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Why it will be hard to do interesting online creative

November 16, 2010

Original print ad
Image via Wikipedia

One obvious difference between a print ad and a web ad is physics. A print ad fills a physically defined space. A web ad doesn’t.

That might seem patently obvious, but I think it’s worth remembering.

Especially since online advertising generally sucks.

Aside: Last night in a presentation by Randall Rothenberg, I learned that there are 330 billion online ad placements a month! We must be the only industry that causes the problem (clutter) that we have to break through.

One way to break through is to think about physics. Yes, physics.

With a print ad, the idea starts with physically defined space. The creative team has a full-page ad to fill (or a half, or a quarter, etc), and can use 1, 2 or 4 colors depending on the buy.

With the web though, the spaces we can buy are infinite. They aren’t confined to a top banner, or a square on the right side.

The most-memorable of the online success stories have something in common.

The medium (website) is violated. When Apple famously took over the New York Times, they didn’t just show a display ad. The Mac vs PC characters engaged with the page.

Unlike the print version of the Times, ads don’t have the physical limitation of having to stay in their space.

Online ads can rearrange the content. Or they can mirror it. Or they can violate it (not with a pop-up, but with a good idea).

So why don’t we see more interaction?

Because both sides of the ad process aren’t set up this way.

Agencies aren’t really set up to start with media. They’ve happily plied their trade by knowing the media and then coming up with ideas. Starting before media — ie, before the client calls and says they want banner ads, or print ads, or a TV spot means involving people in the process who have typically been outside of the process.

Media people buy media, they don’t generally generate creative ideas.

The second problem is with the media companies themselves. Most still model the print world, where they identify ‘inventory’ as if they have space to fill.

They don’t have ‘space to fill’.

They have advertisers to engage. Instead of media standards, they should be thinking about non media standards. They should offer to partner with brands to create online experiences that do more than ask for a click.

It is an interesting time for digital. The growth is there. The potential is there. Will we get there?

How do you see it going?

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