Yahoo’s Bold Tablet Ad Push

It’s easy to ignore banner ads. It’s hard to ignore a full-page tablet ad, particularly one that winks at you.

During an Advertising Week presentation in New York on Wednesday, Yahoo introduced Living Ads, a new set of ad units built exclusively for tablet devices. These ads are meant to essentially do one thing: blow traditional display advertising out of the water. And in demos, they do. Living Ads are like something out of Harry Potter — or like the moment in a horror movie when the main character starts seeing things. For example, a mockup Living Ad for a fictional jeans company exhibited subtle, lifelike motion unlike anything a typical skyscraper unit is capable of. At one point, one of the people in the ad even winks at the user.
And since the HTML5-built ads are available only as full-page or third-page ads, they have the potential to deliver serious impact.
“This is about taking digital advertising to next level,” said Paul Cushman, Yahoo’s senior director, mobile strategy. “We think this combines the emotional impact of TV and the sumptuousness of print. This is exactly what the Web was supposed to deliver years ago.”
Yahoo isn’t alone in trying to crack this nut, of course. Apple’s iAds have iPad ad units that are bound to improve. Flipboard is also pushing rich, full-page units. There’s little doubt that the tablet era will usher in better digital advertising. But to get there will entail overcoming technical limitations and getting to enough scale that it makes financial sense for agencies to build the units.
Cushman said that Yahoo has just begun talking to agencies, and he isn’t sure whether Living Ads will become the domain of digital agencies or their traditional brethren. His team is still figuring out what sort of logistical and creative requirements Living Ads will entail, but Yahoo is open to collaborating as much as is needed.
Said Cushman: “When I was at McAnn Erickson, we used to have a saying. ‘Ads can be fast, cheap or high quality, but not all three.’”

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