Captivate drops screwball ad format; goes mainstream

June 14, 2010 by Dave Haynes

When the old Elevator News Network and Captivate Network merged almost a decade ago I was, for a few months, a Captivate guy. Then, like the rest of the Canadian executive team, I got walked off the plank.

I stayed interested in what they were doing, and was dismayed and confused when the Captivate guys changed their screen format a few years ago from the equivalent of online ad banners to a 256 by 368 pixel vertical ad format that absolutely no one else in digital out of home was using. This meant an agency had to build an ad in 4:3, maybe 16:9 and then Captivate’s shape.

Now, years later, the elevator screen network is finally switching to a format that conforms to mainstream ad production formats.

MediaWeek reports the new horizontal format started running today in Hartford, CT elevators and will go nationwide next week. I am not sure that affects Canadian versions or not.

The three-zoned format increases the size of the advertising space at the top of the screen by 17 percent, improves screen readability and reduces clutter. Captivate’s content, including news and information, runs along the bottom. The upper left-hand box (next to the TV ad) can be used either for the advertiser’s talking points (since there is no sound) or weather and time.

For the past three months, Captivate has been testing the new format with Ford, which promotes the 2010 Taurus with “ecoboost” engine.

Image from MediaWeek (it was all I could find, so squint)

“We found the communications channel, especially with the larger screen, to be effective at getting our technology and fuel economy story across to our target audience,” said Lew Echlin, communications manager for Ford. “Three out of four in-market car shoppers reported that the ad was effective at increasing their awareness of Taurus.”

Captivate is betting the changes will lead to broader acceptance for its network and garner more dollars from TV budgets.

“In order for our industry to scale, it’s critically important that we embrace industry standard audience metrics and creative standards,” said Mike DiFranza, president of Captivate Network, a subsidiary of Gannett. “This new format allows us to participate in the video anywhere strategy where brands can now leverage their creative assets across television, the internet, mobile and digital place-based media.”

I would have thought that was obvious several years ago, but glad to see the company coming around. Captivate has one of the biggest footprints in the industry, but pure size is not enough to force an otherwise unused ad format down the throats of media planners and creative production people.

The delay may also have been a function, in part, of the time needed to rework agreements with buildings that limited the size of ads as a percentage of the overall screen layout. Contracts with most of those buildings are now well into the renewal years, and the building operators, having lived with the screens for a few years, are probably more open to advertising than when the idea was first raised with them many years back.

The faster all the various networks get on the same page with respect to ad formats and standards, the better.

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