Evolving Beyond Banner Advertising

A Look at How the Online-Advertising Industry Is Reinventing Itself

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What's fun about desperate times is that they call for desperate measures.

Take the online advertising industry. Amid an economic collapse that some warned could take out the entire industry, ad sellers from Google to Hulu to The New York Times have spent the last year to 18 months trying to innovate their way to survival.

Hulu's 'Branded Entertainment Selector' unit
Hulu's 'Branded Entertainment Selector' unit

The result: a slew of new ad units that promise an online advertising future evolved beyond the banner.

For example, there's Hulu's "Branded Entertainment Selector" unit. It provides users a choice in the ads they see: Both what type of ad and how many ads they'd like to see.

In the ad screen, shown above to your right, a user watching "24" can choose between watching a single movie trailer or to "watch your video with normal commercial breaks." No matter which ad experience the user picks, it's bound to be more engaging and less obnoxious than any banner. The videos are bound to tell a better brand story.

And the user's choice -- sometimes between different advertising brands -- certainly tells the publisher and advertisers more than any simple click on a banner would.

It's been a bruising run for the industry. Several of the new ad units we profile here were developed at companies that went through large layoffs. But the promise of a post-banner era alone could make it all worth it.

Because let's face it, the banner is a lousy form of advertising. Let us count the ways:

  • It can't tell a story.
  • It can't be engaging without being interrupting and obnoxious.
  • It's scalable, but doesn't feel "premium" in the way the back of a magazine can.
  • It's dependent on clicks.
  • It's loaded with baggage from the Web's early spam-infested days.

So what other kind of new ads units evolved out of the economic collapse of the past 18 months try to solve all those same banner problems? Are they as innovative? Watch the slideshow and let us know what you think.

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Nicholas Carlson writes for Business Insider.

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