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The intersection of social media and cloud technology is producing a fundamental shift in the nature of online advertising.

 

It used to be that marketers created online ads that were designed to get a clickthrough to a company website, or maybe a specially created microsite, for a particular campaign. The problem was, with the dramatic increase in online advertising, visitors to a webpage were clicking through on ads less and less. As Google has proven, text ads on search pages have been far more effective in generating clickthroughs.

 

That’s why the new trend in online ads is moving to ad units that make it possible for webpage visitors to interact with an ad without leaving the page at all. In fact, today’s online ads are increasingly self-contained. They feature embedded video, menu tabs, and content that acts almost like a microsite. Increasingly, according to the New York Times, this new iteration of online ad links to the advertiser’s Facebook wall posts or Twitter messages in real time. 

 

The rising importance of social media has pushed ads in this direction, and it’s changing the manner in which advertising works. Previously, advertisers would use online ads in much the way they use traditional ads — to push product and, hopefully, generate buying interest. Now, more advertisers seem to be using online media in an effort to generate a different kind of response — to encourage consumers to “Like” them on Facebook or become a Twitter follower. What brands have recognized, not surprisingly, is that legions of fans are more powerful as an influencing group than generating onesy-twosy interest in a product.

 

But it took advancing technology to support these more sophisticated online ads. Widespread broadband availability and the advent of cloud computing are making that happen. Flite, a company mentioned in the New York Times article referenced earlier, has even appropriated the term “cloud-based advertising.”

 

Flite recently introduced a line of products specifically geared to ad networks that “help networks quickly build and deliver dynamic units tailored to each advertiser’s needs by combining real-time content from across the web,” according to the company’s website. Its product “Socializer Plus,” for example, uses content such as videos, forms and polls within ad units. Flite says advertisers could use ad units to, among other things, highlight product demos, include location data on where to purchase, and even accept in-unit preorders. 

 

It’s interesting to note a related trend in traditional advertising. It is no accident that an increasing number of print ads feature calls to action around Facebook, or incorporate QR codes that link mobile users to webpages with more information or special offers.

 

Advertisers have figured out that consumers are not just using social networks, they are using them on the go. It’s part of a consumer shift no advertiser can afford to neglect. 

 

Flite claims its ads deliver up to a ten-time increase in ROI over traditional online ads, a statistic that requires further validation. Big advertisers like AT&T, Coke and Volkswagen are already testing Flite ads. You can be sure other ad providers are watching closely. If this new kind of online advertising continues to generate such impressive results, more brand advertisers will surely be moving in the direction of self-contained online ads that engage consumers on the spot — and act as a funnel to social media.