Thanksgiving miracle: Brands find a mobile ad format they actually like

Luxury brands seem to have found a banner ad they really like.

The ad, which can be seen on the New York Times and NYMag sites on the mobile Web, shows a background that scrolls, expands and moves as the user scrolls down the page. It’s basically a shortcut to fitting more ad content in the same amount of space. Both publishers released this ad format earlier this year with 10 fashion advertisers using the unit across both publishers.

“The mobile window units allow for a more native user experience,” Cole Haan’s chief marketing officer David Maddocks told Digiday. “Rather than the ad sitting off to the side of the edit or popping up, as an interstitial would and interrupting the user’s ability to read the content in which they’re most interested, it seamlessly weaves into their natural inclination to scroll through content. It also allows for more relevant editorial integration, again, making the experience more consistent for the user.”

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How the Cole Haan ad looks on mobile

For brands, the unit feels like a scrollable story akin to a microfiche or projector. It makes sense for certain types of campaigns: The Cole Haan work is for the Zerogrand line of outerwear, and the campaign is packed with action to show all the different places the line of jackets and coats can work — from the mountains to the streets.

Other brands using the format include Hermes, watchmaker IWC Shaffhausen, Rolex, Chanel and Lacoste. The ad unit on The New York Times site was created and is administered by Celtra and is dubbed “the miniscroller.”

There’s a catch, of course. Despite its high marks for creativity, the ad unit doesn’t register as viewable, at least by industry definitions. Celtra said that because the ad unveils bit by bit, half of it is not viewable by a user at any time. The IAB considers ads viewed when more than 50 percent is seen by the user. But core viewable impressions — that some of the ad, at least was seen — will still be registered.

Cole Haan said that the brand has A/B tested different creative concepts in the buy on both the New York Times and on New York Magazine websites. Maddocks said he has seen double the click-through rate of the campaign compared with other mobile ad formats and about 69 percent higher clicks compared with the campaign as it ran as static images.

“That said, benchmarks for mobile metrics continue to be a challenge for marketers given the ‘fat-fingers epidemic’ to which all mobile ad units fall prey,” said Maddocks, referring to how often users will mistakenly click through on a mobile ad because of the relatively small screen.

The unit is also cropping up with different names depending on the publisher. New York Magazine has developed a similar unit in-house, which is also running Cole Haan ads. That publisher calls it “the display window” and an employee in the company’s ad sales unit said that it was developed by New York Magazine’s editorial team. Michael Silberman, gm digital media at New York, said that the publisher’s design director came up with the idea, and it was named since it was similar to the idea of walking by a department store window and seeing content slide by. David Yurman and Hermes have run the ads, along with Cole Haan, on the publisher’s site.


Celtra’s vp of media partner relationships, Patrick Candela, said that the miniscroller appeals mostly to luxury or fashion brands since it feels kind of “slick” and also lets those brands use assets they already have and just transform them into something a little more exciting.

And while mobile ad blockers would block the ad, Candela said this is another step toward creating ads with a less disruptive and more seamless user experience. “Our view is that this is not about people who already use mobile ad blockers,” he said. “But maybe this slick, cool format will stop other people from downloading an ad blocker.”

Homepage image courtesy Cole Haan

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