Perhaps the most critical mistake many marketers make is to misunderstand what the web can do for them and how the various online channels can work together.
While there is a time and place for online marketplaces such as ad networks to achieve mass reach (and perhaps unload remnant inventory), some of the best online campaigns we see today could never, and would never, be purchased in an online marketplace, ad network or auction.
Often it takes having several phone calls and meetings -- and not just an RFP blasted out to 50 sites -- in order to create the most effective media plan. Marketers and online publishers truly need to become partners to create a campaign that will perform the way it should.
Here are three ways that marketers can break through the clutter, get products noticed and make an impact with advertising.
Pam Stein is the CEO of Charlotte's Web Marketing, an online marketing consultancy specializing in the online media planning & buying, strategic partnerships, search & affiliate marketing, and sales support expertise. With over 10 years of online experience under her belt, she has seen it all and experienced all the changes and growth in the industry since its inception.
One effective idea that I have not seen enough publishers execute is the concept of Value Exchange. For the sites that have valuable, paid content, this is an opportunity for the marketer to play the good guy.
How does it work? In exchange for viewing an ad, the consumer gets access for a full day to the site’s premium content-- content they would normally have to pay for. The marketer sponsors the content for the day, but -- as opposed to offline sponsorships where the consumers can skip past the ad -- the user must view the ad prior to getting access to this premium content.
Here is how Salon.com has executed on this creative idea:
They prominently promote that a user can access the whole site for free that day, compliments of the advertiser-- in this case "The National Geographic Channel."
Once a user clicks to access the site for free, they unavoidably view the ad, which in this case is for a program about the pirate Blackbeard:
Immediately after viewing the ad, the user gets redirected back to Salon.com, where there also happens to be several ads that a user could click in order to see more about the product:
Note: Salon is clearly not the only site that does this.
It is an effective and eye-catching concept. It is not intrusive, and it is likely to generate great awareness about the product being advertised. You would never get this type of exposure through an ordinary online marketplace buy.
The Washington Post has come up with a new product with their Slate.com property called “Blogvertorials.”
It is a unique format that blurs the lines a bit between content and advertising, attracting attention and increasing readership. Blogvertorials both expose users to the advertising message and add value through the content that the blog provides.
One advertiser that successfully used blogvertorial is CoolCapitals.com, which provides travel information, packages, deals and articles for various (primarily European) destinations.
Instead of merely running banners on Slate.com, CoolCapitals.com worked with the site to create this blogvertorial that appears to be an individual user’s account of his trip to Amsterdam, with links to the various things someone can do and see in Amsterdam:
At the end of blogvertorial there is a link to CoolCapitals.com, seemingly where the blogger got all his trip info and travel deals.
In an environment where there is such an affinity for user-generated content and advice, this concept plays well for CoolCapitals.com and positions them as an authority in users’ eyes, not just a corporate entity.
Product Integration has been around for a long time now, but it keeps changing. Done right, it is a blend of partnerships between brands and publishers. It provides the brand a way to extend its product into places where people are searching for the very need the product addresses.
With today's sophisticated consumers, the best kinds of product integration tie the product being promoted inextricably with the activity the consumer is performing online.
One example is a Target and Yahoo partnership. Target has a “Print to Store” capability. Users can upload their photos to either Yahoo Photos or Target Photos, edit them online, store them and share them.
Users can then send the photos to their local Target for printing. They can either have photos delivered or pick them up, which is ideal for the those consumers who don’t want to wait for their photos to be mailed. It’s a brilliant concept that ties in the actual activity that someone is doing -- uploading and printing their photos -- with particular sites that also deliver that capability (Yahoo Photos).
Here, instead of an online pure play, we see a brick and mortar (Target) taking advantage of the benefits of online (Yahoo) in conjunction with its offline assets.
These have been just a few examples of the many creative media placements and concepts happening every day online, and I do hope that this type of creativity never goes away.
While there is a time, place and need for online media marketplaces, some site-specific opportunities would never have been realized if media planners only stuck with the basics that could be bought in a commoditized way.
And we still have far to go. Imagine what opportunities we might find to make a difference with just a little pinch of creativity and dash of risk.
A revolutionary new idea can eventually become a mainstay in our media options. For example, I executed the first Unicast superstitial back in 1998 to promote the Universal Pictures movie “The Mummy.” Around the same time, I did a DHTML ad layer to promote another film release, “End of Days,” on MPlayer and other sites-- before PointRoll was even born. While controversial at the time, they made a buzz and eventually landed in the mainstay of ad units online today.
In my experience, risk is worth the reward.