Can Search's 'Beautiful System' Extend to Display? | Adweek Can Search's 'Beautiful System' Extend to Display? | Adweek
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Can Search's 'Beautiful System' Extend to Display?

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"There isn't a reason that couldn't happen to display, except that display is more involved," said Greg Sterling, an industry analyst with Sterling Intelligence. "There's layers of complexity for display that haven't existed in the search marketplace."

Berman said MySpace worked diligently to strip out as much complexity as possible. Advertisers will bid in an auction based on cost per click. MySpace has built a drag-and-drop tool with 64 templates for advertisers to create their own banner ad by adding in logos and copy. It is a "frictionless system," he said.

Startup AdReady is building a system it hopes will do the same. It is helping publishers like The New York Times. MSNBC and others offer small advertisers the chance to create and run display ads through many networks. The display ad market needs to create more demand and tapping the long tail of the 20 million small and medium-size businesses is critical, according to AdReady CEO Aaron Finn.

"The way to make the system work better is to give it more access," he said. "That means doing for display what Google is doing for search. To me, there's not remnant inventory, there's just not enough demand in the system."

MySpace would appear poised to capture extra demand, since it brings to the table the Web's largest collection of display inventory. "Nobody who has tried this has had adequate reach," Berman said.

What's more, Berman says MySpace has more leeway because of what many criticize it for: the site is busy with clashing graphics galore. Some might shudder at the idea of the local pizza shop slapping together a banner ad with an easy online tool, but MySpace believes it will fit right in with the site. Facebook, in contrast, offers advertisers only the option to add a small photo or graphic.

"It's a different kind of user experience and the users have different expectations," Berman said. "Some of the most popular [MySpace] profiles have these wild designs."

Display is not the end of the line for DIY advertising. Several startups are creating marketplaces for small advertisers to easily create video ads and TV spots. Spotrunner has tried to do this with TV commercials, offering stock creative for $499. Google has also tested these waters with its "ad creation marketplace" that matches small advertisers with video producers.

"I believe the fundamental principles of search can be used in display," Finn said. "There's some more complexities, but ultimately tech makes that a lot easier to do."