Social brand channel: A way to move beyond the banner

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The first time I heard the phrase “move beyond the banner” was probably around 1997. While that very same call continues to echo from media publishers to marketers, I am often surprised at how many “content integration” proposals often ultimately fall back to the banner ad as the primary source of brand exposure and placement.

Banner placements offer both significant pros and cons to media publishers and marketers alike. The vast network of standardized ad-serving platforms and ad-unit dimensions has created a highly efficient deployment mechanism delivering reach, frequency and targeting. This system of uniformity was developed out of necessity to allow large-scale adoption of the medium by advertisers.

On the downside, publishers face an ever decreasing CPM, inventories that exceed demand and a challenging system of monetization. Marketers, in turn, face a cluttered landscape of placements, questionable content, low response rates, fragmented user attention and significant support requirements.

With the growth in paid social media, the question marketers and media publishers should be asking themselves is, "Why am I still only running banner ads?"

Ad servers are really content servers that offer the ability to serve any form of social media content, from YouTube videos to Flick’r photo galleries, RSS-fed content from blogs, Facebook social widgets and Twitter feeds. The growth in Facebook paid social ads is a testament to marketer interest in this form of media placement.

By running multiple social media placements that run in synchronization with a brand's primary banner ad, there is significant potential to increase both awareness and engagement for advertisers.

For media publishers there is an opportunity to de-commoditize their inventory by reorganizing multiple placements into a single “brand channel” of advertiser-based social media content along the right-hand column. The larger footprint of combined social media content and display media ad space within a single page not only can create greater awareness among site visitors, but also allow the visitors to engage with the brand in multiple ways.

Some sites such as LinkedIn have started to test this strategy by incorporating YouTube video placements in conjunction with an advertiser’s brand ads. From what I have heard, results by advertisers seem to be favorable. If media publishers ever hope to turn around dragging digital CPMs, they need to move away from selling individual ad units and offer a real channel of content integration.

If marketers ever want to move beyond the banner ad, they have to start serving something other than a banner ad.

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