The New York Times has notched a number of advertising firsts lately in its ongoing effort to make marketing messages more engaging, and today it’s unwrapping another one.
Bank of America is running a takeover unit at the top of the NYTimes.com homepage that when clicked, will activate a Webcast of the Times’ Schools for Tomorrow education conference. It’s the first time an advertiser has hosted a live Webcast of a Times conference within an ad unit.
The ad unit is expected to carry the entire all-day conference, which was scheduled to kick off at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday. BofA videos featuring Sal Khan, the founder of the online education site Khan Academy and a keynote speaker of the conference, will play until the start of the conference, of which BofA is a sponsor. (No annoying auto-play ad here; you have to click to activate the ad, and the player will stay confined to the banner ad. The ad is a homepage-only experience, too, so it won't follow the viewer if he or she leaves the page.)
The Times has allowed advertisers to run hand-picked editorial content in ad units before; examples are here and here. In those cases the articles were archived (lest it look like the edit side served up content to suit an advertiser’s purpose). Through its Idea Lab, the Times has also drawn inspiration from editorial executions for new ad units. What sets apart the BofA example is that the content is live and streaming.
Meredith Kopit Levien, evp of advertising at the Times and a recent hire from Forbes—which has been aggressive in introducing new ad formats in its own right—said that the idea for the BofA unit grew out of a discussion about the bank’s support of the conference.
“As with any of our content partnerships, we looked for a way to extend it beyond the people in the room,” Levien said. “The conference is about the intersection between technology and education, and there’s no better way to promote that than through technology.”
The ad also represents the demand by marketers today to align with, create and use content to get the attention of ad-weary consumers in fresh ways, a trend that’s given rise to new forms of content marketing and its cousin, native advertising. In this case, BofA isn’t creating the content itself or trying to dress up an ad message as real editorial content; rather, its unit is a modern update on the "brought-to-you-by" sponsorship model where the conference is the content.
“The need for marketers to be associated with content and to use content is a huge thing driving the market right now,” Levien said.
The Times, along with design and ad agency Pickle Group, worked with BofA to develop the unit. The newspaper has been focusing on measuring online ads in ways other than clicks, and as such, it'll gauge the BofA ad's success based on views and total viewing minutes, given the expectation that viewers will hop on and off throughout the day.