Quick, Name Your favourite Banner Ad From The Last Month

Banner ads

Maybe you thought of one that wasn’t your own campaign, although that’s likely not the case. Now ask your next-door neighbour the same question – or even a friend –anyone who doesn’t work in advertising. Chances are their response will be a blank stare, followed by an awkward silence. And that’s really too bad. Because chances are they could be the “perfect” impression to buy.

Now ask those same people what their favourite TV commercial was over the past month or even year and they’ll likely have a response or at least be able to remember one; maybe even get all teary-eyed or break out laughing as they describe those memorable 30 seconds.

I’m not saying this to pit digital against TV; I’m merely attempting to demonstrate where creative effort and budget is predominantly focused.

TV is easy from an options perspective. It’s the same platform and big screen regardless of what show the ad is running on. With digital, there is so much technology to use, so much data, so many possibilities and creative formats to make an “engaging experience,” or have an “interactive story unfold.” All too frequently creative is forced down a particular path. Impressions come fast and cheap in this new world of exchange-traded,data-driven media. So even when you get in front of the right person at theright time, if your campaign’s creative or message isn’t good – it’s simply ignored.

With online display revenues at the top five ad-selling companies expected to grow to $18.57 billion by 2013, according to eMarketer, marketers need to ensure that they are making the most of their campaign dollars – by applying more focus on creative.

I recently caught up with Michael Lowenstern, ManagingDirector of Digital Advertising for R/GA. In simple terms, he broke down the value of creative and the brand story that “real” people connect with:

“Think about it: your mum and your brother don’t see an online ad and say, ‘Hey, that’s some impressive bit of targeting.’ If they notice it at all, it’s because of the creative,” he said.

“To paraphrase the great Howard Gossage, ‘People don’t read ads. They read what interests them, and hopefully it’s your ad.’ That ‘interest’ can come in the form of a story, a piece of functionality, an offer, whatever. But if what you present isn’t interesting, no amount of targeting is going to make it so. Likewise, if you are telling an otherwise interesting story, or have a great offer, or are offering up a cool web app, but it’s in the wrong place, or shown at an inconvenient time to a viewer, it’s nearly as invisible. And if what you create isn’t beautifully executed, with the highest degree of craft, people (who are used to beautiful technology, thank you Apple) will dismiss it altogether.” 

I agree with Michael but I’d also posit there’s an overall misperception in the industry that a display ad campaign has to be big and intrusive like TV to be effective. Will you always need the homepage takeover with glass-shattering screens, cars zooming around the page or even the whole page sliding across for the coveted “larger creative canvas” to get a consumer’s attention?

Simply put: no. Consumers engage with ads that speak to them, have compelling creative, leverage the strengths of the ad technology powering it and are placed appropriately.

With the 2012 upfronts we saw a new and exciting approach emerge for agencies around breaking down walls and working together; TV and digital media worlds are being united within a few of these agencies. They now plan and buy more holistically, as increasing numbers of content-providers offer their viewership across multiple screens. But the majority of agencies still have silos of people, often under the same roof, who should be collaborating much more closely inorder to be on the same page, across media and creative, social and mobile,display and search teams.

Lowenstern agrees, citing that:

“Media and creative must be briefed together, they need to establish common KPIs (which is often easier said than done), and they need to plan together. Common insights, common goals, and the proper technological ‘glue’ that holds the media and creative elements together, are what make effective campaigns.” 

The machines in place to help make better buying decisions are great but will only get you so far. Everyone involved from media to creative to technology providers must first recognise and agree upon the advertiser’s KPIs. Only then can everyone work in concert to fulfil the advertiser’s goals.

Right now, creative, more than any other component of advertising, must no longer be an afterthought. Instead, advertisers need to use everything that can be gathered about a user to reach them, and then engagethem with a smart, well-crafted, relevant piece of creative. The consumer receiving the ad may not gush over the storyline or talk about it the next day at work like they did for the TV spot – that’s not the point. Creative is what people notice, react, and respond to. And if you do it right, the impression will not be wasted.

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