local media insider

Big, cool and interactive: Ten best practices for premium ads

Advertisers love them, visitors may not. Here's how to use premium ad units for the best results.

Alisa Cromer

Premium ad units make display ads larger and more interactive than banner ads, which deliver only a brief message.

They are already standard on most national media sites,but at the local level, premium units are typically relegated to special campaigns that run one or two days only, on high traffic home and channel page fronts.

In the Premium Ad challenge, we started to see a few exceptions at the local level: A wall paper ad that ran continuously during a month long promotion to co-brand a lead-generating contest, an auto dealer that expanded the broadcast buy with one week a month of a premium ad across all digital platforms (website, apps, mobile).

Here's is a summary from the best campaigns showing when and how to pitch premium ads that add real impact - and bump up the ROI:

1. Combine into a larger campaign. Bryan Depew, VP of Product Development at Impact Engine, a leading platform for premium ads, argues that sales reps should use other kinds of banner ads and marketing, but add premium ads on to the last day or two of campaigns, or before a key event, with a call to action. The super-charged response rates can pay off closer to the bottom of the funnel and when timing is critical. True to this theory, the campaigns that judges scored highest, often incorporated a number of platforms and core media as well as premium units.

2. Sell days, not CPM. Premium ads often deliver spectacular responses that would be otherwise impossible to achieve - at flat rates that are double the CPM price. Avoid the whole CPM conversation by offering a flat rate for the day. Typically one or two days is tops, although some types of ads can run longer, such as ads activated by hovering over the unit.

3. Make premium ads entertaining. Visitors welcome some extra bells and whistles, especially audio and video if it looks good and is interesting. And hover-over features often allow visitors to decide whether or not to engage. So if an advertiser already is in the entertainment industry -  movies, theater, sports - they may already have useable video or other creative.

One successful local campaign incorporated an automotive video, designed like a music video, converted from a TV Campaign and placed inside the pushdown ad.  Allowing user activation and adding entertainment value allowed this ad to run on the home page for a week at a time.

4. Give time sensitive events a last minute push. Many events, conferences and political ads need to condense all their advertising into a short period of time. Premium ads are great for this purpose. 

5. Run during seasonal starts. Time sensitive events are not just deadlines, some times they are start times: Landscaping in the spring, health clubs in January, and so on.

6. Use when ad inventory is sold out. Carefully used, premium ads also supply additional inventory when limited a site is sold out. Know these seasons when inventory runs out and plan in advance. A typical example is the arts channel, during the fall theater season or during a political season such as mid-term elections.

7. Measure branding, too. While we typically focus on how digital ads can power data capture, premium ads are equally good at launching new and prepositioning brands. Unlike banner ads, they are big and visual and measuring all the interactivity lets the advertiser see how many people engaged with the brand. 

When a visitor hovers to see a "pushdown," for example, 100% of the viewer's attention is on a large format ad that they engaged, even though nothing was clicked.

So use all the stats to measure brand engagement, and pitch these ads to businesses that are new or launching new brands.

8. Convey information without users clicking offsite. Because of the large surface space of the ad - pushdowns and sliders, etc. - these units are also a good solution when the extra space is critical to convey more information. Causes, event schedules and other information-dense marketing campaigns fall into this category.

9. Promote contests. Using premium units to promote contests is a natural, since contests are by nature informative and designed for user engagement. The landing pages are pre-built with data-catpure so that issue is already solved.

10. Have a relevant landing page. This should go without saying, but in fact, the biggest difference between premium ad units that were highly successful, and the rest typically was not the ad itself or even the overall campaign, but the landing page. What does the ad click to? If it's just a website and website traffic is not the central goal, then the campaign will not be considered as valuable a if it pointed to a lead capture page of some kind.

An example of an ad gone wrong - that lost a long term seasonal customer renewal - is a premium ad for a specific event that linked to the theater home page - not to the page selling the event. 

When visitors had to click five or six times to find the event and purchase a ticket, many did not. A quick fix would have been to point the add to the URL with the ticket purchase information. Always ask to see the landing page, and make sure it accomplishes the task.

Many thanks to all the contestants in LocalMediaInsider's Top Ad contest and the premium ad challenge for sharing their great work with us, and to Impact Engine for their expertise in 'what works'. Find contact information and user reviews for Impact Engine on MediaExecsTech.com.

Here are more examples of how and when to use premium ads from the contest, with links to the case studies and technology used.

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.

premium, rich media, impact engine, ads, contests