Bigger (advertising) is not better

Recently, two dozen members of the Online Publishers Association, a trade organization comprised of some of the most well-known and well-respected publishers on the web, announced their solution for attracting more brand advertising dollars….bigger ads. While I’m over simplifying the group’s initiative, it shocked me to see that the best that some of the leading online media brands could come up with was combining a few (already commonly used) interactive elements with a larger number of pixels. If this is the state of the art in online advertising, it’s no wonder that brand advertisers have been reluctant to invest more.

I previously wrote about how the model for so much of online advertising is broken. And I think it remains true that the industry’s approach to creative has not evolved to engage consumers on their own terms and in their own language. The fact is that the value of media (the real estate) in the online advertising equation is diminishing greatly. Volume growth in the online media exchanges is commoditizing media. Recognition by agencies that their long-term sustainability is tied to their data assets is increasing the importance and availability of high quality targeting data across the industry. While media and data are getting increasing attention, it seems that the third leg of the online advertising stool, ad creative, is still being ignored by most agencies and marketers. Without question, attempting something new with creative entails risk. But you rarely get skewered for attempting to engage your audience. In fact, in most cases, you only incite the wrath of consumers when you ignore, insult or bore them. Take the well-publicized Skittles example or the myriad other brands that have embraced the fact that online media allows them to engage and listen to consumers in an entirely new and valuable way. Consumers have spoken and they want to participate in or direct the conversation, not be broadcast to by brands.

Smart companies such as AppsSavvy, Context Optional and Dimestore Media are taking the lead in reinventing ad creative to deliver unique experiences to consumers and greater value to advertisers. I’m hopeful that we’ll see more of this innovation from the larger agencies as well as from startups. As an industry, we need widespread acknowledgement of the need for new creative models to avoid stunting the growth of brand advertising online.

3 thoughts on “Bigger (advertising) is not better

  1. Satya, 2 additional points that may be of interest to you in addition to this post.

    1. I wrote some similar thoughts earlier this week and wondered, ‘So what happens when the larger ads don’t work?’ —

    2. We’re trying to tackle the problem of a new creative model by helping people create ads for their peers —

    Keep on keeping on with the good, critical thinking and writing.

  2. There was a letter in a recent edition of Mensa magazine from a member who’s job it is to test for creativity and imagination in problem solving. He was unhappy to report that these abilities were clearly more present in 14-year-olds than in 24-year-old graduates, the inference being that necessary processes involved in achieving success in the educational system itself are responsible for this deterioration. I suspect you’re only likely to see greater and greater deterioration in creativity in advertising and indeed everywhere else until this fundamental problem is addressed. I think home-schooling’s the only way to go myself.


  3. All too often, companies focus on larger to get results. This is that they seem to think that we are all blind or stupid.
    Marketing has to appeal to the viewer. Many of us are not going to scroll to see the rest of an image that is displayed, but if you put the content in front of us in a simple but appealing manner, we will remember it and are more likely to use the product or service.
    Branding is about being remembered, and simple but creative marketing will always get results.

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