Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Banner Ads on Social Media Guest List

If you've ever faced opposition trying to convince a traditional media advocate to participate in social media, you know that even when you finally receive a tentative "green-light," you are often given the directive to control the conversation to the point of strangling it. Marketers, especially, seem to have trouble moving beyond the top-down, one-way communication strategies that are no longer effective in a world where people trust their peers more than advertisers and so-called experts.

As marketing begins to make the shift to social media, we have the opportunity to witness the baby steps that companies will employ to address a fundamental change in the way we understand advertising as a whole. For example, consider "AdFrames" from

"AdFramesSM is a performance-based ad offering designed specifically for brand advertisers."

AdFrames are media-rich advertisements (fully expandable videos) that are priced based on a cost-per-engagement model. The idea of charging a company only for advertisements that users engage in is designed to encourage more effective advertisements and greater accountability on the part of the advertising firm. However, the problem is that VideoEgg defines "engagement" in this context as users scrolling over a video advertisement long enough for it to expand. What is not accounted for is whether or not the user responded in some way to the ad. Was the advertisement enjoyable? Did it entertain, inform, persuade? Tracking the length of time that ads are viewed will not answer these questions.

The challenge in merging banner ads with social media is to allow users to truly "engage" with the advertisement in the same way that someone might interact with a blog -- by leaving comments, sharing it with their friends, and even, being able to change the outcome of the ad itself. VideoEgg uses real-time RSS feeds to update an ad experience, for instance, by updating an ad to reflect the top-scoring team at a basketball game. But, what if fans could control the ad through real-time comments, interactions, or votes that influenced the next display? Would you remember an advertisement that you changed?

Change is definitely on the way. Today,
Pluck and Avenue ARazorfish announced that "the two companies have signed an agreement to develop and market the industry's first offering to inject social media features like customer comments and user-generated content into mainstream digital advertisements." Instead of giving advertisers more control over the message they deliver, users will finally be given the chance to make ads meaningful to their experience.

It sure beats shooting a duck to win a prize.