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The big picture we’ve all been looking at is that online ad spending for search and lead generation is beginning to plateau. ComScore pegs search’s share at around 40 percent.

Google certainly sees it, hence its recent effort to entrench itself into display and video. So does AdMission Corp. A couple of years ago, the vendor switched its focus from virtual tours to image search on demand, hoping to gain more visitors, more looks and longer sessions.

Much of AdMission’s attention has been on creating “a rich media display ad platform.” The platform is being applied to autos now, and real estate later. “Our ideal position is as a very intelligent online ad platform,” says company head Sarah Pate. “It is a complement to search.” In Pate’s view, AdMission’s ad platform blends the benefits of brand advertising with the direct relevance of search advertising or direct response.

Using AdMission’s SpotLight Ads, a user can search for an apartment (“2 BR w/AC and W/W”) and be presented with a display ad containing thumbnails of relevant candidates. When clicked, the thumbnail reveals additional information. The ad is directly relevant for the search.

“We’re sliding into a slot that hasn’t been met by search or banners,” Pate says. “It is really resonating. There is a lot of relevant information packed into a standard ad fomat, so users really engage with the content.”

In tests with a family-owned Honda dealer, for instance, clickthroughs were twice the average rate of banner ads. Almost everybody used the ads for extended periods. “Fifty-eight percent spent more than one minute,” she says. “Thirty-four percent spent more than two minutes.”

Going forward, AdMission’s biggest challenge is to pre-populate the inventory using third-party sources so that dealers and brokers can simply select their own inventory and pull it into ad templates. “Our goal is to have all available inventories in our database making ad creation extremely simple and effective for the advertiser,” says Pate. “There is no competition for inventory-based ads yet, but clearly this type of ad format is meeting a pent-up demand for a smarter form of online display advertising.”

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