Banners and The Right Click

Do banners that allow standard right-click navigation options — “open in new window” and “open in new tab” — have higher click-throughs, other things being equal?

Last-Frame Interaction in Online Video from Involver

I once wrote about how one possible way to make money off YouTube was to add some call-to-action interaction to the last frame of the clip; this space is currently occupied by the promos for related videos. A new start-up called Involver has brought this model to life:

“Involver’s unique vision is to provide more than just “video with a buy button”, creating a tool for marketers that does more than deliver millions of impressions with no way to capture the audience. The platform uses a rich set of video plug-ins to allow the campaign owner to capture email, offer quizes or surveys, even take orders or donations – all within the framework of the video, never forcing the viewer to browse to a new Web page.” (– StageTwo).

You can post Involver-powered videos to a whole bunch of social networking sites, although not to YouTube.
— thanks, Jim

Ads in Google Docs?

There’s this article (blog post?) in Time about how iPhone apps won’t be free and it starts with:

“It’s probably been a while since you bought new software. That’s because so many tech firms — buoyed by ads placed in Web-based applications like the Google Docs word processor and the thousands of apps on Facebook — can now afford to give their programs away for free.”

Are there really ads in Google Docs?

Contextual Advertising in PDF
Contextual Advertising in Word Documents
Advertising on CV
ATM Advertising

Bookmarkable Banners with Reminders from Spongecell

Bookmarkable advertising is a pet topic of mine and I’m glad to point to the most recent of the very few examples of banners ads whose shelf life is extended beyond a single impression.

Spongecell, a company that makes online calendars with social features, is launching Spongecell Ads. These are online display ads with widget-like functionality that allow users to share the contents of the ad with their friends and also, importantly, set a reminder for yourself.

The example above is an ad for what looks like a music event, but you can see how this format can work with any date-based information: promotions, coupons with expiration date, sales and so on. To quote from an email from Spongecell, “We’re adding our Add to Life technology to a standard IAB advertisement to make it easy for a consumer to easily move relevant content from an advertisement into the tools they use every day – Calendar, Social Network, Mobile device or home page – think of it as a bookmark for an online campaign.”

Bookmarkable Advertising

Last week’s news about Rolling Stone and Men’s Health running promos where readers are invited to snap images of ads and send them in reminded me of a draft that I’ve been kicking around for a few months about bookmarkable advertising. It’s not finished or polished but, I hope, useful for something.

Also, between now and when I had first started writing this, I heard about a “grabbable” banner format offered by one of the large networks. I couldn’t find any references or samples, but if you know something, please drop me a line.

Oh, and I’m on vacation this week away from all things broadband so this blog is on autopilot.

People bookmark ads. They circle ads with red markers, cut them out, paste them on the fridge, carry them inside wallets, give ads away, put ads on the walls. Given the opportunity and a good reason, people archive, manage and retrieve ads. Naturally, it is in advertisers’ best interests to encourage this behavior because bookmarking gives the ad another chance to do its job, which is why we often see the dotted “cut here” lines around ads.

The “dotted line and scissors” bookmarking/clipping metaphor has been extended online (source).

As a theoretical side note, “bookmarking” is used loosely here and refers to any activity of storing an ad for future reference as close to its original form as possible (writing information down doesn’t count). Some activities are physical (clipping, putting away, sorting, retrieving), others are also mental (remembering where to look, creating an arrangement system, evaluating).


In order to be bookmarked, an ad needs to satisfy two conditions:

1. It needs to carry a promise of some future value. Coupons are an obvious example of an ad type that gets bookmarked often. Look at how people manage their coupon collections and you will find that the complexity of some systems is as mind-boggling as Yu-Gi-Oh. Which is why there are coupon organizers for sale (do they offer coupons for coupon organizers?).

The value doesn’t have to be monetary, however; it can also be informational or social. For example, a classified ad for a plumber whose services you know you’ll need when you move in two months is more likely to be saved than an ad for a wedding dress you see a week after the event.

2. It needs to be easy to bookmark.

The problem with advertising on the web is that while the digital medium itself provides almost unlimited mechanisms for archiving, manipulating and retrieving the information, most online ads have all the fleeting properties of a TV commercial.

Let’s look at other media.


Print ads are bookmarked more than any other type in part because print in general is easy to archive. You open a newspaper, see an ad you like, and you can either put the entire issue away, tear the page out, or cut out one particular ad. Print is also easy to annotate — you just write on it.

Magazine ads are bookmarked too, although often for a different reason — they are cheap and pretty dorm room decorations.

Magazine ads are bookmarked and used as wall decorations. See annotations to the original image on Flickr.

Billboards and TV ads are usually bookmarked through a secondary medium: billboards are photographed, TV commercials are DVRed. Some are saved for their social value (look what a cool billboard I have found); other purposes might have nothing to do with the ad itself and are just part of the scenery. (Billboards can also be bookmarked with cell-phones if they sport an advanced bar code.)

Some outdoor ads are designed to be bookmarked.

Other offline media are even harder to bookmark. External devices have been invented for bookmarking radio songs (and many have flopped); you don’t hear a lot about people bookmarking radio ads. Locations can be bookmarked through some kind of mechanism that involves a cell phone, such as mobile post-its by Siemens.

Generally, the more bookmarking options for content a particular medium provides, the easier it is to save advertising messages. Not so online.


Historically, the web medium has offered multiple ways of easy content archival, from copy/pasting to complex social bookmarking tools. Online ads, however, are not trivial to bookmark at all. Not only are they largely impossible to store for any extended period of time, but they are also difficult to go back to within the same user session. In 2003, Jakob Nielsen wrote:

Many a time we’ve been working on a site and noticed an interesting, relevant advertisement. This typically happens in the dead time between clicking a link to follow some item in depth and getting a refreshed page. So, we make a mental note to return and follow up on the ad. Oops, we can’t. When we go back, there is a different advertisement, breaking one of the oldest principles of interaction design: stability.

Technically, there are ways to save an online ad. You can make a screenshot of the entire page and then cut out the relevant parts, or you can save the page on your hard drive, but I haven’t met many people collecting online ads this way so that they can reference their sales message at a later date.

How to save an individual ad depends on the ad’s type and your tech savvy.

Sites that compile online coupons usually offer some way to save and group them within the site itself. These coupons are also designed to be be printed out. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a coupon-type ad on a third-party site that could be clipped from the site itself.

Image ads can be saved as regular images but will lose any link information, and the context they provide is often insufficient for the ad to be used effectively at a later date.

Flash ads, including video, can be downloaded using browser plug-ins with the link information retained, but these tools are not widespread.

Text link units are not really ads but rather pointers to ads.

Finally, text ads can be archived, arranged and retrieved with third-party tools such as This method presents a different problem — that of click fraud. Someone can easily collect a dozen of links from AdSense ads on this site and click AdLab (and perhaps the advertisers) out of this particular business. Also, after the links expire, the bookmarks will not be pointing anywhere because the ads are not archived.


Advertisers could equip their ad units with a clipping mechanism — a small scissor icon that, when clicked, would produce a printer-friendly stand-alone version of the ad with extended information for future reference.

Online ad networks could offer a repository of all offers they serve and a link that says “view more offers from this vendor” or “view similar offers”.

An ad repository could be offered by ad filtering services such as AdBlock Plus, which may work out well for all parties. (See? Ad filters may turn out to be a good thing.)

… to be continued

YouTube Advertising, Part II: The Last Frame

It’s been more than a year since the post about in-video banner ads, an idea that YouTube eventually implemented and that has become a standard offering on other video sites. Here’s one other thing they could try: ads on the interactive last frame that, on YouTube, promotes related videos.

Most of the existing video ad formats have their problems: pre-rolls are annoying, in-video banners are rarely relevant to the content, and post-rolls have nothing to click on. Last frames could work because they are not interruptive and offer users something to do after they are done with their primary activity — watching the video.

Idea: How to put ads into YouTube
Follow-up: Embedding Ads into YouTube Players

Advertising Space Innovation Needed

Considering how much the banner format has evolved over the past decade, it’s surprising how little innovation we see on the publishers’ side of the equation. For the most part, publishers treat their ad space as just that: a blank piece of real estate that they rent out. As in real estate, the neighborhood and the location is important, but a lot with extra features could command a higher price. To be fair, many publishers offer targeting capabilities that are much more advanced than in the past, although even with targeting the lowest common denominator is pretty low. And, to continue with the real estate metaphor, most of the lots for rent lack something as basic as a sewage hook-up.

The only two examples of ad spaces with extras I could think of are CNet and Facebook (but please drop a comment if I’m missing something).

Ad units throughout the CNet network (see this page, for example) come with “Ad Feedback” links to the unique feedback forms, although I don’t know if the feedback is for advertisers’ or CNet’s use.

The feedback link above an ad unit on a CNet site.

Ad feedback form on CNet.

[Update]: Adpinion and BrandJury are two start-ups pursuing the ad feedback idea (from the comments on Steve Rubel’s post on the subject a few weeks ago).

And Facebook aggregates all ads that share a common audience on Ad Board, a page you can reach by following the “More Ads” link under the ad.

Click the “More Ads” link on Facebook…

… to see more ads targeted at you.

Google has been offering a feature similar to Facebook’s Ad Board for a long time now: search for a popular product then click the More Sponsored Links link on the bottom of the AdWords column but it looks more like an afterthought than a feature intended to be actively used. I’d clean up the formatting and somehow display ads associated with similar queries: a search for “gaming laptop” produces a slightly different set of ads that could be combined with those for “laptop for games” on one classifieds-like page.

Google’s Sponsored Links pages even have a dedicated search feature.

A few other things on my wish list. None of them guarantee success, but then how are we going to know for sure if we don’t experiment?

1. Bookmarking. Jacob Nielsen wrote about it five years ago: “Why not make it possible for users to review ads after they rotate off the screen? If every site that featured rotating, dynamically generated ads simply offered a button at the ad location — “view last 10 ads here” — we predict that advertisement success rates would increase.”

2. Associate ad content with site content where possible. The CNet ad above for Sprint could come along with links to past tried it two year ago; I wonder how it went. [update: It died because advertisers didn’t want to take the risk, Engadget’s Peter Rojas explains.]

4. Sharing. Cutting out and sharing coupons is a well established behavior offline with barely any online analogs.

10 Tips for New Ad-Supported Ad Businesses

Branded Human Hair

“Dr. LaPierre’s group [at McMaster University in Hamilton’s department of engineering] used a focus ion beam microscope (FIB) to shoot a beam of gallium ions at the surface of a human hair, carving atoms off the of the surface of the hair to etch these McMaster University logos.”


In-Theater Games Come to A Theater Near You

In-theater games such as NewsBreaker will soon become a part of the usual moviegoing experience. Our friends at Brand Experience Labs say that they have partnered with National CineMedia and will begin “rolling AudienceGames out to the top 20 markets on about 750 screens” after the initial test.

National CineMedia operates the largest digital in-theatre network in North America through a venture of AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, and Regal Entertainment Group, the three largest theatre operators in the U.S. Our national theatre network includes over 15,000 screens in over 1,100 theatres in 47 states, reaching more than 600 million moviegoers annually.”

Very exciting, especially combined with industry rumors that 3D cinema is coming back big time.

Spam Through Google Calendar

A newly discovered way to send spam: as a Google Calendar invitation. My favorite one, though, remains spam sent through the “Send to friend” button at NY Very intellectual.

Advertising on TV Test Card

From the creative media planning department: an ad for a mattress company on Brazilian TV’s test card after the end of the day’s programming. (via Ads of the World).

And below is what one of the first test cards ever looked like (from Test Card Gallery, an amazing site with lots of history and test cards from around the world).

Fog Screen Comes to the US

Just got hit up with a press release about Fog Screen, a cool screen technology mentioned here last year, announcing that the European company is now open for business in the US and is having a demo in Las Vegas this week. Lost of pictures, details on the event.

They say: “Our patented technology produces a virtually dry fog using ordinary tap water with no chemicals whatsoever. Viewers can stand inside the image and remain perfectly dry!”

Rant: Ads You Can Taste and Google Algorithm

Sometimes, Google can be really difficult.

Is the recent ad by Welch’s for its grape juice the first one to incorporate the sense of taste? No:

Is it the first one to incorporate First Flavor’s peel-and-lick technology? No. Last September, there were alcohol flavored ads in Rolling Stone for a TV show; here’s First Flavor’s press release on the subject (and a brief mention on AdLab).

You could never tell, though, if you searched Google for “lickable ads” this week. Even First Flavor, the company that creates the strips, is not on the first three pages of search results. But all those blogs that regurgitate the same news piece are, in abundance:

Can the results that are obviously similar — and derivative — be grouped and collapsed, just like all related news are collapsed in Google News? Look at this mess:

Honda Sponsors Tags on Boing Boing

An interesting format for tying ads to a blog’s content via tags / categories:

Boing Boing: “Honda is sponsoring three special sections of Boing Boing, called “The Power of Dreams.” They feature posts about safety, the environment, and innovation. (Links go to Honda sponsored sections.)”

AdCamo Network Brands Web Page Backgrounds

We’ve seen brands taking over web sites and pasting their visuals on backgrounds, but AdCamo is an entire network that embeds CPC and CPM ad tiles embedded into backgrounds. I think the per-click part comes from the accompanying banner unit displayed on the same page.

Animated Business Cards

This animated business card by Chung Dha works on the same principle as the animated packaging for the hearing aid covered here last November. The author explains:

“This is my animated businesscard, I design after receiving a special book called magic moving images. I learned how to design myself and developed a special way to make this. The card exist of a outer sleeve with vertical raster and the animated pictures are made in a special way.”

(This is probably the book: Magic Moving Images.)

Watch the video of the card in action:

See other cool business cards on Adlab.

— via Brand Flakes

Ads On Social Network Sites Need Different Mechanism

Financial Times: “Google blamed the difficulty of making money from placing adverts on social networking sites for holding back its growth in the latest quarter, contributing to a 9 per cent slump in its shares in after-hours trading.”

Techdirt has a small round-up of thoughts on the subject.

Content in different media is consumed in different ways. Ads are content. To work in a different medium, ad formats should reflect the medium’s particularities. Facebook has made a step in the direction of offering a medium-specific format with Beacon. It might have not succeeded yet, but that doesn’t make blanket display advertising on social networking sites any more effective.

QTrax: Screenshot, Stock Chart

QTrax, the start-up that only days ago was promising 25M legally-downloadable songs, doesn’t have any deals signed with major labels after all, but today the company has made its player available. It’s a re-skin of the open-source player Songbird. For now, you can only play music from your own computer (or, thanks to the built-in browser, from a web site), but there are already plenty of ads. The Samsung banner opens this page in a separate tab.

Below is the stock chart for the QTrax’s holding company. Someone’s made a few bucks in what is reminiscent of those pump-and-dump schemes you get in your spam folder.

Update [Jan 29, ’08] Wired: Is QTrax a Stock Scam?

Qtrax: 25 Million Free Ad-Supported Songs

In about an hour (midnight EST), Qtrax will begin offering any number of the 25 million music files in its library for free downloading in exchange for collecting usage info and inserting ads. Until a hack surfaces, the songs are not iPod-compatible. You’ll need to download a proprietary Qtrax player, too. More details when the thing is released, but here’s an article in the British Times. Wonder what the value of the ads would be if the songs can’t be played on the go.

It also seems that the company is yet to reach the agreement with all copyright holders, contrary to the claims in the newspaper article.

Update: So, it’s 10 past midnight, and the site is down. Blah.

MRI: Billboards Generate Interest

“In its Spring 2007 in-person, in-home survey of approximately 26,000 adults (ages 18+), MRI asked whether consumers had seen advertising delivered via various alternative media and, if they had, whether they had “considerable”, “some” or “not much” interest in those advertisements. 49.3% of consumers (who have seen at least one billboard ad) report “considerable” or “some” interest in the ads that appear in this format.”
pdf of the press release, MRI newsroom