TV ads make "banner ads look boring"

Online advertising is again changing in the hope of better attracting advertisers and end users.

MediaOne, an Auckland-based advertising software developer, is working with several sites and advertising agency Colenso to offer online versions of TV commercials.

Visitors to the sites involved will be able to see a small media player version of a TV commercial for Air New Zealand, Stella Artois or TV3 playing on their PC.

Users aren't asked to download a plug-in or wait while the clip loads.

"The ad loads in the background and doesn't slow down the loading of the page,” says MediaOne director Greig Buckley.

He is aware of the concerns about bandwidth and the potential for users to be turned off by receiving an ad they didn't ask for.

"We've run several test groups over the past year and users realise they can't keep getting web content for free. If they won't pay for content, then they're accepting of having to see ads and if they see ads then they want ads that are interesting and exciting."

Typically the ads range in size from 200KB up to 1MB for the larger, longer commercials. However Buckley says the MediaOne technical staff are working constantly to reduce the size of the commercials.

"The Stella beer ad, for example, came to us as 900MB file. We've reduced that to 1MB and managed to keep it playing at 30 frames per second, which is TV quality."

Buckley says the software behind the service was developed initially by MediaOne's Canadian parent company but is being developed locally.

"It's a Flash object with a proprietary player built in."

Users need to be running Internet Explorer 6 with the latest version of Flash on a Windows-based PC to see the ad - those who can't see it, won't know the ad was there.

"They don't know they've missed out because it's not part of the page, it hovers above it. If they don't have the plug-in then it just doesn't play."

Air New Zealand's general manager for online sales Chris Hunter is excited by the potential for the online TV ads.

"They're pretty cool. They stand out and they attract eyeballs. From our perspective it's new, unique and novel".

Hunter says the idea is to tie in online advertising more closely with print and television.

"The objective was to flow the above-the-line mainstream media content into an online world to improve the advertising synergies in an online world."

Hunter says online advertising is a huge revenue driver for Air New Zealand these days.

"We do around 40 per cent of our sales online and it's not uncommon to have NZ$1 million days. We typically see around NZ$300 million in revenue a year through online."

That doesn't include Air New Zealand's budget subsidiary Freedom Air.

The ads play in set time slots on each site, making it more like booking a TV ad for the advertising agencies. MediaOne can also track whether users open the ads, close them prematurely or play them again. Users won't be bombarded with the same ad over and over either - once they've been to the site once that day and seen the ad they won't see it again.

Hunter says the bottom line is simple: the ads stand out and attract attention, which is what they're supposed to do.

"They make banner ads look boring."

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