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Online Publishers Hope Bigger, Bolder Ads Can Save Display

This story was written by Tameka Kee.
Expect the ads you see on premium sites like *ESPN*, Forbes.com and iVillage to get a bit more gaudy and in-your-face over the coming weeks, as these publishers, as well as nearly two dozen other members of the Online Publishers Association (OPA), plan to roll out a trio of new display units aimed at grabbing visitor attention better than the average banner ad.

The units include a "Fixed Panel," which scrolls to the top and bottom of the page as a user scrolls; the "XXL Box," which in addition to being extra-large, allows users to "turn" a page within the ad; and the "Pushdown," which fills about half the screen at first, then rolls up to the top. They're designed partly to help advertisers get more creative with their display presentations, but also to help publishers make more money from fewer adssince an overload of inventory is what has been dragging their display revenues downward.

But there's the issue of how these new, bolder units will impact the user experience. While most web users understand the trade-off between free content and advertising, a survey by Opinion Matters and Howto.tv found that 59 percent of users said they'd stopped visiting a site because of obtrusive or irrelevant ads (via Brand Republic). Pop-ups, and ads that were otherwise difficult to minimize were included in the mix; if these new units eventually drive down page-views and unique visitors, then publishers will be back where they started again: with standard banners and more rudimentary rich media. Still, even *Google*, with its hallmark clean, sleek search interface has been forced to shift to attention-grabbing, expandable units to make more money from display. Release.


By Tameka Kee