A Look at New and Emerging Ad Formats

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By Andy Wiedlin, Chief Revenue Officer, BuzzFeed

Today, as we consider new formats for digital advertising, I’m reminded of the famous Einstein quote on the definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

From the origin of the consumer Internet, banners have been the primary advertising vehicle. They’ve been ignored, maligned and largely ineffective. In a mobile/broadband world, we have virtually unlimited supply and decreasing demand. This is an economic prescription for disaster.

An Einstein companion quote is “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. Social, mobile and video make the world of banners obsolete and dead.
Yet some advertisers and publishers insist on doing the same thing and expect better results. The newest savior is “Big Data”: if we just use more data we’ll get this broken down jalopy to run.

Many advertisers and publishers continue to support the Banner Industrial Complex because of inertia and apathy. “It’s easy”, “there is a marketplace” and “it is standard”. We’ve known for years that the emperor has no clothes, yet we continue to invest in a broken system. It’s as if advertisers and publishers joined hands at the top of the John Hancock building, jumped over the side and, as they plummet toward the inescapable end, they murmur to each other “ok so far…ok so far…”.

Enough. There are better ways. Social/Mobile/Video has made the Internet even more awesome, and the in-charge consumer can find new and delightful things, engage with them, and share them with their friends. Advertisers and publishers need to embrace the hard reality that consumers are in complete control. The days of interruptive advertising are over and forward thinking brands are demanding a better way.

If all content is social, then advertising should be too. There is a new type of digital advertising that is emerging: one that is respectful of consumers, offers them engaging content, and encourages them to share it on the brand’s behalf.  Social Advertising requires the advertiser and publisher to put the consumer first and create and promote interesting and delightful content that they can share with their friends. It’s not as easy as trafficking banners, but rarely is “easy” worthwhile and powerful.

Much like paid search changed the Internet a decade ago, Social Advertising is a new and powerful model that consumers embrace because of a fair value exchange: they get awesome content that makes them look clever and cool when they share with their friends. Brands get word of mouth marketing at scale. And publishers can build profitable businesses that align with consumer behavior.

It won’t necessarily be easy. Brands have been in the “pay to say” advertising business forever. And digital publishers have been banner addicts since the beginning; and when you’re a junkie, it’s hard to give up the junk. As we create and develop new formats for digital advertising, let’s have the good sense to put the consumer first and the courage to do what is right, not what’s easy.

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