New Internet Format: Unicast rolls out 15-second Web ads

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In a bid to lure more traditional brand advertisers online, interactive solutions provider Unicast today introduces a full-screen, 15-second ad unit it hopes will come to represent what the 30-second spot is to TV.

The format comes as the interactive industry continues a slow move toward standards via the use of large ad units, and as it develops creative tools that make it easier for marketers to stand out online.

Marketers, publishers and agencies have bemoaned the inability to execute bold online creative campaigns, and Unicast's Full Screen Superstitial is the latest example of a tool to address the issue. The format works by running in the transition as a consumer goes from one Web page to another. The viewer must initiate the move by clicking, similar to turning the page of a magazine. "We believe that just like in television, the creative you build is what gets shown, the technology should not get in the way," said Allie Savarino, senior VP-global marketing, Unicast.

Unilever's Snuggle fabric softener recently concluded a three-week test of the full-screen format in conjunction with Dynamic Logic. The Snuggle ads ran on Microsoft Corp.'s MSN, MSNBC.com, eMode, Primedia's About.com and E! Online; a test with Unilever's Slimfast begins this week on MSN, TVGuide Interactive and eMode.

"We had very positive results on brand awareness, recall and purchase intent," said Edward Kim, interactive media manager, Unilever. "Obviously, bigger unit sizes can create more effective brand messaging."

Part of the mix

"We see it as part of the mix, not the be all and end all," said Charles Marrelli, creative director, Modem Media, Norwalk, Conn., whose clients include Delta Airlines, Kraft Foods and Harris Direct.

"It's a completely clutter-free environment," said Joseph Jaffe, principal of Jaffe, a new-media consultant, who noted that as broadband Internet usage increases, the full-screen format, while not broadband-dependent, will give advertisers even greater opportunities.

Unicast, which has nearly 1,500 publishers that sell its online ad formats, plans to make the full-screen format available at launch to 40 top publishers including AOL Time Warner's CNN.com, Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN, Forbes.com and Viacom's CBS MarketWatch.

"We're still in discussions with Unicast about the full-page on how we want to best utilize it," said Scot McLernon, exec VP-sales and marketing, CBS MarketWatch.com.

A handful of online publishers have already begun selling half-page ad units. Among them: CBS Marketwatch, Forbes and NY Times Digital. Washington Post Co.'s Newsweek Interactive last week signed a half-page deal with British Airways, while New York Times Digital has snared Audi, TNT Vacations and Verizon Business Long Distance for half page deals.

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