I’ll share a guilty pleasure that few people outside digital advertising will understand: with the release of every new cutting-edge gadget, I can't wait to see the amazing advertising that is certain to follow.
You readers know what I’m talking about: remember the True Blood ad on the iPhone, complete with bloody fingerprints all over the screen? I didn’t stumble upon that ad - I sought it out. It’s true for anything with a screen that can/will serve an ad. Read this New York Times article from March 2010 to recapture some of the excitement around the launch of the first iPad. Each new device is not only a technological achievement, but opens the doors to new ways to create experiences for consumers.
Considering my fascination with these creatives and my role as an evangelist for ad operations - the people who make these ads actually appear on all these devices - you would think I could spin a lot of tales of how these mini-masterpieces came to be. The sad truth is these creative executions are by far an anomaly for what is getting served. After the buzz is gone, it’s back to settling for standard ad sizes that we know in our heart of hearts aren’t effective. Ever cry because a mobile banner ad moved you to do so? I didn’t think so.
We’ve done this to ourselves. Instead of setting a high standard for creative, we've set a low standard on what an acceptable ad unit is. Standard ad sizes make budgets move faster and more efficiently, but also make everything we do a commodity. It’s like wiring a house with a fuse box that can’t support a tv, refrigerator, washer/dryer and keep the lights on at the same time.
I’m not suggesting we get rid of standards. I’m suggesting that we not let go of the magic so quickly. Let's spend more time upfront trying to figure out how to get bigger, better creatives to work efficiently, and set the bar higher on what we serve up.
This is of particular importance as we see changes in media consumption patterns. The norm is quickly becoming that people are looking at more than one screen at a time. If "banner blindness" has already set in when people are staring at their computer displays, imagine when they are watching their television, looking something up on their tablet and texting someone on their smartphone. Advertising relegated to designated dead areas won't be seen, and the value will continue to plummet.
I think we look to the second screen pioneers for direction. Companies like Squawka, Screenreach and Zeebox are pushing into new creative executions and working on how to do them efficiently and at scale. Screenreach, for example, offers a platform through its app, Screach, that enables consumers to use their smartphones as controllers as they interact with large public screens or just the phone in their hand. A recent campaign with Cadbury placed a giant screen in a Dublin shopping center, which customers were then able to use to play a 'Move the Square' game using Screach on their personal phones.
With campaigns like this, efficiency is important as many "never been done before" ad campaigns can quickly become "never see profitability" unless someone is behind the scenes looking at how to deliver with speed and precision. These are the technologists, the digital strategists, the ad operations professionals who fight this fight. For me, these are the people that have the best stories to tell and that's why I love the part of my job that brings them together for events like Screens to talk about how to make these new ad creatives happen again and again.
Because at the end of the day, wouldn't it be a shame that in a time of incredible technological advancement in personal computing that digital advertising set the bar too low for what we can deliver?
Rob Beeler is Vice President of Content and Media for AdMonsters and has worked in Ad Operations for over 15 years. Rob oversees the development of content for AdMonsters events and is Editor in Chief for AdMonsters.com.
The Drum has teamed up with Admonsters to bring the Screens event to London on 19 November. Speakers will include the BBC, Zeebox and Screach among many others.