Gannett’s Gravity Ad Product Proves to Draw in Advertisers and Digital Users

  • Staff
  • 09.30.2015

Gannett has figured out a way to deliver their version of the best possible advertiser and user experience through Gravity digital ad units.

Launched over a year ago, Gravity advertisements give users an I-MAX style viewing experience by taking over the entire computer screen in order to present a cinematic video ad as the focal point.

Gravity ads have been performing well and generating favorable results to advertisers from the beginning and they continue to change the way digital news readers interact with ads. Gannet has learned a few lessons from launching this digital ad product and now the publishing company is elevating Gravity to become available to users on all devices.

“Gravity was a solution to several problems in the industry,” said Steve Ahlberg, Vice President of New Product Development at Gannett. “Advertisers wanted a solution for high quality videos that are longer than 15 seconds and there was a lack of an immersive video experience since there are so many things on the average webpage competing for a user’s attention.”

Additionally, Ahlberg said Gravity ads have helped solve the problem of an increase in demand for pre-roll inventory but not enough quality supply, as well as the issue of users getting “locked” into watching entire pre-roll in order to view video content.

Netflix and The History Channel were among the first advertisers to launch ad campaigns with Gravity, but now Gannett’s Gravity client roster includes Fitbit and Australia Tourism, among others.

The History Channel’s ad, created to promote their “Houdini” miniseries, appeared on the homepage front and center, similar to that of a television commercial. Ahlberg said a lesson they learned was that the quality of the video and the story the video tells matters most.

“The stronger the video content, the better the ad performs,” said Ahlberg. “The amazing part of Gravity is that people are watching these videos from marketers more than one time; and they don’t have to.”

Gannett has also tweaked the way the video ads engage users from the moment they begin to play, without having users click the “unmute” button.

“The video shouldn’t rely on audio to tell the story because compelling visuals resonate strongly with users,” said Ahlberg. “The better the video – lighting, pacing and composition – the deeper the engagement with the videos.”

Since its launch, Gravity ads have proven to engage users the most when they are contextually relevant.  Ahlberg said sports-themed ads perform well across their sports content, as users usually keep the ad in view and watch to completion more than 60% of the time.

To track their Gravity ad performance metrics, Gannett partnered with MOAT Analytics, whose 2014 Industry Standards Report indicated that ads averaged a 60 percent interaction rate and an 86 percent attention quality rate. Furthermore, they calculated a 63 percent video completion rate and 68 percent click-through rate, even though users can bypass the ads whenever they would like to read content.

“This is the perfect example of creating a unit that is mindful of a user’s overall experience,” said Ahlberg.

One of Gannett’s successful ad campaigns includes Amazon’s orginal series, ‘Bosch.’ The feedback they received from users via social media sites was positive and many raved about the novelty of Gannett’s approach to digital advertising.

During user testing, Gannet also received feedback on exotic destinations shown in a travel-themed Gravity ad, as many initially thought they were watching editorial content.

Taking into consideration the results Gannett has produced through Gravity ads, the company decided to launch a mobile iteration of Gravity desktop ads. Gannett made the announcement this past summer in part as a response to the increase in mobile news consumption.

“We’ve already seen strong results from our mobile version,” said Ahlberg. “A client that worked with us recently, ran a mobile Gravity ad promoting their new iPhone app that resulted in about a 95% increase in downloads of the app.  Incredible results that we are very proud of.”

The mobile version of Gravity ads migrates the immersive video experience from desktop to phones and tablets. Users will see the ads when they engage in the USA TODAY phone application, and will only see the ad one time during a 24-hour period. While the video is still the primary focus of the ad, the mobile version’s design will be modified to best reflect the possibilities of the platform.


  • Staff
Members of the News Media Alliance staff have contributed to this post.