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08/25/2009 If Only Online Advertising Were Like Early TV

A recent report by Dynamic Logic claims that smaller display ads, you know, those little buttons stacked neatly on top of each other, have a greater impact than bigger, more intrusive ads, like Leaderboards or Big Ads.

Just to confuse us, Dynamic Logic then goes on to state that Rich Media ads with video perform best of all. Simple Flash ads perform worst of all.

That would make sense, except for the fact that none of the smaller ads use Rich Media but many use Flash. So small ads perform best except for Rich Media ads that are never small ads.

To make sure no one's feelings are hurt, they fess up that size doesn't matter; it's all about the creative, really. And most ads don't work because the creative isn't very good, and its all the agency's and media planning department's fault.

Let's get real about this. Most online advertising is an afterthought. The ads are the bastard children of print or TV ads with all the style of the former but with no substance. Since most don't work, the DIY crowd rightfully creates dancing mortgage seekers, or worse, that perform better.

Despite the IAC's best intentions and larger formats, none of this will change until we start seeing marketers start the campaign online, and then move that to traditional. Has anyone ever heard of a TV spot coming from a Rich Media ad, rather than vice versa? The best online ads seem to show up when there's not a repurposing of the traditional ads, like the Tiger Woods banners, or the well-done takeover campaigns by Deep Focus for True Blood and Mad Men.

The latter is clearly the wave of the future as it pulls out the creative stops by embedding relevant content with creative on key sites, rather than blasting out ads all over a content network. The thought and detail that has to go into something like this, or even a well done rich media ad like the VW Twitter analyzer, is surprising only because we're not used to seeing the attention and creative power focused on online advertising.


I'm still hoping to see a parallel with early TV. The first few years were terrible. Then young directors realized that there were far fewer rules in the new medium and started creating for TV instead of Hollywood. They were so successful that they either became big name directors (Robert Altman, Sidney Lumet) or Hollywood simply remade the TV shows into Oscar Winners (Marty).

The opportunity is there. The question is whether enough of us will pay attention to it.


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