Advertising is becoming increasingly social, as more and more innovative ad formats arrive that utilise social technologies and build a bridge between users and social platforms. Quite how far this can go remains to be seen, as it's an area that's developing at an incredible rate, but it seems the future lies in realtime advertising. Brands are beginning to experiment with this unique ad format, often choosing to advertise their social media following or social conversations above their own websites. A new ad format has emerged that shows how realtime advertising can be used effectively for brands, through a unique ad for Mrs Meyers - a cleaning brand in the U.S.
Realtime ads in action
The realtime ad for Mrs Meyers was developed by Flite, who create 'the best ads for the world's leading brands'. It essentially offered people a completely social experience within the ad itself, without even having to leave the site. The ad displayed a complete social profile for Mrs Meyers online, including their most recent Facebook and Twitter updates, videos and real time conversation on Twitter. The experience happened completely within the ad upon clicking to expand and you can see it in action on Flite's website :
What you may have noticed is that the social activity on the ad takes up much more space than the actual product image and call to action to 'Learn more' which takes you through to their website (You scroll down further through updates in the ad itself). The website plays second fiddle to the engaging, dynamic content displayed through the ad. It has made the ad completely real time and means that different users will be seeing different content depending on when they click on the ad. It's not a case of building it once and deploying it, but the ad continues to evolve based on realtime conversation. This is an interesting evolution for advertising and it potentially changing the entire concept from being prescriptive, to participatory.
Website vs Facebook
The ad above brings up the question that is starting to become more of an issue for brands and marketers - should you promote your website or your social media profiles? More and more we're seeing brands invest in advertising and promotions that focus entirely on bringing people over to Facebook, Twitter etc.. with the website not really getting a look in. For many, this is the wrong approach to take and some of the leading brands in social media show how to use your website primarily, with social media coming secondary. As shown in the ad above however, there is a bit of a battle going on between the website and social platforms, with almost too many calls to action. Should you hang out in the ad and click around, or go straight to the website to find out more? Both have their benefits for the user and the brand, but there needs to be a strategy in place for which one you want to prioritise and how this should be optimised. If you present too many options, you risk confusing people, leading to no action at all.
The concept of a social ad presents a further challenge here. It is a toss up between offering something engaging and different to the user, and a clear and direct ad that is focused on the sale or conversion. With social/real time advertising, it becomes much more about what's happening within the ad itself rather than taking people through to another site. This is where you can pull in new information constantly to make the ad more beneficial both to the advertiser and the consumer.
The complete social graph
What these realtime ads are achieving is a more connected social graph across the internet. It brings the experience of Twitter and Facebook etc. outside of the platforms themselves and allows them to spread across the web, following users wherever they go. There is a potential here for these realtime ads to become even more social, with customised content based on your own social graph. For example the choice of products displayed could depend on your most recent tweets or your Likes on Facebook, to show you the content that you're more likely to respond to and that you would be more interested in. What it also means is that social media and advertising move closer and closer together, as the social graph becomes something that extends out of social platforms themselves and into more traditional means such as banner ads.
Target in realtime
This fits in with a wider trend in realtime advertising, in the way that users are shown ads as well as the ads themselves. Facebook announced earlier this year that they would be experimenting with realtime ads, which means you can target users on a keyword basis, based on what they've just written in a status update. So you could run an ad for a product during a TV show for example, to catch people that are writing about this while the show is on. It makes the entire advertising experience more organic and adaptive, as you are shown content that is relevant to you, when it is relevant to you.
The impact of this is that we will be seeing a lot more targeted ads with a decrease in the amount of ads we're served that don't apply to us at all. This has already shifted massively with social advertising as you target on interest and connections, but with realtime this is about to go one step further. What remains to be seen is just how comfortable people are with this, or whether it's seen as an invasion of privacy.