NEW YORK The Web has a problem: It's largely ad supported, but the rapid-fire way people churn through page views by the dozens makes it less than ideal for brand advertisers.
Yes, the move to make the Web safe for marketers is progressing on many fronts. There's the development of new, larger ad units by major publishers and an increased focus on creativity within the industry, not to mention there's an increasing number of people consuming online video. But because brands, above all else, need face time to make their case to consumers, more must be done to get ads in front of users,
Two ad networks, VideoEgg and Meebo, have recently introduced so-called persistent ad formats. Unlike typical banner ads that users can zoom by when scrolling down the page or going on to the next, these units stay on the screen, occupying a border at the top or bottom. Both companies have data that suggest the basic principles of TV work online: show an ad to someone long enough and it will likely sink in.
Currently, impressions on the Internet are plentiful and cheap. Each time a user switches pages, a new ad call is made. The result is publishers want visitors to view as many pages as possible, which triggers more of the ad calls that pay sites' bills. For the user, it means increased time spent navigating. For the advertiser, it means users barely notice the ads.
"The larger issue is the Internet isn't really designed for brand advertising," said Troy Young, CMO at VideoEgg, an ad network that has pioneered cost-per-engagement pricing for rich media ads. "We're going to see the medium evolve to make way for better advertising."
One effort along those lines is an ad product from VideoEgg. The persistent ad format, called Twig, is a thin banner ad occupying the bottom or top of the screen, no matter where the user goes on the page. Hovering on the banner expands it into a full-screen ad with video and other graphical elements. VideoEgg, which is paid by advertisers only when users expand ads, created the unit after seeing that user response rates are closely tied to how long an ad stays in front of them.
"Time on the page is a key driver of performance," said Young. "We know that from our data."
Meebo, a popular Internet messaging service, is running a message bar on the bottom of the screens of sites. The bars allow users to easily activate chats with friends from the site and share items on the page. They also, of course, include advertising. Toyota and AT&T are among the first advertisers to use the unit.
Martin Green, COO at Meebo, said data the company has compiled indicates that a persistent placement is key to making advertising work in social environments because users need to be exposed to ads for at least 30 seconds. Its tests have found that time with an ad represents fully half of the likelihood a user will interact with an ad, equaling the combined effect of factors like creative, targeting and format types.
"That blows me away," Green said. "You're dealing on the Internet with a different kind of attention. I think the Web is about divided attention. You need to separate the page delivery from the ad delivery."
Another ad network, Lotame, is making time spent with an ad a cornerstone of its efforts for brands. The impression model treats all impressions equally, whether they are in a neglected corner of a page or only briefly visible to users, said Andy Monfried, CEO of Lotame. To remedy this, Lotame guarantees the amount of time it will place an ad in front of a user.
At a time when advertisers want evidence their ads are working, that can give advertisers some measure, outside of the display ad click rate that hovers around zero, that their messages are getting through.
"You better come up with a metric that accounts what those 99.9 percent are doing when they see your ad," Monfried said.