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Display Advertising v. Graphical Ads

In last week’s coverage of changes at FM — including the departure of 7 staffers, mostly from the back office team that traffics banner campaigns — some news outlets covered the story as FM pulling back from “display advertising,” and, by implication, pulling back from traditional brand-advertising activities in favor of something else (what we call conversational marketing) which must not be, um, brand advertising.

It got me thinking about the phrase “display advertising,” and how it’s annoyed me that it’s lost so much meaning as it made its way from print to online. (I mis-used it myself in an interview with PaidContent, and didn’t put enough emphasis, apparently, on the subset of graphical ads to which I was referring, the “dumb” ones.)

In print, display advertising generally refers to the full-page ads that run in the main editorial sections of a magazine, as opposed to the smaller, often text-heavy classified ads at the back of the book. Advertisers would pay a premium rate for display ads, but not merely because they could use colors and pictures in the ads. They paid a premium because display ads did more than drive calls to the phone banks; the adjacency to the editorial content and the association with the publication’s brand helped advertisers *create* demand among readers who didn’t yet know they wanted or needed something. If that demand already existed, of course, the reader would have flipped to the back of the book, or picked up the yellow pages, to find a phone number. Some publications — the yellow pages, for example — offered classified advertisers the option to add colors and pictures, but that didn’t turn classified advertising into brand advertising. The yellow pages didn’t convince any of us to buy a new car while the old one still got us to work; those beautiful display ads and TV commercials did.

Online, however, the industry watchers call anything with colors, animation or graphics “display advertising.” The fact is, most online graphical ads are intended to do one thing: Drive clicks to retail opportunities. Contextual targeting engines, like Google’s AdSense algorithm or the technologies developed by various ad networks, are a fabulous evolution — perhaps you could say revolution — of the classified advertising model. Instead of organizing phone numbers and offers alphabetically or by category, the contextual targeting engines take an educated guess about your wants and needs based on the content you’re reading and push the classifieds to you. And that’s a wonderful thing. (Except when these “push classifieds” engines accidentally create embarrassing moments for their clients.)

But online banner ads still have a long way to go before they deliver to brand advertisers a messaging vehicle that’s as *native* to the online medium as display print ads were to the magazines in which they ran.

At FM we’re still very much in the banner-ad business. We just believe most banners aren’t living up to their potential. At the very least, they need to support the publications their customers love, not just rotate through a website’s ad inventory based on a bot’s logic. Ideally the banner ads are an opening to something bigger: A window into a brand’s broader online publishing strategy. Here’s how Dell and JCPenney are using ads to syndicate their content assets. If your customers use social networking platforms to have a conversation, figure out how you can join that conversation, like American Express is doing. If they love to connect with others by way of drawing, like certain BMW customers, let them color in your brand.

Whatever we do, let’s move beyond lame “graphical ads” that won’t create demand, no matter how well we target them.

Dell's Whitepaper Wiki on Digital Nomads

I bet Dell’s not the first brand to use wiki software to create a living whitepaper, but they set a high bar with What It Means to Be a Digital Nomad. I can’t think of a good reason why anyone would create a static PDF whitepaper anymore.

(Disclosure: FM works with Dell on parts of the Digital Nomads campaign.)

Dell's In-Page Video Ad Strategy: Much More Than Video Ads

“Dell may be on to something. In-page video advertising — industry slang for putting TV-style commercials on Web pages via display ad boxes — is quietly booming,” reports Forbes.

“The reason: While less than 1% of users click on banner ads, Jason Glickman, chief executive of video ad network Tremor Media, says fully 80% of the in-page video ads he serves play all the way through–the chief measure of their effectiveness.”

The discussion of in-page video advertising, though, misses the bigger opportunity. In-page video is about forcing a rich media brand message in front of a wider audience. Kind of blunt-instrument approach to advertising at a time when technologies like Tivo and built-in ad blockers are making it easy for consumers to dodge blunt instruments.

Dell goes a step further.

The Digital Nomads ads use video to catch your attention, but they are also an invitation to something bigger: A conversation around a tech-enabled mobile lifestyle, and a call for ideas (assembled as a crowdsourced whitepaper) on how Dell can build products that enhance that lifestyle.

Dell Digital Nomads

Ad units attached to another Dell campaign, ReGeneration, feature a thorough, interactive content experience piped into a 300×250-pixel section of a website. This isn’t about tweaking the TV advertising model to websites; it’s about brands becoming publishers and broadcasters within boxes formerly used for banner ads.

Print Ad Marketplace Gets Uglier: Dell Cancels Cover 4 Positions

From Ad Age:

“Dell has pulled out of its long-term contracts to run ads on the back covers of business magazines including Fortune and The Economist, a retreat that only underscores magazines’ vulnerability during this recession…. the broader recession is also combining with the challenges posed by digital media to put pressure on all media channels to prove their immediate worth.”

Dell Named Brand of the Year by SNCR

Society for New Comms Research logo

The Society for New Communications Research named Dell brand of the year:

“The Brand of the Year is awarded to the organization that made the most significant advances in utilizing new communications and social media tools, technologies and practices.

“‘New media tools are quickly transforming the nature of business-customer relationships,’ commented Paul Gillin, SNCR Senior Fellow and host of the 2008 Excellence in New Communications Awards program. ‘This year’s special award winners have the vision and success to provide a valuable example for others.’”

Congrats, Dell!

UPDATE 10/28: Jeremiah Owyang on some of the creative units Dell used.

New Dell Customer Credits Digital Nomads Campaign

New Dell Customer Credits Dig Nomads Campaign

Crowdsourcing Whitepapers at Dell's Digital Nomad Site

Dell launches Digital Nomads, a social media site where experts, Dell employees and visitors discuss their hopes and dreams for a better, more mobile future. And they’re inviting visitors to collaborate on a whitepaper that will define “digital nomads.”

Dell Digital Nomad Site

HP Print Ads Give Computer-Skin Contest Scale

At least twice a week I hear some variation of this question: “Gee, that conversational-marketing stuff is cool, but how does it scale?”

HP’s computer-skin design contest offers one answer. Back in September HP put out a call to artists who’d be interested in designing a notebook “skin” for an HP Pavillion, and 8,500 creations were submitted. HP then featured the winning design (by Joao Oliverira) in print ads to take the “Computer Is Personal Again” message to a significantly larger audience. Here it is, ripped from July’s issue of Wired:

HP ad in July 2008 Wired Magazine

Other examples: BMW, Dell, Haagen-Dazs and Intel sponsored Graffiti contests in Facebook.

Jeremiah Owyang and AdRants on Dell's Embed-able, Subscribe-able, Share-able Video Ad

“Federated Media Packs Banner With Features And It Works” is the headline at AdRants. Thanks, AdRants!

Jeremiah Owyang says Dell has:

“taken the next step by assembling some of the winning drawings and created an emebeddable flash player that shows the art work being created in time-lapse style. Yes, you can see how the engaged community of artists hand drew each of these ads…. Now you should be sharing this with your creative team (see the initial case study) and start to think about how your brand can start listening to your customers –- and allowing them to tell your story, rather than you always having to use a megaphone.”

Congratulations, James Gross, Andrew Bowins and the rest of the crew at Dell and FM that put this together.

Dell's Embed-able, Subscribe-able, Share-able Video Ad Gets Better

From James Gross’s site:

“It contains:
- a video player that redraws all six of the winning graffitis from the ReGeneration Contest. Currently runs on auto-play but could also be a click to play.
- At the top it pulls in the RSS feed from the latest post at
- an overlay that allow users to(more button):
- send to a friend
- subscribe to the RSS feed
- download the video
- embed the video on another site (like I’m doing)”

James asks his readers for feedback. Here’s the comment I posted:

“James–As you know, I’m a huge fan of this execution. Two things I especially like. One, while it’s sponsored by Dell, the content comes from its customers — Dell merely surfaces and promotes a real conversation (in this case, a visual conversation about the environment). Two, Dell encourages us to ‘steal’ the content and share with other people we think might be interested. This strikes me as a new paradigm: Dell isn’t using ads as teasers to get us to its website, instead it’s giving us its brand assets to take with us.”

Dell’s ReGeneration Graffiti Contest here.