The Web has long relegated advertising to the sidelines as part of a do-not-interrupt mandate that separated cyberspace venues from traditional media. That's slowly changing.
A group of top-tier publishers, including The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, has signed up to test a new initiative that plops commercials in front of users as they arrive at Web sites, blocking the content. They will have the option to close the ads after 10 seconds. The spots then retreat into traditional banner placements. The video placements are designed to appear when users arrive at sites through links on social networking sites or via search engines. For content sites, that means access to high-priced video ads even when their content is text.
The move to get more interruptive follows on the heals of the Online Publishers Association rolling out big new ad units that will take up large chunks of on-screen real estate. What's more, publishers have taken to other interruptive ad tactics, like units that autoplay video with sound and, of course, pre-roll spots before video content.
"This is going to be a natural evolution where those user-interruptive quotients are going a lot higher," said David Payne, CEO of ShortTail Media, which created the video ad unit it's calling Digital 30 to run across its network of top-tier sites. "Display on its own can't support the content creation and delivery."
ShortTail is running the ads over the next four weeks across sites like Weather.com and Entertainment Weekly's EW.com. New York digital shop Special Ops signed up for the test for an entertainment client that it declines to name.
"It theoretically makes a lot of sense," said Jason Klein, co-CEO of Special Ops. "It's a similar type of user-interruption experience as a commercial in the middle of a TV show."
The moves are necessary because the ad system on the Web, as it is currently structured, does not work for content sites. Outside of high-touch integrations, those sites have seen the vast majority of their inventory thrown in the remnant bin where it is picked apart by ad networks for pennies.
Instead, publishers need to think more like TV networks than newspaper publishers, which relegate advertising to the sidelines of the content, Payne argues. While video ads have proliferated with video content, it needs to find a home on the 90 percent of pages that aren't video, according to Payne.
"Our biggest challenge is we haven't been able to agree on new types of advertising that's valued by brand marketers," he said.
The D30 could create a middle level of advertising for publishers outside of traditional display advertising, which brands do not believe is worth that much for their goals, according to Payne.
The company will test different implementations, experimenting, for example, to determine whether to limit the spots to one per user per site or one per user across the ShortTail network.
"What we're saying is if you want to move share over from TV, which is still the biggest ad marketplace, you better look like TV more than a newspaper," said Payne.
Nielsen Business Media