Unicast Explores Net Ad Spending

Unicast, the New York-based company that developed the online Superstitial ad — the so-called “polite commercial” — is forming an advisory board to figure out how to increase the amount of money traditional advertisers spend on Internet ads, specifically Superstitials.

Superstitials are similar to interstitials, which pop up when a user is going from page to page within a given site, but unlike interstitials, they do not slow down the user by taking a long time to load.

The advisory board is comprised of Unicast clients or firms involved with Superstitials in some way. It will have two components: an agency and advertiser committee focusing on how to get more advertising dollars allocated to online ads; and a Web site committee, which will make recommendations based on the first committee’s findings.

Agencies involved include: Digitas, J. Walter Thompson, MindShare/OgilyOne Digital and Y&R?The Media Edge. Advertisers include: Intel, Miller Brewing Company, Nextel and Universal Studios. And Web sites include: Compuserve/AOL, TerraLycos, Excite@Home, Walt Disney Internet Group and Snowball.com.

“These committees will meet separately four times a year,” said Allie Shaw, vp of global marketing at Unicast. “Twice a year they will come together, and Web sites like Excite and Lycos and AOL will get to hear and discuss what it is that we can do together to affect this standard.” The first meetings are set for May 8 and 9 in New York.

Shaw claimed that Web sites can charge “$35 to $40 CPMs” for Superstitial ads; the average banner cost-per-thousand has dropped to around $3.50, according to Morgan Stanley vice president and Internet advertising analyst Michael J. Russell.

Shaw said, “the average clickthrough for Superstitials is 6 percent and the average conversion post-click is about 12 percent,” compared to a clickthrough rate of less than one-half of one percent that is currently the industry standard.

“We’re hoping to improve the overall growth of the Internet through the Superstitial,” said a Unicast spokesman. “In one sense it’s self-interest and in the other sense it works, and people use it and have great success with it. So why shouldn’t more people do it?”

Execs on the Web committee will discuss issues such as buying patterns and the performance of ads on TV and in other media compared with that of Internet ads.