The Cyber Space

For the most part, on-line advertising can be pretty boring-usually it's static, two-dimensional and visually unattractive. Luckily, technology has provided the tools to change all of that, and innovative methods of capturing people's attention on-line are flourishing. This month we take...
December 1, 1998

For the most part, on-line advertising can be pretty boring-usually it’s static, two-dimensional and visually unattractive. Luckily, technology has provided the tools to change all of that, and innovative methods of capturing people’s attention on-line are flourishing. This month we take a quick look at three showstoppers that are bound to blaze a few digital trails.

Streaming Ads

Streaming ads are the latest generation of screentop banners. While their older siblings fared reasonably well on the Net, the applications made possible by this new iteration are already turning more than a few ad agency heads. A quick click of the mouse on these new-format banners delivers information directly to you in the blink of an eye. While in screentop ad days of yore, clicking would merely transfer the user to a company’s underlying Web site, now the rich graphics and sound files of streaming ads either arrive on your desktop immediately or are already playing in the banner itself. Content-wise, most streamed ads currently on the Web are TV commercials transposed into an on-line environment. For instance, features streaming ads for Reebok and Pseudo, a cool on-line music network. At, teens can check out moving banners for Disturbing Behavior, the latest in a wave of horror flicks targeted to adolescents. As interest in this form of advertising grows, more time and investment is bound to go into developing original content that’s tailored to the parameters of the medium.

The great thing about this format is its full-motion flexibility, which creates the possibility of offering everything from eye-poppin’ pre-releases designed to generate excitement for product launches, to snippets of existing content. Because kids and teens are accustomed to gathering information from dynamic mediums, streamed ads have a lot more impact with this demographic than static alternatives like print ads and billboards. Far richer in info than your typical banner, streamed ads offer a nice juicy reward to users who take the time to explore.

ON-line Scratch-OFF

Over the years, scratch-and-win cards have become a favorite delivery method for employers of the all-important giveaway gimmick, but interactive scratchability could take this popular ad ploy to new levels of success. Formulated by REALTIME Media, the key to the success of this offering is the feel-good effect that instant prizes give to consumers. Using Java to translate the traditional scratchcard to the Web medium, players use their mice to scratch off the silver stuff and see if they’ve won.

Prizes range from T-shirts to gift certificates to cash (and plenty of it), but really you can apply any type of prizing system you want. The most notable element of this technology is its versatility-moving easily from a simple scratch and win, to an educational tool (for example, the SafeSide promotion at The Weather Channel site at requires users to learn about family safety before access to the gamecard is given) to a brand enhancer.

Does satisfying the interactive itch work? A recent promotion with MSN called ‘Log on and Win’ saw a response rate of 15%, while the typical response is 2.5%. Keep your eye on this one.

Boredom Beater

Cruise the Net regularly, and you’re bound to be familiar with the frustration of desktop download slowdown (which sometimes even results in shutdown). Zing Network Inc. has solved the problem by creating a full-screen player that fills those doggoned downloading lulls with entertaining ads featuring music clips, animated graphics and links to periodicals like Surfer Magazine. The cool part? Once the page you’re waiting for finally arrives, the Zing screen shrinks into the background.

The service works for free on both the Netscape and Microsoft web browsers, and partners in the venture include the Rolling Stone Network, Billboard and Universal Studios. While Zing could easily get annoying if you had a fast Internet connection (Zing operates in the slow spots between page downloads), from a provider’s or programmer’s point of view, it’s still an awesome method for delivering a message-inject kid-related content and images into ads that already contain links to your site, and young surfers waiting for downloads might just discover your cool product.

For on-line advertising to be successful, it’s critical that it keep pushing the boundaries of available formats and technology. The two consistent elements that ensure the success of the above services are flexibility in handling different applications and versatility in delivering to the consumer. An engaging message combined with an innovative presentation style will always attract digital eyeballs.

Next month: The Cyber Space looks at the wild and woolly world of on-line gaming.

Greg Skinner is the director of Mina, a market intelligence company with expertise in the youth market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked him to do some browsing on our behalf and report on the latest developments in new media and how these innovations are having an impact on the kids entertainment industry. He is still at it. If you have any suggestions or ideas for topics you’d like to see in ‘The Cyber Space,’ please contact

Greg Skinner at 416-504-6800 (phone), 416-504-4054 (fax) or (e-mail).

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