This Might Be an Ad That'll Actually Get Click-Through

Why Apple's Latest Online Spot From TBWA Is 'Value Added'

By Published on .

The next 600 words nominally review the latest Apple ad, but actually they represent more of a bone toss.

The tossee is Randall Rothenberg, president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau. The ... um ... tosser is AdReview.

The reason is a friendly, ongoing dispute concerning the future of online advertising. The difference of opinion breaks down as follows: AdReview believes the internet will be at best a marginal ad medium, never to replace the venerable but collapsing Mainstream Media.

Randy has a slightly different view. He believes we are a nincompoop.

While he acknowledges that a nearly infinite supply of online ad inventory has depressed prices across all media, and that the click-through rate of banners approaches zero, the factor he believes we are unable or unwilling to acknowledge is "value added."

He likes to speak of pork bellies, which are a commodity. On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, they fetch about 74ยข a pound. But at the grocery, bacon and rotary-sliced Virginia-cured ham might cost 10 times that. Because they aren't a commodity; they're cured and packaged and just sooooo yummy.

In his analogy, generic inventory is a pork belly. A quality ad -- given added value by precise targeting or creative ingenuity -- is yummy.

Us, we'd like to see the CPM numbers thrown into an econometric model. Our best guess is that the yummiest ads won't fetch prices that'll subsidize much in the way of premium content. But feel free to dismiss that guess as the ravings of a nincompoop. There's some bone tossing to take care of.

We have seen the bacon to which Randall Rothenberg refers, and it is an online-video spot for Apple from TBWA/Media Arts Lab, Los Angeles.

To be precise, it's a John Hodgman-Justin Long "I'm a PC, I'm a Mac" spot that appeared a week ago in The Wall Street Journal online. It is the usual funny and charming and good-natured shiv between Microsoft's ribs we've come to expect. But here's what it isn't:

1) a boxy video player with a branded skin shouting, "Don't click here!"

2) out of context with the visual surroundings.

On the contrary, the action from the video placed vertically in the right rail interacts with a page-wide banner at right angles above it. The banner is a simple headline blurb, quoting's evaluation that Apple's "iLife is still the best suite [of music, video and photo apps] out there." Next to it is a click-through box.

Meantime, as the video rolls, we see Long and Hodgman by a stepladder. Hodgman is climbing it with a set of jumper cables, which he uses to electrify the click-through box above him, lest anyone attempt to learn more about iLife.

"Anyone who clicks on this button," he says, "is going to get a minor electric shock." Naturally, Hodgman shocks himself, with Wile E. Coyote results -- twice.

But how freakin' clever is that? There may be only one way in the world to get more than 2.5% of viewers to click on an ad, and that's to tell them not to click on it. We're not sure about the math on this, either, but, after we're done with the econ modeling, we'd like to run the click/don't click test through a university psychology lab.

And it hurts not one bit that the image of Mr. Mac and Mr. PC -- value-added ad characters -- are more apt to get a mouse rollover than your commodity talking heads.

So, there you are, Randy. We're still not convinced you can bring home the bacon, but let the record reflect that now a bone has been tossed.

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