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A New Generation of Online Ads
Branding Overtakes Direct Response as Goal

While the jury is out on the fate of pop-up advertising, newspaper publishers are busy developing the next generation of online-advertising formats that could more than fill the void.

"The industry is developing larger size units and different types of ads that will have maximum impact," says Jeff Webber, senior vice president and publisher of USAToday.com. Webber's site is about a month away from allowing advertisers to target their messages based on the demographic data its has been collecting through registration since February. In a simple sign-up form, USAToday.com asks each visitor for his or her ZIP code, sex, and age.

"The increased usage of broadband [access to the Internet] presents more opportunity to offer compelling marketing programs to our clients," adds Jason Krebs, vice president for sales at NYTimes.com. His site recently redesigned its article pages "so that there's a more-symbiotic relationship between the content and the advertising. You have a more natural, cleaner page."

NYTimes.com soft-launched its new half-page ads (336 by 800 pixels) in January and has gotten a good advertiser response, Krebs says. And the site has been running interstitial ads, which consist of a full page of advertising between editorial pages, for a little more than a year. These ads appear only in certain sections, such as "Arts" and "Travel," and amount to about 2% of the site's total ad inventory.

"Large size ads perform just as well as pop-ups" in terms of reader response, says Greg Stuart, CEO and president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, based in New York. "Pop-ups are a relatively small percentage of the whole mix."

Just last week, Unicast, an online- advertising company headquartered in New York, announced the availability of a new full-page ad unit that stays on a browser screen for 15 seconds before taking the user to the page requested.

"Larger sizes are growing in popularity," says David Teitler, vice president for advertising at PowerOne Media Inc., based in Troy, N.Y. He believes marketers will appreciate the half-page sizes because they run alongside the editorial content, just as in the printed newspaper. "It lends itself more to a branding atmosphere."

The larger units also are helping publishers sell their Web sites more as branding vehicles than as direct-response tools, Teitler says. "We have gone over-board by emphasizing 'trackability' and 'clickthroughs,'" he says. "The Internet obviously is more trackable than other media, but we've got to focus on the branding side of the business." He sees the inclusion of "Online Media" as a line item in traditional advertising-agency flow charts alongside "TV," "Radio," "Newspapers," and "Magazines" as a very positive sign. Teitler points to the McDonald's Corp.'s recent announcement it is shifting some of its ad budget from TV to the Web as another good harbinger.

Posted on aef.com: May 14, 2003


Carl Sullivan, Editor & Publisher Online. May 8, 2003

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