For publishers transitioning to HTML5 as their next-generation web environment, implementing the concepts of responsive design offers its fair share of technical issues. A more pressing challenge, however, may be cultural: Convincing marketers to develop responsive advertising.
Executives at two media companies that are rebuilding their publishing platforms around HTML5 and responsive design – New York Media and IDG’s Consumer & SMB group – last week lamented the ad market’s lukewarm support for responsive ads as they ramp up their own responsive design deployments.
“You can scale the ad sizes but you can’t scale the creative,” Aaron Jones, chief technology officer and vice president of product development for IDG’s Consumer & SMB group, said during a keynote presentation at the MPA Digital: Technology conference in New York.
“There’s a great rush to responsive UI, but the ad solutions have been left behind,” Larry Chevres, chief technology officer of New York Media, said during a panel discussion at the MPA event.
As New York Media transitions its web properties, which include NYmag.com and Vulture.com, to responsive design, “we realized we have an opportunity to also improve the ad experience, but we’re not seeing solutions from current providers,” Chevres said. “Clients are still not sure what responsive UI means and how they can deliver better results with responsive ads.”
New York Media and IDG have each had to implement workarounds for display units as they roll out HTML5 across their websites. At New York Media, developers are using the media queries feature in CSS3 to automatically re-size ads for specific devices. IDG developers are using “lazy loading” techniques to identify the device type for each page request and then call the properly sized ads for that device.
Both approaches are a stopgap until advertisers adopt a standard solution for HTML5 ads. Chevres said HTML5 offers an opportunity for the ad market to greatly simplify the current collection of display unit standards – more than a dozen in all – around three basic unit types: horizontal, vertical and square.
“Each ad type could respond and fill appropriately into their space,” he said. “That would make ad operations much easier, decrease development costs, and create a better user experience.”
Jones, in an interview following his keynote, said that as more publishers adopt responsive design – and showcase its benefits – advertisers will follow.
“By creating a better experience for the user, we’re creating a richer opportunity for the advertisers to present themselves,” he said. “When the market does move, they’ll start creating some really interesting ad experiences.”