When the IAB showcased a collection of its Rising Star rich media units in February, there was genuine hope that these bold, splashy ads could inject new life into the increasingly savaged banner. But it’s unclear if that has happened just yet.
“I don’t think the banner ad is dead at all. It’s going through a transformation,” said Greg Rogers, co-founder and CEO of Pictela, a content marketing platform bought by AOL to help serve and scale large, interactive rich media ads—a focus of AOL’s much talked-about Project Devil.
Devil has received criticism for what some feel is slow implementation (it was launched in ‘10), causing many to wonder if rich media units can actually catch fire in the coming months.
“Advertisers have found that when you start with a completely blank page, you use enormous resources from creatives,” Rogers said of the production-dependent IAB units. Platforms like Pictela function as a content management system to alleviate this strain and give brands a DIY approach to building and tweaking complex display ads.
The Rising Star units (Filmstrip, Portrait, Slider, etc.) are in a nascent stage and often don’t have content management systems in place to support them. “I think there has been slow adoption not from lack of interest but from lack of execution and technology. These units take a lot of time to build,” Rogers said of some of the larger Rising Stars.
Yet Jennifer Creegan, general manager of display advertising experiences for Microsoft, said they have rolled out 200 Rising Star campaigns, resulting in significant brand perception and recall lifts compared to standard display. “I absolutely expect it to grow,” she said. “We are not done with the journey yet.”
Echoing Creegan, Kristine Welker, chief revenue officer at Hearst, said the publisher has had great success using Pictela for rich media. “Brands can pull in different content media that we can scale seamlessly and efficiently across all (25) of our platforms,” she said.
Peter Minnium, head of brand initiatives at IAB, notes that support for Rising Stars is widespread, yet it’s unclear how often the units are used. “It’s a sea or lake a mile wide, but we don’t know how deep it is,” he said. While the IAB notes that top 25 comScore properties like Yahoo, CBS and Glam Media all support Rising Stars, they are unsure whether sites like Amazon, Turner Digital, Vevo and Gannett support the units.
Tom O’Regan, chief revenue officer at Martini Media, notes that Rising Stars can work for targeted audiences but aren’t for everyone. “I think one of the problems with Rising Stars is that some of the companies that launched the ad units have less engaged audiences,” he said. “If you are a portal that does huge traffic and has mass reach, your audience is more transient...than premium content that he or she is passionate about.”
Outbrain’s vp of brands and agencies, Gilad de Vries, agreed. “Display is a valued medium for some messages but not always necessarily great for building brands,” he said. “The focus of marketers needs to be about making sure the message is not interruptive to the experience and relevant.”