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NY Times online ad model mimics print

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Aiming to give advertisers a model that approaches traditional media, New York Times Digital last month introduced Surround Sessions, a new online ad format that is based on sequential advertising.

The model was developed after the publisher recognized clients’ need to move away from impression-based advertising, said Craig Calder, VP-marketing at New York Times Digital, the online division of The New York Times.

"We felt the current impression-based model wasn’t leveraging the quality of NYTimes.com to its fullest," Calder said. He added that the publisher held a series of focus groups with media buyers to find out why it was sometimes falling off the media buy schedule.

"They thought our site was great, but often we didn’t perform as well as sites with less quality and more quantity," he added.

After one media buyer challenged The New York Times to come up with an online advertising model that went beyond click-through, the publisher developed Surround Sessions, which give advertisers exclusive placement within content areas and follow unique users throughout their session at the site.

Closer to traditional media

With an average session time of four minutes, Surround Sessions get closer to traditional media such as 30-second TV commercials and print ads, Calder said.

Initial advertisers include E-trade Securities Inc., Porsche Cars North America Inc. and pharmaceutical company Nexium.

"Surround Sessions allow us to tell a story," said Kevin Howard, director-media at Avenue A/NYC, which created advertising for Nexium using the new ad format.

Nexium is using Surround Sessions to introduce users (in this case consumers) to symptoms of various conditions, provide product information and present an offer.

"We can target users [with other forms of interactive advertising], but we can’t follow the user and give them the sequential advertising that tells a story," Howard said.

Create with caution

However, Howard cautioned advertisers to be smart about developing compelling creative for the new format.

"If you run the same banners and pop-ups on every page, it won’t be as effective as if you tell a story," he said.

Surround Sessions are priced at $25,000 a month, which includes a minimum of five page views per session with three ads on each page, for a total of approximately 375,000 page views. If users do not view five pages, those pages are credited back to the advertiser.

"It allows you to do sequential advertising, like consecutive right pages in a print analogy," Calder said.

Combining goals

Advertisers can also combine goals, such as featuring a direct response ad on one page, a branding ad on another page and an educational ad on yet another page.

The ads come in different sizes, such as traditional banners, skyscrapers and rich-media ads, all of which comply with the formats proposed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau earlier this year.

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