Yahoo Debuts Livestand ‘Living Ads’ With Toyota

New ads boost interaction, opinion of brands, Yahoo says

A few weeks after launching its digital magazine Livestand, Yahoo today debuted its new TV-meets-magazine-meets-online ad format, the “living ad,” with its launch partner Toyota.

Hoping to give advertisers an opportunity to win digital consumers with a new kind of premium experience, the ads blend compelling video and photography with interactivity, personalization, and customization.

Alex Linde, Yahoo’s director of mobile and tablet advertising, says the living ads were created in the same vein as aspirational magazine glossies but also try to borrow from the best of television and digital advertising.

“What TV does best is the branding aspect, it engages me, it gets me aware. But then what online does well is . . . it lets me build a preference and drive some action,” he said. “If I was to take an interactive TV ad and put it into a magazine, that would be a phenomenal advertiser experience.”

For the living ads launch, Yahoo worked with Saatchi & Saatchi and digital photographer Alexx Henry on a creative execution for the Toyota Prius. Similar to other ads for tablet readers, the new format is displayed alongside news content, but instead of remaining static, the living ads appear to be moving.

In the Prius ad, for example, a silver hatchback appears to be traveling along the road in front of a cheerful, blue-sky backdrop. Once tapped, the ad expands to show the car traveling through a series of whimsical animated scenes. A tree flies off the ground, carried by a pair of birds. A dinosaur bends his head over a highway.

Along the way, a faint white finger and white circles indicate clickable content. Some interactive components are intended to provide more information about the car. For example, clicking on the back of the car reveals information about the cargo space, and clicking on icons for Bing and Pandora offer updates on in-car apps. But other interactions are just for fun. Click on the dinosaur, and it will tell you that “actual dinosaurs may vary.”

Linde says that in a study comparing the living ad to regular static ads featuring similar photography, readers were 78 percent more likely to want to interact with the ad and twice as likely to spend more time with the ad. He also says that 24 percent of the readers had a higher opinion of the brand because of the living ad and were more likely to talk about it. Purchase intent also increased significantly, he said, from 2 percent for static ads to 16 percent of the living ads.

But the extra immersion doesn't come cheap. While Yahoo declined to break out the price of a living ad, the company said that ad packages for Livestand, which can include living ads, rich media, and/or images, vary from $200,000 to $500,000 depending on how involved they are and the length of the sponsorship. For the moment, Toyota is the only living ads partner, but Linde said reception has been positive, and he expects more living ads partners to sign on in 2012.

When asked about whether the constant motion of the living ads would be distracting for readers, Linde said the movement is very subtle and not intrusive.

“This is like the Harry Potter newspapers. The people in those newspaper are alive,” he said. “That’s kind of the feel that we’re going for.”