Ask anyone and they’ll agree that for the most part, online ads suck. Why do they suck? Because up until now, web advertising has been all about static images, static text, and static links, but static is boring. Static won’t get your ads viewed, none the less clicked.
Today, everyone wants interactivity in their ads – they want ads that leverage assets like video and social features, which are interactive and generally have 600% higher click rates.
I’ve talked with a lot of creative agencies, and they all agree that web advertising has been a terrible medium for the actual ad.
Brands want high-quality ads where you can express emotion. They want ads that people respond to, and they want to get to this point without all the coding and programming it takes to creating these kinds of ads. Why not make ads that live up to the quality of the brands that are actually advertising them?
Our industry’s tedious development cycle often inhibits agencies’ ability to create the kinds of ads their brands actually want to invest in. In turn, it’s become a bit of a struggle for agencies to create ads that match the quality of assets they have in other mediums, like television and print.
The way I see it, there are five major roadblocks that keep agencies (and their clients) from making and serving visually appealing interactive ads:
1) Disconnect – There’s been this big gap between what the creative agencies WANT to do, versus what they actually CAN do. And by do, I mean, digitally. Not all great ideas can be translated digitally and within the budget allocated. The unfortunate part is that a lot of people don’t really know what’s even possible until they talk to an actual programmer.
2) Time Lag – After the “creative ideation” is done, it can still take weeks or months for the ad to finally be built by programmers and go through final approval. This means agencies have to plan their campaigns several weeks, or even months in advance.
3) Assets – With digital ads, we go above and beyond to create a whole new set of assets that work within the medium, but then we have to ensure they conform to IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) regulations. The IAB restricts the use of certain sounds and video lengths, while the ad sizes themselves force content to be restricted within certain sized frames – which all add to the already lengthy creative process.
4) Price – With new assets being created, and the back-and-forth between creative and the individual who is actually coding your ads, you’ll see budgets getting blown before the ad even reaches its first draft.
5) Look – Often times, web advertising seems to be an afterthought, or just a reformat of a print execution. The look and feel of online ads has appeared thrown-together, and rarely matches the real feeling associated with top brands. Online ads deserve their own creative process as well.
In addition to the roadblocks above, it’s becoming more and more important that ads serve everywhere – including cell phones and tablets – because that’s how the majority of people access internet these days.
If your ads don’t show up on ALL mobile devices, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of your marketing opportunity. Thirty-three percent of smart phone users are iPhone owners. That’s a big audience you’re missing out on if your ads can’t serve on iOS devices.
Susan Credle, Leo Burnett USA’s Chief Creative Officer, made an interesting observation in a 2010 Ad Age® articleI titled, How to Save the Troubled Agency-Marketer Relationship:
"There is a bottom-line issue that is affecting all of us, not just agencies -- clients are being asked to deliver more. When I started in this business in 1985, the production budgets then felt like they were higher than they are today. Some of it makes sense, because you can do a lot more for less with technology. I just hope we don't sacrifice quality. We're treating ideas as commodities, and sometimes the worst idea is funded the same as the best idea."
High-quality and engaging ads are what people are really excited about. Agencies and advertisers alike want to be able to create exactly what they want. They don’t want to hire programmers and struggle with the back-and-forth creative process. They’d rather focus on the creative portion themselves, and then find a way to make it work technically. If you’re going to spend all your marketing dollars online, don’t you think the ad itself should live up to all that spend?
To tackle these roadblocks, one must stop looking at ad creation as a tedious process, but rather a creative experience. There are several companies and agencies that can help turn your great ideas into amazing ads, but few can actually say they oversee the entire marketing process – planning, designing, coding, executing, monitoring, reporting, and optimizing – from start to finish.
SteelHouse, though, is one of them. And yes, full disclosure here, SteelHouse is my company, but I’m only sharing this with you because I want you to know that there are solutions out there for agencies looking to improve the quality and success rates of the ads they create for their clients. It’s just a matter of finding the right balance between technology and creativity, and I’m happy to say we’ve done that, and you can too.