It's one of those trends slowly gaining traction among the digerati: "adjacency" (i.e. banner and display ads associated with content) is dead. Advertisers want social media and data-driven marketing; they want names and e-mails, or immersive brand-response advertising that aligns them with specific editorial (in some cases created by the advertisers themselves). Compared to all this, the blinking, shimmying, '90s-vintage banner ad can seem a little, well, pathetic.
Like a lot of things in life, there's some truth to this, but the on-the-ground reality is a little more complicated. Take recent efforts by the Hearst-owned Houston Chronicle to built out its Digital Synergy Packages, a service offering multi-platform marketing solutions to clients including Web and mobile landing pages, social media management, print and Web directory listings and press releases.
While not built around display advertising, the impetus for the service has less to do with a belief that display ads are dead than that they are simply not a priority for everyone. The Chronicle, and Hearst's newspapers generally, have been looking for opportunity in an increasingly fragmented media landscape in which small businesses see themselves squeezed between the expensive ad campaigns run by national and regional advertisers and the time and expense of pursuing an online and social media strategy.
"A few years ago life for small businesses wasn't terribly difficult. They could go out and buy yellow page ads—both display and listing—do some small local magazines and their ad needs were taken care of," says Sam Brown, vice president of digital advertising at the Houston Chronicle. "As the Internet came around a lot of them have for a variety of reasons not known how to attack it. … If you are a small business owner most of your time is spent at your small business. You are not sure how to take your yellow page and classified money and shift it to emerging media."