An ABC of R2: F is for flexible advertising

…which was one of the key goals of the project. This exposes one of the significant aspects of R2: it was neither editorially driven, nor technically driven, nor commercially driven. It was driven by a unity of needs right across the company, and it needed to be successful in all these areas.

There are a few ways in which we’ve added flexibility to our advertising system, but I’ll mention just a couple here.

One form of flexibility is in the use of our ad slots. Our pages have been designed to display ads of various sizes, and reshape themselves accordingly. This is most obvious on some of the right hand ad slots — sometimes you’ll find them displaying an ad that’s a squareish rectangle, sometimes you’ll return to the same page and find another that’s markedly taller. In theory that’s a trivial piece of work, and HTML and CSS can handle that with ease. But in practice, of course, it’s more challenging. One of those challenges is trying avoid using an iframe container which ensures ads don’t unduly interfere with the rest of the page, but which force you define their size before the ad server has had a chance to tell what size the ad needs to be.

Another, related, form of flexibility is in our non-use of ad slots. You’ll be able to see this on the home page which sometimes has ads on it, and sometimes doesn’t. In the early stages of R2 the ad sales team made a decision I’ve always admired: not to fill certain ad slots just because they could, and ensure there were periods when the home page was ad-free. Apart from any other advantages this means that when ads do appear they have more impact, and of course it increases the value of advertising on the home page.

I like the work we’ve done on advertising less because of the technical achievements, but much more because it shows we’ve used R2 as a chance to rethink how we approach our business and break away from some conventional thinking.