There's no shortage of academic papers and other research that shows consumers view ads as a necessary but boring reality. “Banner blindness” is a well-known and growing issue. It’s clear that what we’ve been doing for the last decade is no longer effective, and we need to innovate. Rich media is helping us get there. More engaging ads yield better results, often remarkably better, but TV still remains the king of the advertising castle for brands.

At the end of the day, TV would not be beating digital if it weren't for gross rating points – but how valid are those today? Are people really watching ads (on days other than Super Bowl Sunday) or are “commercial breaks” their opportunity to channel-surf, grab a snack or head to the bathroom? Who’s minding those viewability metrics? Digital media, particularly via mobile devices, does not suffer from this lack of attention. When people are multitasking, watching TV and conversing via social media, their laptops, handsets or tablets are taking the lion’s share of their attention, simply because they require interaction.

Digital, if you include mobile, probably has greater scale than TV today. With handset and tablet ownership on the rise (120 million and 70 million in the US, respectively), the reach is there. Consider also that while TV is still primarily a home-based leisure activity, the majority of Americans never leave the house without their smartphones, and 96 percent use them at work, per Google. While advertising on mobile devices is still maturing, handset and tablet ads are becoming more and more engaging, and due to a still-low content to ad ratio, enjoy a greater share of voice and more attention.

Now let’s add rich media back into the mix. The IAB Rising Stars, oversized rich media ad units, can run in both the desktop and mobile environments. These ads are highly customizable and can include a video module. Recent studies show that Rising Stars enjoy twice the engagement rate of traditional IAB units . The creativity and entertainment value of TV ads can translate to smaller screens more easily via the Rising Stars since they can run HD video easily – and can even be improved upon with the addition of social interactivity, relevant editorial content and real-time calls to action.

Take, for example, the Super Bowl. Consumers have always loved Super Bowl ads, star-studded and hyper-creative as they tend to be. Many Americans watch the game for the ads. A stat was recently released by VB&P that 40 percent of Americans will share Super Bowl ads via social media. So we know that the ads are being watched online – that they’re actually sought online. Imagine how much more valuable those online views might be if the ad is running within a Rising Star, in a high quality environment, supported by a module to “Schedule a Test Drive” or “Find the nearest store” or even “Order Now.” The Rising Star units deliver the interactivity, engagement and accountability of an online ad, and the scale to reach your target audience anywhere, anytime – which is more than a TV ad can do.

So, to answer the age-old question, can digital compete with TV? With premium formats that truly engage audiences in quality environments – it’s a definite possibility!

Tom O’Regan is a seasoned advertising executive with an expertise in vertical publishing and sales strategy. As President & CRO of Martini Media, he is responsible for company-wide advertising revenue and operations. Tom can be reached at tom.oregan@martini-corp.com.

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