Finding The Formula For The 'Zero-Waste' Interactive Ad

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truex-sean-finneganWhen Joe Marchese, CEO of digital agency true[X] media, took to the stage at New York’s Paley Center for Media in December to discuss the future of digital advertising, his premise was simple: “You don’t hate the commercial. You hate the break.”

Simply dropping a noninteractive ad into an interactive medium is as foolish as playing a radio ad on TV, he said. The message should be in the same format as the medium.

Marchese preached a philosophy of “zero-waste advertising” that demands four specific things from an interactive ad unit: consumer initiation, a full-screen experience, a minimum of 30 seconds and some kind of resulting consumer interaction. Without engaging advertising, he said, more consumers will gladly pay for subscriptions to avoid online ads altogether.

Marchese has now been joined in his mission to reinvent the commercial break by Sean Finnegan, who has joined true[X] media as chief strategy officer. Formerly CEO of his own consulting firm, The C4 Group, Finnegan has also led digital media strategy and operations at Omnicom Media Group and Starcom MediaVest Group.

“I joined true[X] because it innovates in all the areas I personally find interesting: storytelling, viewability, even pricing accountability,” Finnegan said. “It’s a smart art and science play that I’m happy to be a part of.”

Marchese and Finnegan agreed that one of the industry’s biggest problems is a bogus definition of what an impression should be. “It should be based on impact,” Finnegan said. “Did the ad resonate with the consumer? Did they even see it? Did they interact with it? Did it result in subsequent loyalty or purchases? As the industry hurdles into scale through automation and we take on more growth and more budget, we’ve also taken on a lapse of accountability. Lots of noise and many messages are being counted without any verification that they were impactful.”

The true[X] solution is to deliver full-screen, 30-second ad units that are self-selected by the viewer in exchange for some kind of premium content such as a video, a game or more articles. “We give the user a choice and a benefit,” Finnegan said.

But does such premium advertising come at a premium price?

“We work with top publishers and Fortune 500 brands, the ones that care about their brand value,” he said. “It’s premium-priced, but the cost isn’t insurmountable or off the radar of the standard buyer. We give them the guarantee that they reach the audience they intended to reach and that the audience saw the ad. The cost per engagement may be high, but the net return is better for the brand.”

Marchese and Finnegan said their mission is clear. As Marchese succinctly outlined it, “We have to hold impressions to a higher standard. We have to make great interactive commercials. We have to measure on an effectiveness basis, not a tonnage basis. And we have to admit that consumer attention is, and has always been, worth more than two cents for 30 seconds.”

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