Wallpaper is a bad word in the advertising industry. In the ad world, wallpaper isn’t digital, it’s the repeat pattern papers – the stuff you would put on a wall with glue or adhesive. In this context, wallpaper implies blending in – a sort of sameness that no amount of strategizing and pyramid-building can eliminate. Wallpaper is what happens when advertising creative executions fail to break through. It fails to find a fresh new approach to a basic advertising communication. Wallpaper is, in newspaper terms, a page-turner. On TV and radio it’s a channel change. But in the digital world, wallpaper creative is something much worse. Wallpaper creative is contributing to online’s inability to become a viable marketing business model. The fault isn’t just wallpaper ads. There are a number of contributing factors. But advertisers need to understand the differences between digital advertising and traditional. In traditional advertising fresh ideas stand out from the clutter of editorial, pictorial and a crowded marketplace of competitive ads. The award-winning ad is jumping up and down waving its arms like a 4 year-old who can’t reach the cookie jar. Top-of-mind awareness, and message retention are 2 of its goals, and conventional thinking believes that the more surprising and engaging your print, radio or TV ad is (and don’t forget the persuasive argument a.k.a the pitch) the more likely those goals will be realized. Wallpaper ads on the other hand don’t penetrate the subconscious and don’t take center stage in the persuasion arena.
In the digital world however, what the creative ad is trying to achieve is a bit different. Top-of-mind awareness is still a factor but it’s not trying to write it’s way to the top of the brand shopping list you carry around in your head day in and day out. In the digital marketplace top-of-mind means true engagement – it means word of mouth awareness. It means engaging publicity and PR awareness as well as that shopping list awareness. Creative can be surprising in its messaging, but digitally that’s not enough. The creative solution is living in a 3-dimensional world and needs to break through both executionally and conceptually to get the attention of the digital consumer. Breakthrough creative can be viral, it can be traditional but it lives and dies on a great idea and that great idea is the engine that will one day drive advertisers into online advertising. Right now only 11% – 21% (the highest being the UK) of ad marketing budgets are being spent on digital. Traditional media remains #1 when it comes to ad spend because it’s measureable. Advertisers know the demographics and they know the ratings. And advertisers know that putting dollars into a TV spend for example, yields even more advertising by the media organization and that drives more eyeballs back to the medium. There was a ray of hope with “click through” rates … the ability to track and measure how many people clicked on your ad to find out more about your product or message. But click-throughs aren’t comparing media apples to apples – you can’t click through in traditional media and engagement can be achieved with simple shopping list awareness, and that can be achieved via exposure to an engaging message. Advertisers in markets with smaller ad budgets are even more reluctant than their American brethren to experiment and take risks in an unmeasureable environment. So creative has to do the heavy lifting for now – creative advertising has to work on many different levels – as marketing and as social marketing and viral tools to get the risk averse to take a chance on digital in a more meaningful way … and to elicit a commitment to move away from the wallpaper of basic flash animation into a world of surprising and memorable creative solutions.
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