No one likes a banner ad. But among the legions heaping hate on the unfortunate unit, designers may be the ones who dislike the banner ad most of all.
One of the problems with the standard banner ad is that it comes both in fixed dimensions and is sold based on where it appears on the page. This complicates the creation process for designers, who are often forced to start from the ad units and design around them. That’s why most article pages are built around popular right rail-based 300 x 250 banners.
“The thing is the bane of our design existence,” said Ryan McManus, design director of Hard Candy Shell. “It’s like a rock in our Zen garden. It’s an unmovable, horrible object that we have to build something around.”
Designers are more partial to a second option: working within a unique, reader-focused page design that’s centered around custom ad placements. This is the approach Quartz and Vox Media’s The Verge and Polygon have taken, winning design praise for ditching right rail placements in favor of custom in-stream ad units.
“When advertising becomes disruptive to the flow, you have more engagement,” said George Eid, partner and creative director of Area 17, which designed Quartz. “You read an article, you get a word from our sponsors, and you read another article. It disrupts the flow but engages the user. In the righthand column, that process is destructive.”
The challenge, however, is that publishers with custom ad units also need equally creative people to help sell them. Selling custom units is, by definition, a slower process that’s harder to scale, which is why its such a rare approach among publishers today. Ultimately, this is why most publishers go the easier route, and drag their designers along with them.
There may, however, be a third way. There may be a way to combine the two approaches. Consider the recent redesigns of Time.com and Fortune, which dynamically display banner ads as users scroll from one article to next.
Of course, this doesn’t always work either. In the case of news sites like Vox.com and FiveThirtyEight, the result is a well-designed website with a clunky and awkwardly-placed banner.
But compromise is baked into the job. “The very nature of a designer’s task is to take an ad unit that’s been around for a long time and make it more valuable by virtue of their design,” said Austin Smith, managing partner and co-founder of Alley Interactive, which worked on the new Time Inc. sites. “That’s a hard problem, but these things wouldn’t be expensive if they weren’t hard.”
Image via Shutterstock
However, Fitzco’s research “has consistently shown that environmental issues and sustainability are important topics to younger skewing audiences. The focus on social, along with visual representation of data, aligns with the type of content a younger audience consumes,” she said. Joyce, on the other hand, said interest in sustainability content from advertisers and consumers “has […]
The Washington Post invests in climate coverage as its team expands to over 30 journalists
The Post's climate team continues to expand as the publisher makes big bets on the beat drawing younger audiences.
Inside one media company’s strategy to monetize the Fifa World Cup
Soccer media business Footballco has spent most of 2022 trying to make hay while the sun is shining.
SponsoredHow brands are measuring incremental performance on CTV
Connected TV is unique among other advertising channels because it combines linear television’s storytelling capabilities with digital marketing’s targeting and measurement. As more marketers leverage CTV advertisements to reach relevant and engaged audiences, they also want to understand the real value they are generating with their investment. Incrementality reporting and measurement allow advertisers to measure […]
Publishers continue to evaluate cost-cutting in Q4, with economic and budgetary pressures mounting
The wave of cost-cutting measures in Q3 is still flowing into Q4, with publishers under pressure to keep expenses down at a time of continuing economic uncertainty and budget planning.
Media Briefing: Publishers’ Q3 earnings reports show promise, but not without sacrifice
Publishers' third quarter earning reports are in.