Archive for the ‘Display Advertising’ Category
First I’ll tell you what we won’t do in 2009. What we won’t do is look at the core of the problem. It will be another year of snafu. Online advertising and marketing is intrusive, annoying, difficult to produce, reviewed in isolation away from how it’s consumed, approved by cretins who do not want to admit their own ignorance, and then foisted on the consumer in a mass rapid-fire direct-response-marketing-monstrosity-masquerading-as-advertising where the voluminous data that comes back to agencies is utter mind-boggling complexity that tells us all?… nothing. The agency then presents this refined clusterphuck to the luddite client in order to repeat and refine the loop. The whole process is fubar.
Now, here’s what we may be able to accomplish…
1. Privacy: The scare tactics around privacy online will further dissipate, allowing for better sharing of data among companies, to enable customized targeting which will serve to benefit the consumer. The ads will just be more relevant, and the blurred lines between personal and private lives will help further open the fallacy of the division.
Congress will take up some online advertising issue because one of the members moronic daughters got caught in an online scam, or they themselves did, and are just using their children as scapegoats. They will all rattle their sabers, and in the end nothing will happen. Or, we will get something pathetically ineffective like CAN SPAM or Sarbanes Oxley that just gives an overly paranoid and conservative public confidence that Congress is doing something. The good companies will get punished and then the consumer will bitch about advertising not being relevant… why? Because some idiot hindered the tools that would make it so.
2. Video: A new video ad serving model that divorces the advertising from the current content being viewed will emerge where consumers can build credits for watching advertising and then view any content they want. The consumer gets to watch the content they want, and the advertising for products they are interested in. Simple, no? Look, we have an enormous amount invested in television advertising production and assets and until we all figure out how to translate this to an online video ad model that is not interruptive to the content we’ll never become the rich consumption medium for advertising that will help move our entire industry forward.
3. Websites: The iPhone will grow to 2% of total total internet surfing, forcing most companies (or at least the ones that get it) to improve their mobile versions of their websites, which will be simpler, faster, and more useful to the consumer. Advice, stop using Flash to “wow” your internal staff, and start simplifying your online presence.
4. Banners: Several ad networks will go the way of the dinosaur.. or in our case, Pets.com… WebVan, and Boo.com. It will all be to our benefit as the ones that survive will have better technology and annoy the consumer less. They will have rich media ad serving capabilities that will integrate with the major rich media models, incorporate behavioral targeting and finally be less intrusive. Intrusion is a matter of relevance.
5. Mobile: Mobile advertising will finally start to become a reality with the “Apple Local Ad Serving system.” All iPhone apps will be able to incorporate a standard ad format and the consumer will be able to choose between the paid app, or the free app with advertising. Google will incorporate AdSense to present the first local ad model that works, and capitalize on the long tail of local advertisers utilizing the GPS system in iPhones to present temporal ads while the consumer in locally available.
Oh yeah, and there will be yet another “buzz.” You know, Viral Marketing, which became Buzz Marketing, which became Video Marketing, which became Social Media Marketing, which will become… Just don’t get caught in the wave of the “next big thing” and wait for it to become real. I was listening to a company present this year and when speaking about their marketing they stated they wanted to be the “best second” in the market. I’d advise that for everyone. If you want to blaze a path do it in a start-up, do not overly invest your company resources on the unproven. Be cognizant and track those technologies until they reach the scale that will do your business good.
ranty rant signing off….
Does metrics mean watching the clicks and hoping for the best? It doesn’t have to. Find out how a few simple steps and a little math can make you a marketing monster.
It’s 2008; where’s my metric beyond clickthrough and viewthrough? I cannot believe that we are still trying to justify the concept of viewthrough, and that we have not developed something better that has become an industry standard.
As if the exposure of an ad has no relevance to your business? Does that mean that all of print advertising and outdoor cannot possibly be effective because you cannot tell who clicked on it?
But it’s not whether you use clickthrough/viewthrough, it’s how you incorporate those metrics that’s important. Remember, the whole idea is to more accurately know what the impact of your ad spend is.
If your view is that clickthrough/viewthrough should not be incorporated into your thinking, then you don’t know squat about analytics, or advertising.
Let me explain the three core issues that have caused most businesses to fail when incorporating those metrics.
The cookie window. Each ad can have a cookie set. You can see whether someone has an “opportunity” to view your ad and then whether that computer visits your site afterwards. The window that can be set by that cookie is variable. Do you want to track that for a day? A week? A month? A year? All up to you, and that is where most of the first errors occur. If you don’t set your cookie window correctly for your business, and know how to derive the proper information from your analytics, you’ll be gathering data and just as quickly wasting it.
Viewthrough is not a causal relationship. Just because you delivered an ad to someone does not mean that they noticed it. They had the “opportunity” to notice it. But this is exactly the same as what print and outdoor offers — that “opportunity.” You cannot be certain that the ad caused the traffic. You can only infer that it could have had an effect.
The last cookie wins. Every cookie set by one of your ads replaces every other cookie set. If you are using viewthrough and just want to increase your metrics, all you have to do is deliver one ad to as many people as possible in your potential target; instant great metrics that rarely translate into business results. The sites and networks which optimize will do just that, optimize; increasing the perceived metric. Driving numbers for numbers sake but without tying it to business performance. This is where the second errors occur, and where most programs run into “We tested viewthrough and it doesn’t work.” The other major issue with making the last cookie the winner is that the last ad is the only one that gets credit. If viewthrough does have a cumulative effect, then you are ignoring it. This will cause you to make creative decisions based on faulty interpretations of data.
I will attack these three points and how they can all work together, and then discuss a formulaic approach to your online advertising to solve for this click/view world.
What you are all trying to get at is the impact of your advertising and, more concretely, how to attribute the contribution of online to your overall business. You do not have to do a single thing I say here. It’s all about weighing the benefits of knowing that impact. There are many business models in which operating on a direct response click model is sufficient and the resources are not available to do otherwise. Regardless, you should understand the impact of the rest of those impressions.
The cookie window
If you do not set up a viewthrough cookie window that is long-term, then you miss the cumulative effect that multiple impressions could be having on your audience. I would suggest two months. Most businesses plan online month to month. Having a two month cookie window enables you to see the effect of the previous month’s plan in relation to the current month; variability in spend, site selection, frequency, etc. Most clients I know have a one- or five-day cookie window. The reason is that they are attributing all of those users as having been driven from online advertising. That is where the discrepancy lies. You cannot do that.
What you should do is run a blind test of a cohort of users who saw your advertising and didn’t click versus those who did. Plot that against frequency of exposure and time between exposures. You should then be able to see the impacted lift of those exposures. In order to do that however, your cookie window needs to be long enough for cumulative data to be of import. You can then extract meaningful information:
Five exposures over one week results in a 20 percent lift in overall response. Over seven exposures in week has no additional lift. Three exposures in one day seems to result in a 16 percent lift. One hundred exposures over a month indicates a 400 percent lift.
It’s this type of insight that will enable you to structure your ad buys and your program delivery for optimal results.
Viewthrough is not a causal relationship
Because viewthrough isn’t about causation, you should not be using a 1:1 causal metric attributing each view/visit as caused by your ad. It will only be a percentage, a fraction of that traffic, that should be attributed to the ad. This is intimately tied to your cookie window, and that appears to be inversely logarithmic. The more time has passed since the view of the ad, the steeper the curve away from impact. You should plot that curve based on your cookie window and the blind study, and against your spend. There should be an optimal point at which your spend level demonstrates the most efficient delivery. It’s not rocket science, it just takes some work to get at the data you need.
Once that work is done, however, you do not have to worry about the complex analysis. Just use your view window data and multiply it by your percentage impact metric. I would suggest rerunning the analysis every six months to make sure the assumptions are still valid. More than that and you’re wasting resources.
The last cookie wins
The first impact of this is your creative. It’s about the corpus of messaging; the whole enchilada, not just a single piece of creative. A single banner creative is useless. It means nothing. Stop micro-data-analyzing as if it did; pouring over weekly analytic reports, tweaking this placement or that so much that your head is so buried in the sand. You are burning through resources and accomplishing what? A 0.025 improvement in your click metric?
Use your resources effectively and look at the big picture. You have your program so tightly wound, so tweaked, that you’ve micromanaged yourself into a corner. Any change crumbles your precarious house of banners. Or does it? Don’t touch it for two weeks. What was your efficiency hit? Calculate it in dollars. Could that two weeks, all those hours of your resources and agency resources being burned have been used to set up something that will provide an exponential success, not an incremental one? Calculate just the time your agency billed you? Can you recover that by using your time more efficiently?
Use the performance metrics of creative as guidelines. They all work together. If some of your creative is really outperforming others, it is relevant. Use the learning from what that creative is doing, but do not seek to constantly tweak existing creative messaging on stuff that is not working. You may have different goals with that creative so judge it on that. If the goal is to communicate a point of difference of your product, and that is important long-term, then measure it on that.
The tools are out there
Look at the bigger picture; the longer term. Did you use Dynamic Logic or Insight Express to set up ongoing effectiveness studies for attitudinal effects on consumers that translate into higher site usage? What about ForeSee providing customer satisfaction information on your site and marrying it with ad entry? How about Net Promoter score tracking over time with exposed, non-exposed groups to your online efforts? No? Are you a marketer or a luddite?
Atlas has developed some new technology to try and get at the overall exposures of creative, and multivariate testing from companies like Memetrics, Omniture and Optimost have enabled direct marketers online to hone the funnel experience. But what is the real effect of all of those ad exposures? Omniture acquired Visual Sciences last year and integrated it with their own Site Catalyst tool to create a system that is extremely robust in analyzing the full funnel effect of people into your online presence.
They can run test models and allow you to do “what if?” scenarios. But unless you are a large scale enterprise that can afford such systems, you are left in the dust. BuzzMetrics allows you to track the internet hum across the blogs, message boards and substrata of the web. There are even econometric modeling solutions from the major media players but they still mostly fall short. The traditional economic modelers tend to develop models that, when they incorporate online, get so chaotic as to become useless. They are all approaching it from the wrong side of the equation. Absolute Data is the only company I have seen that starts at the digital end and works backward in its modeling. That’s where all the data is. And it seems to work.
So what do you do in a click/view world?
So what if you do not have the huge resources necessary for large-scale, enterprise-style support for your analytic efforts? The Dynamic Logic, Insight Express, Omniture nirvana? What if, like most people, you are strapped for resources, strapped for cash, strapped for time and fumbling through the sea of available options? Are you relegated to just using click and view metrics as your analytic barometer? Don’t fret, you are not alone. The vast majority of internet marketers are click- and view-based monkeys. What’s important is that you become a smarter monkey.
If that is the universe in which you are forced to play, make sure your analytics are providing you with the actionable data you need to make decisions that balance both your short-term performance and long-term brand equity needs. Develop a formula; you remember what those are, right?
What was important to the business I was in was searches. For you it could be registrations, page views, time on site, ad exposure on site or any number of things. But whatever it is, your business has a fundamental need that your online programs serve. Your job, any marketer’s job, is to make sure that what you are bringing in equates to more income than expenditures for the company. Again, not rocket science, but sometimes short-term goals maximizing that effort lead to customer erosion over time, which works against your long-term goals.
That’s why I always suggest a dual formula system. One which focuses on the core short-term need and includes a “balancing” metric to make sure short-term goals don’t come at the expense of long-term customer satisfaction.
As an example, a core metric for a search company would be: CPMS (cost per thousand searches) = (cost of media/searches) * 1,000. Cost of media is the dollars spent on that media, and searches attributed to the program is derived from the metric you develop to overcome the three barriers to viewthrough.
What you are trying to do is most closely align this formula with your actual business performance. You need to test various combinations and arrive at a formula that your internal analytics team placed a very high confidence on as being attributable to online. That metric needs to be verified once a quarter. But what establishing it enables you to do is concentrate on your programs instead of being mired in your analytics. You can provide that metric to the various sites with performance targets that they need to hit.
But you need to develop a formula that is meaningful to your business by verifying with analytics the degree of confidence in the measured results. That provides an unbiased view of property selection in media decisions. In that specific formula, and most core formulas, cost is almost always a crucial component. If media costs twice as much, performance of creative must be doubled to generate the same CPMS. However, because of the high reliance on cost, there is a danger that programs would skew to consumers that may not be providing the best long-term value.
For this reason, I suggest an additional secondary metric should be developed as a barometer against such erosion. For this example:
SPMI (searches per thousand impressions) = (searches/impressions) * 1,000.
The SPMI metric is all about consideration impact and quality, whereas the CPM metric is about volume and efficiency. SPMI removes the pricing methodology from the optimization and concentrates on the consideration impact of the advertising, and the quality of the user it attracts. A roadblock placement, although cost-inefficient, generates a higher SMPI than a simple banner. It is a monitoring metric in that it is not optimized on, as with CPM. But SPMI does monitor the impact of the advertising and assess whether certain placements or sites warrant additional spend.
By using the two metrics your goal is to reduce CPM while maintaining or increasing SPMI.
Any business can implement this dual metric optimization and monitoring tactic. You just need to look at your business and find the one thing that will drive the business the most. Develop a cost-based metric for optimization and an impression or income-based value metric for monitoring. It could easily be CPMR (cost per thousand registrations) and IPMI (income per thousand impressions). Your IMPI becomes your monitoring metric that you should increase, while your CPMR is the optimization metric you should decrease. You can track all this at a gross level, but also down to the site level for media decisions. Some sites may have a higher referral quotient (which you can layer in), in that they may have a higher CPMR but funnel additional registrations into the system downstream. Sites can then be scored for such values, adjusting the optimization metric.
This may all sound a bit complicated, but if you work through the logic, all the little gems are there to get you on the right path to using a formulaic approach to your online advertising.
How will this help you escape being pigeonholed into direct response and elevate you online programs to branding? The easiest way is to set targets with management for your metrics. As long as you are hitting those numbers, you can use the deltas of any efficiency gains to work your way into more communicative messaging programs. Those programs will naturally be less efficient when you start, but as long as the overall programs are hitting your numbers it will allow you to start the process of expanding out of a pure click/view metric world, and into demonstrating long-term value of your programs through ongoing tracking and monitoring of those key performance indicators that drive your business. Demonstrate how online contributes to them, without ignoring the hard data metrics, and you’ll be a superstar in no time. Well, either that or your entire program will implode and you’ll be looking for your next job. But at least you’ll be a strategic marketer and not a click-monkey. I know, you feel better already.
ranty rant signing off…
Does Google’s display strategy spell doom and gloom for ad networks?
OK, it’s about time to think of something innovative for Google in SEM. Yes, Google now has universal search, but essentially the basic look of its results page hasn’t fundamentally changed in 10 years.
Worse, the capabilities for advertisers to reach their consumers on that results page is about as dynamic and rich as, well, a rock. The only thing a rock is good for is throwing at someone. Maybe someone should throw a rock at those ads on the right side of Google’s search results page.
Outside of search Google does provide a variety of ever-expanding options to reach consumers through the company’s various print, radio, even TV extensions. In many ways, Google is a media vulture circling every consumer advertising touchpoint it can. But on its main product an advertiser only gets limited characters to work with. Google may have the touchpoints, but what that message looks like is often very important, and what search ads look like make my eyes bleed. Google may get your message in front of consumers, but do we really want to exist in a world where it dictates the creative lens to our consumers?
Never before in history has an ad medium so limiting in communication been so effective, so powerful and so pervasive. It’s all about simplicity, and because of that simplicity, Google succeeded. It was the utilitarian nature of paid search listings that provided a somewhat level playing field for all advertisers. If you bid enough, your small company can outsmart and outsell companies 10 times your size.
So, are the rumors true about Google considering display advertising on results pages? They would be idiots not to. Think of it like an advertiser. You can buy keywords the same way but also have a display ad show up targeted to those keywords. It’s the Holy Grail for click-based display advertisers who rely on ad networks due to their vast reach and low cost. And that represents a significant chunk of the ad space.
So, does Google Display on search results pages kill ad networks? Well, not in the way that a roach motel “kills bugs dead.” But a lot of them will go the way of the dinosaur.
You have to understand the ad dynamic “need state” of consumers and the relationship they have with your product.
Part one is “why” is the consumer there to begin with? Are they actively “seeking” out a product? Are they passively exposed to it? Is it a “high-consideration” purchase product? The consumer’s mind-set is crucial.
The second factor is what is your product? Do you have a product that is high-cost/high-consideration? Are consumers familiar with your product offerings? Is your product new? Is your product “mass” or “niche” in scope?
I’ll get to who it works for and who it doesn’t later, but if Google does make the move, there could be a profound effect on the entire industry. Large sites with inventory they cannot fill rely on ad networks for that boost in income. Those sites have to do little work and yet reap the benefits of ad sales armies at the networks.
So what happens when the bread and butter clients of the ad networks have their clients get more precise targeting with their consumers on Google?
Why does targeting even exist?
The targeting options available now for display leave much to be desired. Even on ad networks and large portals with vast amounts of information, you are still supplying them with a demo profile of the target you want to reach. But you have to ask yourself: Why does that target even exist?
Well, it exists because research showed the client that this group of people had a higher propensity to buy their product. All the clients are doing is improving their odds for success by delivering ads that are more likely to reach that sub-group because that helps them to a better, stronger ROI.
But what if you could ignore the whole concept of targeting to begin with? Google SEM display would not be targeting at all, it would replying-to-interest. And that is where the difference lies. You are not targeting anyone. It is the difference between someone who is looking for a pediatrician, notices the sign in your window and knocks on your door (Google Display Search), and you wanting to expand your business and going into a neighborhood with a lot of kids, and thus parents of kids, and driving your car around with a sign on it (Display Ad Targeting).
It will all end up depending on your product and how creative you are. You have to make a split between advertisers who are trying to change consumer perception of a brand or product through communicative messaging, and those who are just trying to serve a consumer need state. There is a fundamental difference between direct response and brand advertising.
So who does this work for?
This process works for brand categories that have many consumers already in the market. For example, if someone types in “Ford Focus,” your text ad will serve the consumer very well if you are Ford. But what if you’re Toyota? Isn’t that the perfect time to tell the consumer why your vehicle beats out the Ford Focus in several categories? This would work for all competitive targeting of that product, but what it would not work for is everything else.
You can get creative and target keywords that are associative keywords to your category, but it’s doubtful that Google would allow that type of leeway for display since it is currently fairly strict when it comes to SEM paid listings. Relevancy to consumer is Google’s highest goal.
But what you’re doing there is different from mass display. The mass ad networks display advertiser is often trying to put products the consumer doesn’t know they want in front of them. It’s Toyota introducing that car to consumers who are much earlier on into the purchase cycle, so that when they do reach the next stage, they type in “Toyota 4runner.” And that’s where Google display would fail for them, because the consumer probably wouldn’t ever type in a relevant keyword. Yes, you could get them when they are at the “car” keyword level, but that’s about it. For brand messages attempting to convert someone over time, or for lower consideration impulse products, it is perfect to stay in mass ad network display mode.
But for display SEM, think of three things:
1. Consumers you have already communicated with through brand messaging;
2. Brands attempting to switch products within a category;
3. Niche products within categories that would be wasted in mass display.
Who doesn’t this work for? Those hundreds of thousands of users in mom-and-pop shops and smaller businesses that don’t have an advertising agency on retainer. They do not have the resources to create a display banner campaign, nor do they have the aesthetic sensibilities. If you screw up ad copy in SEM or just write like crap, it’s pretty hard to screw it up too bad in the 25, 35, 35 character restriction. Those shops are able to compete in a “text” only world.
But an ugly ass banner? It burns out our eye sockets with its insidious evil. It would be the equivalent of the Blink tag. Remember that? No? Be thankful.
Something tells me that Google might be just a little too frightened of the implications of killing the goose that the laid the golden egg — paid search listings, the long tail of small business. Should the ad networks be worried? Of course they should. But if they start looking at their client base now and figure out why they meet a different need than what Google Search Display would be, they should be able to fend off the wolves for a while.
Well, until Google incorporates the same technology across its normal display network and allows brands to cookie the view of those users, yup, then those ad networks will pucker up real fast.
ranty rant signing off…
If the media biz is a jungle, banner ads are cowardly and camouflaged. Try a plan of attack that goes in for the kill.
I just ran into a series of roadblocks on The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and I was thinking: Are they just bad banners times two, or is there something more to this format that offers value to advertisers?
Well, I know the answer because I have run multiple campaigns for multiple brands over the years, but I’ll make you wait for that. First, let’s define what they are, and what they are not. I’m tired of hearing people use terms loosely in our industry. Precision is necessary for understanding. Without it, we’d all be monkeys poking each other with sticks. Actually, when it comes to understanding internet advertising, many people still are. Well, maybe they’re not even that good. How about “flesh pods with arms.” That’s a little more accurate. Alas, but I digress.
If you come to a site, and before you enter the site, you have to sit through an ad, that is an introstitial. If you are on the site and have to sit through an ad when going to a different section, that is an interstitial. But, if you are on a page and all the ads on the page are from the same advertiser, that is a roadblock. I often hear people in the industry group these three together and it only creates confusion for those flesh pods with arms.
So, why would an advertiser use a roadblock? First, the problem with banners. You may know my views on the banner format from my previous rantings, but is the roadblock any better? Or are you just flushing double your money down the drain? Well, it all depends on your business model and your objectives. Wow, that’s a cop-out and a bit MOTO (master of the obvious). I’ll explain whether they are useful, to what businesses, and how — after a bit of an explanation of the overall failings of the banner.
One of the greatest failings of the banner format is that it is peripheral to the content and not interruptive. We all evolved as predators, regardless of what the leaf-chewing members of our populace think. Why is that relevant? Well, evolutionary biologists will tell you that predators evolved with peripheral vision that picks up movement better than what’s right in front of you. And, it picks up ticks in movement and changes in speed better than smooth, clean movement.
Where are banners located? Ah, now you’re starting to get it — Have. The. Banner…….[pause] React. [pause] [pause] [pause] Move. [pounce] Like it’s stalking prey. The consumer’s eye will instinctively glance to see what it is. Don’t be impressed with your smooth, animated banner approved in isolation of the consumer. It looks nicer but will not achieve your main objective: the attention of the consumer.
What a roadblock does is focus that attention. There are many sites like The New York Times and The Washington Post that offer compelling roadblock experiences. On the Times, you can buy two-hour blocks of roadblocks. On rich content sites, it’s even more important to capitalize on peripheral focus due to the engagement of the user to the content, in the center of the page.
It’s a very effective strategy depending on your business model. Ok, there is the cop-out again. Let me explain a simple way to approach it. If you’re a click-based business doing direct response to drive people into a funneled sales experience, then often a roadblock will not provide the delta increase in your clickthrough rate necessary to justify the additional cost.
However, if you supplement that advertising with single banners on the site and look at the combined effectiveness, you will often find that you get a significant increase in overall response rate. If you are a business that believes that view-through has value, you can prove that a roadblock is a far superior format for your business to a single banner for accomplishing your goals. An impression, remember, does not mean that the consumer ever saw the ad, it just means that the ad server delivered the “opportunity” to see an ad.
Roadblocks dramatically increase that opportunity beyond the additional cost required. Remember, aim for peripheral focus in your ad creation and increase the effectiveness of your campaigns. Don’t create ads that annoy us.
The way most agencies conceptualize banner ads is seriously flawed. The internet is a fundamentally different consumption medium than TV, so wake up!
Amazingly, it appears as if the entire industry has forgotten how consumers interact with advertising. The isolation bubble of mediocrity surrounding agencies and clients has become so pervasive that a thought loop rarely circles most people’s squishy skulls. How did this happen and why? At which point did the process become so removed from the consumers’ interaction with our product that we lost touch with them? The result? The proliferation of banner advertising so removed from the consumer that it’s amazing half these people still have their jobs.
Why does the internet ad banner suck? Well, let me tell you why — then I’ll tell you how to mitigate what’s wrong with it.
How can I bust on the most highly successful form of display advertising and the form that supports almost everyone in this industry outside the search space? It’s simple. The ad banner is the bane of my existence, the thorn in my side, the blinky-blinky dancing mortgage guy of my nightmares.
It’s not the format that’s flawed. Well, scratch that, the format is flawed, but it’s not like there is really anything better to do to accommodate advertising on web pages currently. But I’ll explain that later.
It wasn’t the IAB that screwed up. It wasn’t some technology. It was all of us. (Well, maybe not me.) But it’s all the traditionally minded, storyboarding, “fit a commercial in a banner” thinking creative morons and their clients. I’m not talking about rich media or those formats that allow more immersive experiences. But even there, the creative luddites usually use those formats to just extend their incompetence.
Here is how the process usually goes. If the agency is bad, and the client is stupid, the agency prepares a brief based on client input, ideates on that brief, and then pitches creative ideas based on that brief. It is then reviewed by the client, feedback is given, and maybe, or maybe not, a banner gets created, leading to a whole slew of revisions, changes and approvals. To create what? A friggin’ ad banner.
My issue with that is there are so many problems with the traditional process that has been adapted for online that I almost don’t know where to start eviscerating the idiots who still create banners that way.
First, the way most agencies conceptualize creative for banners is flawed. Most are trying to tell a story in 15 seconds. Why is that flawed? The internet is a fundamentally different consumption medium than TV. TV is interruptive and linear in consumption: content, content, content, commercial content. Banners, by design, are immersed in the chaos of content. If the consumer even notices the banner, it is a second here or there — only snippets of the communication message.
So how do clients review that banner when they approve it? As if it’s the only thing that exists in the world on an empty screen. It’s a fallacy of the entire ideation, production and approval process.
So, what do you do? Stop creating stories. No one reads banners. The point and purpose of any banner must be delivered in three seconds at any point in the banner. Tall order? Sure it is.
What else? Stop reviewing banners in isolation as if that’s what the consumer sees. You need to set up a mock page of a real website and have the client review creative work there, full of content, distractions and all. In fact, create three different types of mock sites. It is not the agency’s job to impress the client with its ad, it’s the agency’s job to deliver real-world interaction with it. Those agencies that do gain the trust of their clients for being able to think beyond their own myopic interests.
Second, have your logo on every frame of the banner, or risk the consumers never noticing who you are. Remember, they are not on that page for your ad but for the content, and in their brief glance at the ad space, they better know who you are.
Third, animate your logo. Companies often do it in TV. Stop adhering to logo guidelines set down by the logo cops. Those rules are holdovers from the print production world, but for some reason clients and agencies just keep following them as if they were rules, not guidelines. Don’t go wild and wreck the logo’s integrity, but keep to its spirit.
And finally, fix your process of producing online banners! Stop wasting money. No single banner is going to fundamentally change the client’s business the way a single commercial can gain emotional resonance. The process makes sense for TV due to the high production costs associated with the end product, but for a banner? You’re wasting valuable time and resources, repeatedly.
How do you fix it? Well, one way is to have the agency just do weekly concepts. Give them the uber brief of who you are as a brand and the themes they should be concentrating on. And then each week, choose the ones that will go into final production.
Also, cut down your approval process internally. If you have to go up and down three levels at the client side for each banner, you’ll never get anything done. Oh yeah, that’s what your stuck with now, isn’t it? Look, unless you can throw enough stuff up at the wall, you’ll never start to find that breakthrough creative. It should be your consumers who determine what resonates. As long as the creative is on message, let them do so.
A few things will happen with that process: You will get much more work out of your agency, in fewer hours and cost, and you will be able to improve your performance.
Why these suggestions? Well, they all point to the fundamental flaw in the format itself. It’s not interuptive but peripheral, and it requires different techniques.
You all have to start looking at how the consumer interacts with the pages your advertising is on. Stop assuming you’re smarter than your consumer, and for Pete’s sake, stop treating this like offline.
None of these suggestions are magic pixie dust, but I think maybe you have all snorted the magic pixie dust of incompetence for too long and I’m sick of it. It’s time to start understanding this medium.