. It lets us opt in on our own terms. It includes all the best features of social media – sharing, ratings, recommendations from friends. And it’s exciting.
We seem to get more of the above in great social media executions and compelling viral ideas but not in paid digital ads, despite the few exceptions.
So, will we ever see standard units that are actually conducive to more inspiring advertising? Can the IAB win consensus from both big portals and smaller sites? Will iAds raise the bar for what consumers expect? Can paid digital advertising that lives on a website actually earn our attention? Lots of questions. But at least we have acknowledgment of the problem and a set of criteria that seem to make sense.
What do you think? Any chance we’ll ever learn to love online advertising?