In the digital ad world, where static, unimaginative banner ads have been the standard unit for years, innovation is slowly breathing life into the drab and increasingly detested format.
ESPN.com today (Friday, Jan. 4) is rolling out its first dynamic wallpaper ad, which in anticipation of Monday's BCS national title game between Alabama and Notre Dame, allows visitors to the site to vote for the winner and watch one of two school-specific trailers geared toward amping up college football fans for the game. The dynamic nature of ESPN.com's ad means that as users vote, the ad will change color to match the leading school's colors (blue for Notre Dame and crimson for Alabama), adding a layer of gamification-like intrigue to the matchup.
The ad is large, appearing throughout and bordering almost all of ESPN.com's homepage above the fold, yet mostly unintrusive for those who want to bypass the video showcase component, which features the HD wide-screen school trailers—sharable on both Facebook and Twitter.
For ESPN, the placement is an example of the kind of digital ad innovation the sports giant is looking to build upon in the coming year. With much of its traffic and content built around live sporting events, ESPN.com will enjoy many opportunities to play with digital ads geared toward marquee events like the BCS title game. While ESPN's devoted and focused audience helps to pay for the research and innovation necessary to experiment like this in the digital realm, products like this dynamic wallpaper ad are no doubt enticing for other publishers looking to move beyond the static ad experiences of the past decades.
And while many will complain of ad intrusiveness, for some weary, banner-blind Web denizens the ad will be a welcome respite from the status quo.