Inventing the Future of Online Ads

Three years ago the ad server I founded in 1999, ZEDO, started a division to create fundamentally better advertising opportunities. We saw the need for something that went beyond the banner ad, which was no longer exciting to most brands. Like the rest of the industry, we were wrestling with the issues of viewability, engagement, and of less than spectacular results for brands. Fortunately, our product and dev teams took up the challenge to produce new formats that would have higher impact.

The ad formats would be sold through a special online platform (ZINC) created to help advertisers, separate from the publisher side ad server we ran for more than a decade. The new division, named ZINC, has enjoyed rapid growth with ATDs since it was founded.

To us, better advertising meant bigger, more viewable, with higher completion rates, more impact on users, and higher CTRs. The challenge was to create formats that do all this from existing creative, and scale the ads using our huge worldwide publisher technology base.

Trading desks that focus only on buying and not on new or edited creative love our strategy. It allows them to use their creative in which they’ve already invested, and helps them run cross-channel campaigns. It easily scales to all their buys and all their clients, and helps them get better advertising opportunities with the same ease as simply buying banners from a DSP
All our new formats get better results than the industry standards. For example, for our newest format we deliver a 0.5% CTR compared to an industry standard of 0.1%. For InView display ads, the industry standard is again 0.1% and we deliver 0.3%. For two of our best performing formats, there really is no industry standard: our InArticle video format delivers 2.5% with a decent completion depending on targeting, region, and mobile vs desktop. The newest format, Breaking News Video, has delivered 3% CTRs.
We’re analyzing every campaign and reporting the results back to the ATDs for their clients. In Q4, in a campaign we ran for Bridgestone in which we delivered more than two million impressions, the campaign achieved a CTR of 0.31% on some of the leading news, business, finance and auto websites.
A huge remaining industry issue is how to measure the success of video ad formats that make up an increasingly large part of online viewing. How, for instance, do we measure the value of pre-roll, where the user is forced to complete the ad before going on to the content he wishes to see, against something like our InArticle, which is not a forced completion, but a very polite large video ad that scrolls into view only when a visitor is there to see it? And how do we measure long v. short-form video?
We’re in the early days of measuring the effectiveness of video ads, and we have only early industry benchmarks to go on. We ran a campaign for a large financial client at the end of 2014, and that client saw completion rates 8% higher than industry standard on Long Form video. The brand also saw a 23% lift in brand favorability when they applied this High Impact strategy.

ZINC also delivered impressions that scored 20% higher than industry benchmarks on MRC (Media Ratings Council)-defined viewability metrics, thereby maximizing efficiencies for the client and yielding optimal ROI.

As the industry continues to evolve, we will continue to keep ahead of it.:-)