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5 of the most intriguing new ad formats

As consumer behavior continues to evolve, brands are constantly seeking new ways to deliver compelling messages across different screens. The explosion of new advertising approaches reflects a perfect storm of so-called banner blindness, consumer control, and revolutionary new forms of content and interaction.

Here are five recently developed ad formats that warrant your attention.

Snapchat’s 3V ads

Snapchat is among the hottest social platforms at the moment, and its team is thinking hard about how they are going to drive big revenue without ticking off their ages 13-34 audience. 3V ads — the Vs stand for vertical video views — are an important launch for the brand and a key part of that effort.

3V ads are full-screen vertical messages that are embedded as standalone videos in Live Stories and the Discover channel. Like other Snapchat content, they’ll actually disappear after 24 hours. For some brand marketers, that is the stuff of horror films, but it’s in keeping with the phenomenal passion and virality that have propelled this network and make it a favorite of influencers. To help brands actually create the volume and style of content that will work on the platform, Snapchat entered into a joint venture with The Daily Mail to create a Snapchat-specific creative agency to pump out the assets.

Photo: Snapchat

Snapchat says that it and its users find many of the more intrusive types of ad targeting distasteful, so it has no plans to offer them. Gender, age, device, location, live events, and context are available, but not behavioral or more advanced layered targeting approaches.

Brands have grumbled a bit about the options and costs for 3V. Ditto the minimalist reporting and insights available on a campaign. But what intrigues me is that it is ultimately an entirely different advertising approach and model — one that may hold some of the answers to how brands will create value in the future.

So many aspects of this ad product — ephemeral content, separate agency, rudimentary targeting, platform-specific messages — make my cut-my-teeth-in-packaged-goods sensibilities nervous. Then again, things that have made me nervous over the past 20 or so years have almost always proven to be a heck of a lot more amazing than 15 seconds and 30 seconds in early fringe.

YouTube’s 6-second bumpers

We all know the frustration of long-form ads on short form content, like when watching a 30-second clip requires you to watch a 30-second ad first. YouTube addressed this issue head-on when it launched ads that allowed users to skip after six seconds. Now it’s created an unskippable 6-second ad format that makes me kind of excited about the possibilities.

Designed to cost-effectively drive reach, these new ads are ideal for the sort of short-form content people increasingly prefer, especially on small screens. Google nicknamed them the haiku of ads, and it’s an interesting analogy. Iconic brand imagery would work superbly in this format, as might serialized messages. What’s more, they are a good reflection of what’s acceptable in the advertising social contract between users and publishers.

Vine taught us that you can tell fairly rich stories in six seconds. This “serial” example, from an Atlantic Records campaign, gives you a sense of what six seconds can look and feel like:

Video: Atlantic Records

Big presence, short duration seems like a good combo to me. What I also love about these bumpers is that it will force marketers to think carefully to define the most compelling elements of their brand stories. That’s an exercise that most brands would do well to undertake, because the ability to deliver lots of different messages and entire pages of content about our products has made more than a few marketers sloppy about defining a USP for their offerings.

Telling longer brands stories is all well and good for those brands that really need them, but lots of products need to spend some time choosing what matters most and developing single minded creative to bring those messages home with viewers.

Google Play search ads

These have been around for a few months, so they’re not strictly “new.” But if you have an Android app, you’d do well to find out more about this special ad product designed to drive app installs. Like Google paid search results, Search Ads on Google Play place appropriately targeted sponsored listings at the top of store search results. By entering the decision set for Android users at a key intent moment, brands can capture a larger share of installs in the categories that are relevant to their businesses.

Photo: Google

As with search, paid listings are clearly labeled, ensuring a fair and transparent experience for the user. And I mean really, what better way to help your app stand out among its more than 2 million app store competitors?

Facebook’s Canvas experiences

I’ve long felt that one of brand marketing’s biggest missed opportunities has been enabling fanboys and fangirls to go deep with content. We often view marketing messages as tolerated rather than welcomed, and gear our brand messages to minimally involved users.

And yet I am constantly reminded that in direct response marketing, long copy sells. That detailed messages are often the most awesome persuaders. That millions of people are content to sit and watch a 30-minute infomercial about chamois cloths. Lots of people want more than a wink and a promise.

Photo: Facebook

And for those people, there’s Facebook Canvas, a rich post-click experience that gives creative teams the flexibility to deliver virtually any story in any format. Designed to deliver a deep brand experience on mobile devices, Canvas executions can contain video, commerce, pages of content, and any of a host of other content types. It delivers a depth of content rivalling a website — within the Facebook garden and on mobile.

I love nonstandard approaches with the simplifying element of some standardization. Sounds oxymoronic, but in this case Facebook achieved exactly that.

Content discovery units (Taboola, Outbrain, etc.)

We’re all getting pretty familiar with the sponsored content units at the end of editorial content. For years, such units have been a favorite of publications looking to grow visits by juxtaposing related content to editorial consumers are already visiting.


Photo: Outbrain

Now more and more brands are joining the fray, offering long-form sponsored content among the other articles highlighted in such units. That makes it new for brands even if the ads have actually been around for some time.

So far, many of the brands leveraging such units are direct-response oriented — things like apps wanting more downloads and monthly razor delivery outfits. But the format is also catching on with other types of advertisers interested in telling a more comprehensive story related to consumer interests. McDonalds, Wal-Mart, Huggies, and Ben and Jerry’s are just a few of the companies that have successfully leveraged this approach.

Such messages can be outstanding reach drivers while also delivering strong DR metrics. What I find compelling about them is their politeness combined with the option to go really deep on brand content. It’s a way to get a viewer deep into your message without them actively choosing to type in your URL.

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