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09/08/2009 Interesting New Ad Format; Same Crappy Banners

This weekend I noticed that the New York Times had introduced a new banner format, one that I hadn't seen them use before (and one that my NYT media rep hadn't told me about :-(). It was a persistent 300x600 online banner that followed me down the page. One of the challenges with online banners is that it's easy to ignore them by simply scrolling past them. Not here.

The persistent banner was part of my viewing experience. Since it was there the whole time, it was very hard to miss and harder to ignore. One reason is that it's strange for the eye to see everything scrolling except for one thing: the banner. Your eye makes its way over, just to see what's going on. Maybe that will change as we get used to this format. What I did notice was that the consistent placing made the ads feel as if they were more part of my Web browsing experience.

The other thing the new ad format did was that it removed a lot of clutter. You see this a lot in newspapers: since the online ads don't bring in as much revenue as print, they fill pages up with different kinds of advertising hoping this shotgun approach yields something. The result is a very busy layout and advertising you can't wait to skip over.

I have seen ads like this before. The Swedish afternoon paper Aftonbladet has had these for a while, but their ads were jerky and slowed down the whole browser. Their technology wasn't up to the task. Not so on the Times, everything was smooth and seamless.

I have to admit I liked this a lot and not only because I create online advertising for my clients. I like that the Times is looking for ways to make banners more integrated and effective. I certainly like this a lot better than the takeover ads. I'm looking forward to see how this develops and will certainly look into for my clients.

One thing the new ad format can't help, unfortunately, is the creative. I got stuck looking at what I think is one of the worst branding campaigns this year: TD Bank. TD is changing its name, as it's shedding its r remnant from a Vermont bank takeover, the name BankNorth. They've been buying a ton of all sorts of advertising proclaiming TD as America's most convenient bank and using convenient celebrities Regis and Kelly. Excuse me; I have to grab another sick bag.

I don't know about the rest of the country, but Regis and Kelly seem to have nothing to do with my community bank. Do they, somehow, represent local and convenience? Maybe I'm just cynical, but to me they represent overpaid, under talented media celebrities who have nothing to do with local banking.

If TD Bank really wanted to become America's most convenient bank they'd take all of their marketing dollars and start developing some innovative, customer focused services, like USAA, MoBank, or the other banks on Mint's Best Bank Account List.

For the New York Times consistent ads: Good format, lousy content. Hopefully the online ad creatives will step up to the plate more, now that we have better tools.


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