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November 03, 2006


But I do think that our good man Mr. Beeching has a point with the idea that standardized units actually might be to blame for the survival of interrupt messaging as a leading strategy. It's simply too easy: there are these sets of small boxes that can have marketing messages dropped into them relatively cheaply, and then tonnage becomes part of the plan.

Conversely, when the connection idea leads the media buy you more often end up with novel, interesting and non-standard placements that build a meaningful brand touch. It actually seems that the requirement to "think outside the box" leads us to, well...let's leave this a pun-free zone, shall we?

In my role as a developer, I welcome IAB-standard ad units because they allow me to get on with my job of building complex websites -- I create "holes" in the page, build and install a system to fill the "holes", and then get on with my life. If I do my job well, those holes will harmonize with the page, and the interactions will be accurately and explicitly tracked. My job as a developer is done.

However, in my role as a MARKETER, I'm fully aware that users have a 468 by 60 pixel blind spot burned into their optic nerve. With a 120x600 one to match. The reason that you don't hear more about adBlock and other advertising defeaters these days, I think, is that folks simply just... don't... SEE those spots much anymore.

I think a standard measure of engagement is a wonderful, wonderful idea, and (of course) the devil is in the details. I've stitched together so many complex referral tracking systems, so many pachinko chains of 302 server-side redirects, so many Frankensteined, multi-party systems designed to get our analytics folks the simple answers that they need (views? clicks? extensions? purchases?) that the idea of a unified metrics platform across the user path is The Holy Freaking Grail at that point. By the time I'm a grizzled veteran of this industry, I hope to have been one of the players to help bring this into existence.

Because then we'll know WHICH half of the marketing dollar is being wasted, and we'll be able to test and really understand what's working better than the humble -- the simple -- the venerable banner, god bless it and its easygoing development requirements.

Here I must disagree a bit with my colleague, Mr Beeching. A standard unit is necessary for online advertising to scale -- companies need to be able to easily place advertising and then measure its impact. And media companies need to have a "unit of inventory" to sell. But I do agree that the standards have failed us to date because they are too analog driven. The elusive answer, in my view, is to have a standard unit of engagement. Points for viewing. More points for forwarding. Even more for commenting or adding. Big points for buying. If we can measure "engagement points" we can then price the value of both creative and media services in creating engagement. And we'll have some standards that allow a new advertising economy to form. This will require a better partnership between agencies and media companies, and the time is now. Otherwise, the old TV networks will bundle in their interactive inventory with TV and keep us in an old, incomplete, and directionally flawed ad unit model.

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