Skyscrapers leap to Web in single bound

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You can thank the economic downturn for bringing the ad banner further along its death march than it otherwise might have been able to go.

Although banner ads are far from extinct, they are slowly giving way to other formats, courtesy of flat-out desperation for new, more effective ad models.

According to Jupiter Media Metrix's AdRelevance, the use of one new model, the vertical "skyscraper," has increased more than ninefold since February, when the Interactive Advertising Bureau endorsed the format. The skyscraper ad unit, which accounted for 30 million impressions in one week last February, has risen to 280 million a month in Jupiter's most recent tally.

The skyscraper is even having an effect on the rates online publishers can charge. Jupiter surveyed rate cards of a number of publishers who claimed to be charging an average $50 cost per thousand impressions for a skyscraper vs. under $30 for a banner ad. Not that the format has caused the industry to turn around; it still accounts for only 2% of Web ad impressions.

Effectiveness results aren't in for skyscrapers, but early returns on some other formats are encouraging. Last week, CNET Networks said its Messaging Plus unit, a self-contained format that doesn't make users travel to another site when they click, had brand recall 30% higher than the control group, according to a study it conducted with WPP Group's Millward Brown Intelliquest.

Late last month, Harris Interactive and Unicast released a study purporting Unicast's "Superstitial," a streaming-media ad format, had effectiveness on a par with TV ads. Unicast CEO Dick Hopple said the rise of banner alternatives like the superstitial will serve advertisers well. First, however, the new ad formats must prove that they'll click.

Contributing: Adrienne Mand

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