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Hearst Sites Launch Disruptive HD Ads

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Web Surfers, prepare for more disruptions.

As consumers ignore traditional online banner ads, Web publishers have tried to replace them with higher-impact and more lucrative ads. In one of the latest examples, Hearst Magazines is launching next-generation ad units that will let advertisers serve up high-definition, streaming video in real time.

The ads, which also are large-format units, tap into a greater interest among advertisers to eschew the traditional preroll ad for spots that look more like editorial content.

Hearst will launch the units with Gillette, which will promote its Venus Bikini Kit via custom videos that will run on Cosmopolitan.com. The videos will feature a lifestyle expert who gives sunbathers tips on finding the best swimsuit for their body type. The product will be mentioned in grooming tips interspersed in the videos. There also will be a click-to-buy option.

The campaign was created using technology platform Pictela and includes one of the large-size, interruptive units launched by the Online Publishers Association a year ago.

“Brands are becoming content producers in their own right,” said Matt Straz, CMO of Pictela.
Hearst will also launch large-format fixed-panel and pushdown units that will be integrated into editorial content this fall. The entire package will be sharable via Facebook, giving advertisers more potential exposure for their message.

But as ads get bigger and more disruptive, turning off viewers is a risk. Pushdown units are “not that well received,” said David Payne, CEO of ShortTail Media, an ad net focused on online video on premium publishers’ sites. “It feels like a hijacking.”

Kristine Welker, vp of sales and marketing, Hearst Magazines Digital Media, acknowledged the risk. “We don’t want people to view [the ads] as invasive and intrusive,” she said.

Visitor surveys and high response to its pushdown units led Hearst to conclude that if done properly, such ads are a safe bet. It doesn’t hurt that they bring in 20-30 percent more than standard Web ads. “There is a significant premium,” Welker said.