local media insider

How to create bigger, better, more interactive local ads

Response rates increase by 300%, and advertisers jump on board as larger ad formats come into their own

Alisa Cromer
This "side kick" slides out from a standard banner ad.

Local media are deploying  larger interactive ad units  that allow their best customers to break out from the lowered CTR's produced by banner-ad blindness.  A variety of inexpensive platforms make big, sassy ads efficient to build and sell. This report gives a full break down of what's available, strengths and weakness of each and a to-do list to get started selling the new units. Included are the six IAB Rising Stars and how to build them, a social media ad, and how to create video ads.

First, here are key reasons to get into the game:

*Interactive units are a solution to lowered CPM and lackluster demand for standard banner ads

*The Ads can be sold for a premium - 30 to 40% or more.

*Bigger, more interactive ads get higher response rates, typically 2 to 3 times industry standard.

*Great for telling a story visually, to promote a brand or event.

*Interactive ads keep viewers engaged with the ad much longer, and allow them to take actions, such as a purchase, donation, video activation, etc.

Disadvantages of the new formats are the technical sophistication that requires gathering a multitude of assets,  changes to the CMS required for some ads and the general audience dislike of interruptive advertising of any kind.

The good news is that there are good vendors out there, including, in just the last six months vendors for Rising Star ads, since they are now deemed officially standardized by the IAB. This makes launching the ads efficient and therefore affordable, although a chunk of the premium upsell goes to the technology partner. Here's a variety of ads and resources, starting with the ones that have been around the longest: 

*Home page rich media ads 
- A dirt simple turn-key solution to create rich media ads on either the home page or selected channels comes from Impact Engine.  Though some of the units are down-right hokey - an hand that comes over the computer screen to attach a post-it note, and a variety of other annoying floaties - a few are elegant, easy to deploy and ad huge value. They include the corner peel, the skin or wrap, and the pencil push-down (similar to  a Rising Star, though without video). This set of units has outstanding CTR's and is great for movies and events, and large sales. We've seen a production shop with no special skills, build and deploy a corner peel in about 20 minutes the first time they used this software. Richmond Media Group uses these ads  units to sell "by the day" to political campaigns, and premium ads have become an important part of ad packaging for political. 

*Broadcast to web video ads - There is no longer any reason not to redeploy video ads from television to the web site, even for print and pure-plays.  Mixpo provides this simple service of reformating and editing  ads from a video to an interactive platform, or the agency can use this technology. The LA Times is currently planning to use Mixpo to acquire political ads that have run on-air, for its print sites, though in the case of very large agencies, they like to remix the ads themselves. Pairing Mixpo with Kantar - which reports what broadcast ads are running and even gives the creative, is a great way to identify and target broadcast buys for online upsells. There is a terrific opportunity for print, pureplay and even radio sites here, but print has the strongest competitive position since it tends to dominate the local internet space; however, print companies need to get serious by  investing in the tools both to identify the accounts and repurpose the ads. 

*Social media ads Nowspots, reviewed in this case study at the Chicago Tribune, creates social media ad units that give the advertiser control over content feeds via Twitter or Facebook. Clients use the feeds to can post deals, events or product information in the ads, which run in traditional spots. Used by the Chicago Tribune to sell 25 campaigns against 7 million page views in the first six months, the spots also have an average CTR of three times a standard banner ad. Because the content comes from the feeds and the ads are served into traditional units, these are actually easier to deploy than formats that require more design of additional elements, changes to the CMS or video production. And the price is right - $1 to $3 CPM for sold campaigns.

*IAB Rising Stars - Local media should start now getting used to these ad formats, so  use these tips to get in the game. Since the first group of six large format interactive ads have now been standardized by IAB  a secondary market  of platforms has evolved to create the ads, that did not exist just six months ago. 

Providers include FliteJivox (still a build it yourself model) and SpongeCell, which gathers the assets and has a 72 hour turn around for the ads. DoubleClick is also working on a platform that is pre-integrated with its ad-server. 

To get a good look at these ads - and they are cool - click on the IAB site here, which has video and code for the exact formats. Also Jivox has a set they created here, that shows  what they can deploy. There are six Rising Star units, which can be broken down into three groups of two:  

1. Horizontal units at the top of the page. These are the Billboard, a 970x250 unit that appears automatically and has a close option, and The Pushdown, a 970x90 unit that pushes down into a large, 970x415 canvas when clicked. 

2. Vertical, right hand rail units.  The Portrait, a super-sized 300x1050 ad unit and the Filmstrip, 300 x 600 unit that includes five different “frames” of a single ad. 

3. Full page ads. The Slider starts from a 970x90 bar at the page bottom and pushes editorial content out of screen when interacted with, and a Sidekick that can start from a 300x250 or 300x600 standard ad size, but which also pushes editorial nearly off the screen when interacted with.” 

Note that the sidekicks and the film strip start from "old" standard sizes, so they may not require changes in the CMS. Don't place limits, however, on selling larger sizes such as the the billboard, unless you have to initially to avoid a long wait in getting the CMS changes made. 

Peter Minnium, head of Brand Initiatives for the IAB, says one strategy is to  pick one format  from each of the three sets as a core competency. For local media who want to pick just two, Minini suggests one of the two supersized ads - the billboard or portait. Again - the downside of these large ads is that they may require CMS changes to deploy. The upside is that since they do not open up or slide out, they are technically and creatively simpler to deploy, and the user stays on the page while operating the ad.  

Here is is an example of a  portrait, created by Flite, below. Note that in this ad, interactivity includes not only a video player, but the ability to donate by entering your phone number and carrier, and have it charged to your phone bill. 

Below is an example of the other right hand option, the film strip, notable because it rolls out from a 300x600 ad. The long vertical format can include a variety of functions, including social media, listings, etc. 

Another easy to deploy unit - created here on the Jivox diy platform - is a Pushdown. Clicking on the Range Rover "Experience it now" button, pushes the ad down in to a larger size with a series of seven videos that show the new car. For product information and brand development, such as the automotive category, these large ads are ideal. 

Shown below is  the second horizontal formats, the billboard; also created by Jivox, with a video player plus three interactive features. The close box is top right, however, Minnium says that viewers seldom close these, since, unlike full page interstitials, viewers can still scroll down to the content below, or use the navigation. 

Full page options, such as the sidekick or slider, roll out from the ad (see first image below, on the Jivox platform). There has been more uptake for portraits and sidekicks from the B2B market since it allows advertisers to tell a story, or show a product demo. 

The next image shows how the ad slides out into an informational unit when clicked. 

Autotrader is now offering a home page SideKick to a major manufacture four times a year. The Chevrolet Sonic was the first advertiser on the page, taking advantage of the cool factor. Autotrader says the new unit exceeded all site benchmarks,  that the Sonic achieved "substantial lifts in terms of both volume and share, significantly outpacing other vehicles in the compact car segment in week-over-week volume change" and that searches for the Sonic increased 49 percent during the week of the campaign. The ads also generated significant traffic to Chevrolet's site, another key indicator of success (the ads do not appear to be on the site now). 

Chip Perry, CEO of Autotrader says demand for Overdrive is strong later this year. 

Though not a rising star ad, Jivox also offers antoher Rich Video in a banner ad option. Once the video is produced, the ad pops-up into a large ad when clicked.  

Looking ahead:  A new set of mobile ads developed by Jivox has just been approved by IAB. They closely resemble Rising Stars. However, these will not be fully standardized until the fall of 2012, and do not yet have easy ways to deploy.  Still worth being in contact with platform vendors who will certainly be working on ways to deploy these in the future. 

Here's a quick "to do" list for local media interested in developing larger and more interactive units:

*Commit to being able to deploy larger ads. Without these larger sizes, your options for more interactive ads are limited. The Billboard is a good size to incorporate, since the vertical format of the site does not have to change to acommodate the ad. Think of billboards on specialty channels, not just the home page. 

*If you cannot work with CMS changes, focus on selecting options that utilize your existing inventory; such as sidekicks, Jivox's video in a banner ad, pushdowns and Nowspot, skins and corner peels.

*Develop relationships with one or two vendors such as NowSpot and a RisingStar vendor from the list above.

*Create a rate card for large ad formats that include a variety of options, starting with the basics: Skins and pushdowns, a social media unit, and two Rising Stars.

*Identify large advertisers who may be interested in brand advertising. Large media companies should look at Kantar to identify broadcast accounts who may like these more interactive ads. 

*Test the ads by deploying one that takes donations for a local charity; or for print companies, a subscription promotion; for broadcast sites these are a great way to show a variety of station resources in one place in an interesting format. 

*Bonus the sales staff on the first sales to get the initiative kicked off. 

Many thanks to Peter Minnium, head of brand initiatives at the IAB. Contact him at at Peter@IAB.net.

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.