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In a Hostile World, Ad Blockers Make Things Worse

An ad-blocking software company has raised over $25,000 to wage a campaign to let people know they don’t have to see online ads. Its new goal is to raise $50,000 more to buy a billboard on Times Square. According to the founder,

We’re going to use ads to get rid of ads. We will use the money raised to make AdBlock banner ads and video commercials, and we will show these across the internet to people who don’t have AdBlock. If we raise enough, we will implement our craziest advertising ideas and capture the whole world’s imagination.

There’s a fine sense of irony at play here. Even the founder of ad blocking software realizes that to get the word out about almost any product or service, you have to use advertising!

If I didn’t find this hypocritical, I’d find it hilarious. After all, he also wants you and your friends to view ads to learn about his company, and he’s willing to pay publishers for the privilege of showing banners and videos.

It only shows you one thing: how deeply advertising is embedded in our culture, and how in a global world where you want to reach more people than you know individually, advertising of some kind is essential.

This is not the same as saying that we should all be patient with intrusive, useless ads. Rather, it’s time for both advertisers and publishers to get their respective acts together and use the capabilities given them by big data and similar technological advances to target better audiences with more useful messages.

Advertising in the future must be –USEFUL. It must serve a purpose. Its purpose could be to inform, to entertain, to teach, or to create convenience for the customer. It should appear only when the customer is willing to receive it. (yes, ZEDO sells the InView Slider and the InArticle video ad, so we’ve got a horse in this race.

And here’s the tough part: the customer who receives it must recognize its utility. In this data-rich environment, there’s no reason to serve porn to children or Viagra ads to old ladies, and yet that still happens. Careless publishers who don’t examine their user data sell the wrong ads to unsuspecting audiences. Careless agencies and brands who don’t mine their customer data and don’t look at the publishers’ data should not be buying ads in environments that are known not to be brand safe for them. The numbers are out there.

But so are the incentives. The agency wants to get the brand greater “reach.”  The publisher wants to sell more ads. This results in misaligned targeting, ads that don’t work, and angry visitors. And the poor ad server in the middle gets an email that says “get your stinking ads off my computer.”

This does not have to happen. Blocking ads is throwing the baby out with the bath water. But it is doomed to happen unless we in the advertising and publishing industry get our acts together and quit making decisions based on raw numbers and start making decisions based on accurate, target, information. We need to work together to fix this before a disgruntled public fixes it for us.

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Notes From the Changing Digital Media Industry

Isn’t it fun being in the digital media business? Whether you are advertising side or the publishing side — and as a provider of high impact formats for premium publishers to sell direct and brand advertisers to buy, ZEDO is on both sides of the table — you know that once again we’re undergoing rapid changes.

The biggest change, of course, is the move to mobile. AOL announced last week that it is redoing all of its content sites for mobile. (Last year we gave ZEDO’s own site a responsive design facelift). Ad Age says

AOL is planning to redesign all of its content sites with responsive design — an approach intended to optimize a site’s layout across devices with different screen sizes — during the coming months, according to Jay Kirsch, president of technology and entertainment at AOL.The change in design is meant to streamline the ad sales and display process, Mr. Kirsch said, speaking to a reporter during a dinner at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Responsive web design will let AOL serve ad space on its mobile and desktop websites from the same portal rather than sell mobile and desktop display separately.

In a different, but related move, the New York Times’ internal agency Idea Lab has begun working on interactive formats that make new use of the banner ad. One, for GE, involved a Google Hangout that a viewer could watch through a banner at on the Times.

With mobile and desktop merging, interactive ads and high impact formats become more important. For example, there’s ZEDO’s new shuffle ad format, which shuffles among two or three different ads. The animation in this format keeps engagement high. Best, this uses normal ad sizes and is really simple to use even if ZEDO isn’t your ad server. You don’t need to change the page layout, and you still get extra impressions and revenue. No site release is required. The format can double or triple your ad impressions; since the animation keeps the performance (CTR) high, you will make money from the first day.  And you can serve Shuffle Ads above or below the fold and for any creative dimension.

 

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What Comes After the Banner?

Thank goodness Jeff  Rosenblum wrote this post so we don’t have to. Banner ads do not work. They are outdated. Moreover, in Jeff’s own words,

many advertisers have taken this bottom-of-the-funnel tool and used it to build awareness and interest in their products. They are using it as a top and middle-of-the-funnel tool. This doesn’t work and the reason is simple: The units we use are too small. To build awareness, you need something that is either a lot more interruptive, disruptive or engaging. Because publisher sites have so many links and so much content, nobody wakes up in the morning saying, “Hey, I want to see a banner ad.” There is not enough visual impact to build awareness.

Because we have been serving banner ads to premium publishers since 1999, we have been in a unique position to witness the decline and almost total collapse of  the banner’s effectiveness. For a while, we moaned like everyone else in the industry. And then we decided that if we were truly going to be the thought leaders we wanted to be, we would have to dream up something better.

And so we went to work. The most engaging of all the high impact ad formats we have developed and delivered this here is our full screen video. The ad lives not in a banner, but in a conventional video box, where it appears to the viewer as totally black with a play arrow right in the center. You can see an example on CNBC.com.

The impact of that ad format has been dramatic; much like that of a wrapped Christmas gift. The viewer is almost forced to interact with the ad, to see what’s underneath. When she clicks on the arrow, the video expands to full screen, capturing the attention even more. Of course you can always turn it off, or press escape to get out of full screen, but once you start watching it, on any size display, there’s no question it draws attention to itself.

And that’s what advertisers want most right now: viewable impressions, followed by engagement.

Jeff, we left the banner behind early this past year. Our menu of high impact formats is available now, not just on the drawing board like so many others.

 

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Video Advertising: More Effective, More Challenging

It won’t be long before video ads will be the most important form of advertising online, gradually replacing banners for marketers who want real engagement and results. EMarketer has had some interesting articles on the way in-page video ads perform as compared to the performance of banner ads. Not surprisingly, the differences are dramatic.

We have noticed this at at ZEDO for a long time, and we’re developing new formats for in-page video, and measuring the effectiveness of our Inview ad formats through our partnership with comScore.  We’ve gotten the numbers to 99% in view for the slider, and now we’re working to guarantee that our video ads are brand safe, which is more important with video than with banner ads, because video is more fully integrated into content and also more engaging.

Marketers will usually consider the content of a given website upon which they place a banner ad, but less frequently will they consider the context – the actual nature of the text, videos, and/or pictures against which the ad is juxtaposed. This is because most people will create a natural disconnect between a banner ad and a piece of text.

But video is far more integrated, and a video advertisement can often bleed directly into the hosting video itself.

EMarketer’s articles say that while the standard banner may be increasingly seen as an underperforming  format, other newer formats, such as takeover and video ads will help advertisers get  higher engagement. When MediaMind compared dwell rate and average dwell duration for polite banners to several more interactive formats, such as homepage takeovers, interactivity and creativity won out. A homepage takeover lifted dwell rates 32% over those for a polite banner, and lifted average dwell duration 67%.

Another article talks about dwell and duration rates for Rich Media ads with and without video. Of course, they’re higher with video.

Dwell rate measures the percentage of rich media impressions users intentionally engaged with by touch, interaction or click. Dwell duration is the length of time the user remains exposed to an ad after first engaging with it. To further ensure the validity of the dwell rate measure, all interactions lasting less than 1 second were removed.
The fact that the new iPads come equipped with 4GLTE and have extremely fast download speeds opens the flood gates for rich media advertising, especially video. In the near future, there will be news networks that will stream all day, as Al Jazeera does now. There are also specialty networks, like TWiT, that livestream online tech news.
The core reason for my going into this business has always been my believe that online advertising can be as effective as TV. It will be.

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Inview Slider Ad Format Gains Acceptance

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Advertising generates the money publishers need to continue offering readers information. Since most online content is free, advertising revenue helps publishers afford to create and publish information. Television programming has commercials for the same reason. In print and in broadcast, consumers tolerate ads, and in some cases actually admire them for their creativity. On the Internet, however, that hasn’t been the case.

As the advertising technology partner to many publishers for the past decade, we’ve borne the brunt of consumers’ anger and intolerance toward advertising. We keep listening, and trying to come up with better solutions. What can we do to help our publisher partners generate revenue without annoying their readers?

Banner ads alone cannot support quality publishing. Since the supply of banner ad space is high, their rates have come down significantly, which forces publishers to look at innovative means of generating online advertising revenue without disturbing readers unduly. But readers let publishers know loud and clear that popups weren’t the answer. Nor, of course, do readers want anything installed on their computers. We listen. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be the largest independent advertising technology player worldwide.

The pressure from readers keeps us innovating. Now we think we have something truly “great” in the InView Sliders. The InView Slider ads, because they are unobtrusive, bridge the gap between insufficient high quality advertising space available and the publishers’ revenue requirements. They help make up the revenue gap, and protect free content produced by quality writers.

The InView Slider glides across your field of vision without obstructing much content, then allows itself to be viewed, and then quietly retreats. It’s a “friendly” form of advertising.

If you are seeing InView Sliders from ZEDO, it’s because you visited a website that uses our ad delivery technology to generate revenue. It means you have helped a publisher provide unrestricted access to the content you want to read, without sacrificing your privacy and security. We are getting great feedback about the new format. For the first time ever we have received an email from a newspaper to say that she loves the format and the ads she sees “sidling up to her”.

To provide as much content as possible to as many people as possible, publishers use advertising to keep the cost of access low or free. It’s the time-honored way of doing business for newspapers, magazines, and now online websites. This great innovation in advertising from ZEDO allows consumers to get more great content for free. And it allows advertisers to tell consumers about their great new products in a fun friendly way.
Welcome the new InView Sliders from ZEDO.

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