RealTime IT News

Ad Trends and Setters

SAN FRANCISCO -- Remember the dot-com era? Well, forget it. Online advertising is hotter than ever if AdTech San Francisco is any indication.

The tradeshow and conference, held this week, was the largest in its 10-year history, with over 300 exhibitors and more than 9,000 attendees, according to conference chair Susan Bratton, .

"We are the health meter of the industry," said Bratton, principal of Cendara, a consultancy focusing on interactive marketing startups.

Search and affiliate marketing companies make up a large proportion of AdTech exhibitors, but there are strong trends emerging: Internet video; "wild" publishing; and advertising on social media.

The Internet as TV

Avant Interactive showcased technology that makes Internet video clickable. Viewers can mouse over the video as it plays. The cursor changes when it goes over a part of the picture that's hyper-linked, as related content appears in a box next to the video.

For example, on the site for UPN's "America's Next Top Model," viewers watching show outtakes and episodes can click to read bios of each model.

In a 2005 NASCAR promotion by Coca Cola, race videos ran in a branded player; clicks brought up stats and information about the drivers.

According to Dan Bates, CEO of Avant, viewers clicked 15 to 18 times on the NASCAR videos.

While marketers could use Avant's V-Click technology to enable viewers to buy products they see onscreen, Bates for now is focusing on brand advertisers.

"Companies are using our product looking to engage users with their brand rather than having people buy through the interface," he said.

"If you give them digestible content that enhances the medium, you keep them clicking. Then we move into the commerce model."

Place Shifting

Entertainment marketers have long used "wild posting," hiring crews to plaster posters on vacant buildings, construction sites and fences.

In the wild publishing model, information and service providers, such as mapping or weather services, let third parties republish their information or use it to create mash-ups.

Now, content creators are putting their content up for grabs.

Mochilla unveiled its online marketplace for media at AdTech. Mochilla lets content owners put articles, photos, audio and video content up for sale. The video capability is expected to launch this summer.

Web publishers can pay to license content or get it free along with an ad.

While some magazines may worry about them cannibalizing their publications, many are happy to find an additional source of revenue, said Jason Oliver, vice president of marketing and product development for Mochilla.

"Just because your content is on your Web site, your audience is limited," Oliver said. "We let publishers get their content out to the long tail."

Content owners using the Mochilla network don't care where their content shows up, he said, as long as they can generate revenue from it.

Although Mochilla hasn't lined up an ad networks yet, its content partners include Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., Fast Company, Inc. and Entrepreneur Media.

Vintacom Media Group's Relationship Exchange lets Web publishers create niche dating services for their sites. For example, a cooking blog could run its own personals for gourmands.

Vintacom hosts the service and shares revenue with the publisher.

Michael Tchong, principal of trend consultancy Ubercool, said that place-shifting behavior, including RSS feeds, podcasts and wild publishing, will make it increasingly harder to track who is consuming content.

According to Tchong, "This whole control-freakism trend is turning the American consumer into a picky and hard-to-reach target, and this will offer obstacles for marketers."

Social Advertising

Social media -- blogging, personal publishing, photo and video sharing services -- is one such obstacle. Marketers are mystified about how to reach consumers as they stop consuming content and start producing it.

Feed advertising network Pheedo this week announced Ads for Feeds, a service that lets RSS publishers insert ads into their feeds and track their performance.

It's available as a hosted service that includes ad placement and an analytics package.

But the differentiator is that publishers can use Ads for Feeds on any platform, whether the blog is published internally or via hosted platform.

Shawn Gold, senior vice president of marketing and content for MySpace, the sizzling social site that's adding 250,000 new users a day, said marketers should offer tools that facilitate "identity production."

For example, electronics retailer Best Buy created a page asking "What's Your Student Style?" Visitors could join the community and take a quiz to identify their styles.

"Take a sociological approach to content," he said. "Understand their core needs for identification and expression, and then address those needs."