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  • Part 3: The Fifth Dimension – Display Advertising


    Posted on April 10, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Brand Thinking from Greenfield/Belser

    You will learn:
    1. How to buy online display ads.
    2. The shapes and sizes of various banner ads.
    3. Why you should consider incorporating video.
    4. Why most online ads don’t cut through the clutter.

    In our first two installments of “The Fifth Dimension,” we documented the shift by advertisers away from print to online advertising. Or perhaps it would be fairer to say that advertisers now include online as a significant portion of their overall budget. We noted how innovations in technology (the Internet, BlackBerries, cell phones, etc.) were driving that shift. We explained organic search engine optimization—what you can do yourself to improve your Google rankings. And we dove into Google’s paid AdWords program to introduce you to that arcane world of media buying.

    As for our own experiments with paid AdWords? Last week we received five calls for engagements via Google AdWords. Three were a poor fit for us, but two were right in our wheelhouse! We believe this is because we took the time to understand the medium (We love Google but neither their sales people nor sales literature is very clear) and adjust our online presence to match our goals. If your firm has urged you to focus on sales leads in these troubled times, consider AdWords (and call us to help!).

    In this final installment of “The Fifth Dimension,” we want to introduce you to the world of display advertising. Digital displays—the now ubiquitous banners and other rich media (video, sound, etc.) you encounter every day on the Web—account for one-third of all online spending:

    Pie Chart

    Source: ZenithOptimedia Group, December 2006, Via eMarketer Inc., New York; “2007 Marketing Fact Book

    You just heard about our success with AdWords (cf. chart above: 45% search), but according to Razorfish, “Media purchased on Yahoo! has shifted aggressively from search to display advertising.” In other words, you can expect to see the display segment grow over the coming years in proportion to the overall pie.

    Great online display advertising—like all advertising—requires great creative and a smart media buy. In Part I, we reported where C-suite buyers were spending their online time. Those broad statistics, however, reflect the habits of all executives but do not reflect the specific interests of your buyers. Finding niche sites and blogs for your targeted ads will improve your effectiveness and stretch your advertising dollar.

    Buying Online Display Ads

    Both the standards and metrics for buying online space are inconsistent and changing. This unfamiliar territory is bewildering to seasoned print buyers and, we believe, is one important reason more advertising dollars have not migrated to the Web.

    Some sites have adopted the “cost per thousand impressions” model employed in traditional print buying. Other sites sell weekly or monthly placements, which can provide hidden value that not even the ad sales reps realize. We typically ask for other stats to support our media planning; for example:

    • Unique visitors (not just number of visitors, unique visitors)
    • Unique page views per visitor (not just number of clicks)
    • Visitor breakdown by geography
    • Time spent on site

    Everyone is searching for the ideal way to prove value—buyers to drive down their costs and advertisers to compel higher fees. All we can say is, it’s complex. Although there are more than 100 million active Web sites, only a few million have traction—a regular audience. A few million!

    Planning Your Online Display Ads

    Hardly anyone is unfamiliar with the banner ad. You may even know that banners are measured in pixels. But have you noticed that banner ads come in all shapes and sizes. They can be:

    • Horizontal (called “leaderboards”), from small (158 pixels by 50 pixels) to large (728 pixels by 90 pixels)
    • Vertical (called “elevators”), from small to large (standard size: 160 pixels x 600 pixels)
    • Square (called “buttons”), from small ads (125 pixels by 125 pixels) that usually run on either edge of a Web page to large (300 pixels by 250 pixels) that can overtake much of the real estate on a home page.

    Types of Banner Ads

    Many banner ads have “weight” limits; in other words, your ad may not be able to be larger than 10 kilobytes. Why is this important? Lightweight ads must be static or simple rotating gifs, challenging your creative freedom.

    Frame 1

    G/B Banner Ad

    Frame 2

    G/B Banner Ad

    One of the fastest moving trends on the Internet, however, is video. “Video in a banner ad costs up to an additional 50 percent. But in a recent test, we learned that video increased click-thru by 65 percent. That return outweighs the cost,” reports Greg Buhl of Performance Communications Group.

    Eye-tracking studies prove that readers notice a headline faster than text alone, a headline and image over headline alone, and movement faster than all of them. Smart, subtle movement usually improves an ad. Too much movement, rapidly blinking lights plus bells and whistles irritate all of us. Good judgment and taste required here.

    Video and the creative “space buy” can result in dynamic breakthrough advertising such as these ads for Apple.


    Creating Online Display Ads

    In the digital realm as in print, opportunities to differentiate your firm and push past the clutter are limitless. Unfortunately—online as in print—most advertisers just add to the clutter. “We need a banner ad” is not a formula for a great online campaign.

    We challenge our clients to think outside the banner. It always stuns us to find thousands spent on a great media buy to deliver terrible advertising. The problem is compounded online when the media buy itself is so complex and the advertising is often worse than its print sibling. Don’t despair. Help is near.

    To learn more about Greenfield/Belser and our work, call our marketing team at (202) 775-0333.

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Brand Thinkers

Joe Walsh

Joe Walsh

Joe Walsh, a life long professional services marketer, is a principal and creative director with Greenfield Belser. He offers clients a wealth of sophisticated brand positioning, market research, creative development and media planning skills.