NEW YORK Avenue A/Razorfish is testing new Web display units that weave the social-media features popular on many sites directly into banner ads.
The three-month test with an undisclosed roster of clients is part of a partnership between the Microsoft-owned Web agency and Pluck, a social-software services provider to sites like WashingtonPost.com, USAToday.com and CircuitCity.com. Display ads for a product such as a camera, for example, will include customer reviews and ratings. Users can submit their own feedback directly in the ad unit. Another implementation would allow advertisers to solicit user-generated content that can be uploaded directly into the banner.
The move is one of several recent efforts to bring new functionality to banner ads, which have become often overlooked pieces of real estate that continue to draw overall click rates well below 1 percent. For years, advertisers have been sprucing up banners with video. More recently, they have been using feeds to create units with dynamic content. Such units provide options for users to find more information, obtain prices and make comparisons without clicking through to advertisers' Web sites.
"We feel that the online advertising space needs to evolve," said Shiv Singh, global social media lead for Avenue A/Razorfish. "The traditional banner ads don't work in every scenario."
The new units, called AdLife, are sized like traditional banner ads, allowing them to run on most every Web site.
Singh said efforts like AdLife are part of an industry-wide effort to solve a critical challenge: How to attract consumers' attention at a time when display ads are ignored and customers rely more on what others say than advertisers.
"What's driving this is the recognition that social influence has a big influence on purchases and brand affinity," he said. "Customers listen to other customers more than anything else. It makes sense for the ad unit to carry customer voices."
Other attempts have been made to incorporate customer feedback in units. Three years ago, Weblogs, a collection of blog sites, introduced Focus Ads, allowing users to direct feedback in the ad units of the companies or products being pitched.
Singh said Avenue A/Razorfish and Pluck would look to open up the technology to other agencies if it proves successful.
"It would be unfair in the long term for it to be totally closed," he said.