Bigger Ad Units, Badder Facebook Pages, & Burgeoning Social Networks Oh My!

Posted: March 10, 2009 in Agencies, Social Media, Standards, The Marketing Industry, Trends

402px-the_thinker_auguste_rodinShame, shame, shame on me for breaking my own blog rules. The last 2 weeks has been the longest I’ve gone without updating The Digital Blur in a very long time. I apologize to my regular readers and have adequately reprimanded myself…

So, a lot has happened in the last two weeks!

Last week the 4A’s (American Association of Advertising Agencies) conference concluded. Thanks to the wonders of Twitter, I was able to stay up to date on the major sound bytes throughout the days, as they were happening, thanks to some of my fellow colleagues, like David Smith of Mediasmith (thanks David and others!). There were many discussions regarding the value of digital marketing, how agencies can deal with the shifts to social media and generally the economics of making money offering digital advertising and marketing services. But more on that in its own post…

Bigger Ad Units

For at least the last year or so, many in the industry have been screaming from the mountaintops that online advertising needs to become more creative, engage consumers better, establish more value and prove that it can push the needle for marketers. Last month Randal Rothernberg from the IAB posted a passionate manifesto and a call for the industry to step up (worth a read by the way). Today the Online Publishers Association released a press release regarding a proposal for three new standard ad units:

  • The Fixed Panel (recommended dimension is 336 wide x 860 tall), which looks naturally embedded into the page layout and scrolls to the top and bottom of the page as a user scrolls.
  • The XXL Box (recommended dimension is 468 wide x 648 tall), which has page-turn functionality with video capability.
  • The Pushdown (recommended dimension is 970 wide x 418 tall), which opens to display the advertisement and then rolls up to the top of the page.

While we know that bigger units have proven over time to increase both brand measures and direct response, we as an industry are still missing one of the fundamental challenges. We work with a different media currency than other media. While most media sells audience (impressions = audience / reach), the digital industry sells gross impressions (reach x frequency). Savvy media buyers request frequency caps and plan around reach & frequency, but from what reps tell me, this is the exception and not the rule. Likewise many buyers don’t even track the depth of metrics available. With the currency difference measurement is key. One last point is that accountability does not by default equal direct response. All approaches are measurable and more accountable online, not just DR.

Badder Facebook Pages

Yes that’s “Badder” in the good sense of the word! Last week Facebook converted “fan pages”  into the marketers’ equivalent of a Facebook profile, complete with the inclusion of all activity into friends’ feeds (so far the holy grail of Facebook). It’s amazing how much steam Facebook has picked up in the last 18 months. Or is it? Maybe they simply built a better mousetrap, so to speak. The experience, social graph connections and permission based ecosystem that Facebook provides is far superior at attracting the general public than other social networks. Historically (albeit a short history), Facebook has not been overtly focused on ad sales like the other social nets. The advertising products available have been innovative, and where possible, take advantage of incorporating social graph data. There has been no cost for marketers to create groups or fan pages, nor to distribute applications. Many marketers have been quite successful at engaging consumers in this manner.  The conversion of fan pages into business profiles and having the activity included in the Facebook news feed will create far more engagement. This was a great move, and inevitably the customization and tools attached to this can be a future source of revenue for Facebook.

Burgeoning Social Networks

(forewarning of a little sarcasm and devil’s advocate positioning to follow)

Nielsen reported today that as of Dec ’08, social network and blog activity has surpassed email,  as the now 4th most popular activity on the web.  Newsflash – social media is growing faster than other media – well…all together now – DUH! Heck, 3 of the top 10 websites are social media.


But let’s dig into this a bit, shall we…

Nobody is unaware of the fact that social media is exponentially growing. Also, let’s be realistic, how much can email (or search or portal) reach grow? We’d have to invent a whole new population for that. Tracking email reach, which involves installed clients, may not provide the complete picture here. Either way – does it really matter? Email isn’t going away. In fact, the more social media you participate in, the more email becomes the glue where you receive reminders that there is a message waiting for you  in one of your social inboxes.  I actually predict a social media shake out at some point – people have information and inbox overload. Ultimately, an inbox is an inbox is an inbox, right? From the consumer’s point of view, some of their email is now just heading to a different inbox. Even consumers accessing content via RSS feeds will reduce their reliance on email for accessing similar content, including our marketing communication. Of course, from a marketer’s perspective access to these inboxes, and the loss of control, is a whole other ball game and that is the angle here.  The bigger picture is a general shift from “push” to “pull” – from outbound communication totally controlled by the marketer, to inbound communication controlled by the consumer. I would have loved to see the Nielsen report broken out demographically. I have seen research that shows the younger generations abandoning the frequent daily use of email as a regular communication channel in favor of social networks, but nothing indicates email is going away from a reach perspective. Even according to the Nielsen report – it’s the second fastest growing activity on the web. The web has always had its roots in communities and they have always garnered a fair share of traffic and participation and always will. Email is dead – long live email.

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