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Mark Boulton in his recent article "Responsive Advertising" focuses on a very important issue for the maturity of Responsive Web Design; like the title points to, Responsiveness mustn't condemn the optimal monetization of the site at hand. Actually, it should improve the attractiveness of the medium for advertisers, if possible.
Please, go read Mark's article and then come back. I'll be here waiting.
Photo credit: (cc) Kenny Louie
Now, I wholeheartedly agree that we have to get advertisers on board, but before they learn to run, they must first learn to walk. By this, I mean that the proposals Mark has put forth are the perfect scenario to solving the whole ecosystem and bringing the sub-industry of web advertising into the era of Responsive Web Design, myriads of devices and Future Friendliness. But, as anyone who has worked with ad agencies will tell you, we're still trying to bring them from the Flash to the HTML/CSS era. The market is tough, so this might actually take a couple of years before we help them bring it into fruition.
Mark suggests the creation of a new Responsive Package that according to his example would include the different versions: mobile, tablet and desktop. This will undoubtedly be a boon for advertisers to get a better deal and eventually some will take advantage of this in a creative way.
Still, I really think we ought to take step back and think about the basis of Responsive Web Design.
Only us, web developers and web designers, franticly resize our browsers every other page. In the real world, the regular user will take advantage of the adaption to a multitude of screen sizes only once: when the page is loaded.
That's exactly when the ad slots are filled in, by electing a creative or as we commonfolk call it, an advertisement. I honestly believe it's fair to assume it's rare for a user to resize their browser, although... it wouldn't hurt to do some proper testing/detection to solidify this point.
This means that even though the packages are a good way to move the industry forward, it's not an absolute necessary step to having ads exist in a responsive web site. We've had mobile advertising for a while, all we have to do is switch between "models" accordingly.
If your model of advertising is CPM, in which you're paid by the advertiser for every thousand impressions, advertisers will frown upon loading an ad if it isn't visible to the user. Thus, the ad slots in the "inactive" layouts of your website, should never be loaded until/if that version is activated.
This fits like a glove with the pattern of Lazy Loading. Ads only load if & when they'll be shown. This way, no advertiser will ever hold a grudge.
This is a far more conservative proposal than Mark's, but it is made with a good intent. We might need a transition phase before a full-fledged Responsive era of Web Advertising. Specially if we want to avoid the commercial interests to hinder our will to explore new ways to present content with Responsive® layouts.
After the model is tried and tested, we'll have lots of attractive numbers to show the advertisers and they really like numbers. It will undoubtedly be a hefty argument while trying to explain and convince them to buy the packages Mark proposed.
Last week, Simon Collison showed us how We Are the Explorers at Build conference in Belfast. Once explorers get back after an expedition, they must tell the story to the fellow colleagues who weren't there. We have to do this part now. Talk to your friends who work at ad agencies, your colleagues in the commercial department, propose a talk on Responsive Web Design for communities dedicated to Flash development—which are usually ripe with ad agency good folks, buy your colleagues The Book, etc.
Let's spread the experiences about responsive web design and ask for their help to move our collective industry forward.