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Guest post written by Will Price.

 

The past year hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park for the ad industry, but the lessons learned will shape the resolutions we make going into 2012. There’s been plenty of doom and gloom, stunted growth and agency cuts, but where many are seeing roadblocks, we should be seeing opportunities for innovation, inspiration and renewal. Research has shown that half the New Year’s resolutions we make are out the window by Independence Day, and only about 10 percent of us maintained our resolve by the time the following New Year’s rolled around. Dismal stats, no doubt, but we’re still going to go out on a limb here with a few resolutions the ad industry should commit to in the New Year. Let’s dive in:

 

  • Go Agile

 

By being more responsive to current trends, and speaking to what’s resonating with your customers right now, you’ll achieve a level of engagement above and beyond that of the average display ad. We all know that agility is a term ubiquitous in the start-up world these days. As businesses grow and expand, they must have the ability to quickly strategize, experiment, assess circumstances and make snap decisions in real-time when needed. But can this strategy be applied to non-startup marketing campaigns? Even if your organization’s employees can pack a football stadium, what matters is the content you’re putting out, the speed in which it hits the market, and its relevance to your audience. Your marketing campaigns should still be centered on agility.

 

In our world of instant gratification, relevance equals resonance. By speaking to what matters to your customers, when it’s top of mind, your message will stick with them. For example, a solar panel manufacturer putting out ads on exceptionally sunny days vs. during a snowstorm, or department store ads with “Get The Look” outfits the day after the Oscars. Doesn’t get much more up-to-the-minute than that.

 

Agile marketing also forces you to be creative, think quickly and “ship” ideas 24/7. No more kicking back after a campaign goes live and waiting for the results to roll in. By programming your ads to pull in content from elsewhere on the Web, you can add value by plugging into content that your customer cares about and constantly taking into consideration current events that will help you meet your customers’ needs.

 

  • Size Doesn’t Matter, Smarts Do

 

Bigger ads don’t mean better ads. Recently, major online players like Google and AOL have made attempts to change display advertising in order to find greater audience and better ROI. There’s been a lot of chatter about AOL’s latest unveiling for Project Devil – the large IAB Portrait size –and Google Circulars, also featuring a larger format. But these are still basically an image, tag line and call to action – not too different from 1994. As the IAB Portrait and the Google Circulars both struggle to find traction, it’s clear that size is not necessarily the answer. In order to engage viewers, display ads have got to get better, not bigger.

 

In 2012, advertisers should think smarter about the content and execution that will attract engagement. What can you put in your ads that will inspire consumers to act? Dynamic, rich components – perhaps a movie trailer that allows you to check local show times or a travel ad that let you search flights directly in the ad – will capture consumers who aren’t impressed with the traditional banner, even if it is bigger.

 

  • Make Little Bets

 

Constant tweaks and iterative campaigns will help brands achieve success, faster. Remember that agility we talked about before? By building it into your campaigns, you’re able to make small adjustments and introduce new ideas in real time. Take, for instance, a social media manager for a cleaning brand tweeting different content until she finds what her audience likes – one day it’s tips and tricks, the next, celebrities whose images need a good scrub. This constant iteration gives you real time insight into what messages stick, so you can quickly learn and repeat what works best for your audience.

 

Say they’re not as taken by tweets reflecting your product’s relevancy with regard to the day’s events as they are with the sweepstakes you’re running this week. Throw the tweeting component out the window and let the sweepstakes take center stage. With traditional advertising, it takes weeks, sometimes months, to switch up a campaign. In 2012, that just won’t do anymore.

 

It’s no secret that not much has changed in the 17 years since AT&T splashed the first banner ad across Hotwired’s site. And yet, folks in the advertising industry are still building off the same model we used back then, consisting of the same boring components: text, art and call to action. It’s about time for display advertising to become more creative, engaging and meaningful.

 

A major overhaul is long overdue, and 2012 is the year we’re going to see it happen.