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Tips for IM marketing success

Tips for IM marketing success Erin Coker

The future of instant messenger campaigns is brighter than ever.

Approximately 66 percent of teens and young adults now send more IMs than emails. Additionally, Gartner Research has recently projected that by 2013, IM will be the default choice for enterprise-based real-time communications, serving as the nexus for voice, video and text exchanges. Three-quarters of instant messenger users are online everyday, and spend several hours per day live within their messaging application, attracting brand and advertisers to this new delivery system.

Instant messenger campaigns provide advertisers and brands with a unique audience and opportunity for meaningful brand interaction, without adding much time and work to the already stressful and labor-intensive creative design and ad deployment process.

Designing for the IM space is simplified due to its controlled environment. Unlike traditional banner ads, there is no surrounding content to be concerned with and no browser to troubleshoot. Combine the ease of implementation, the massive audience size, and the extremely compelling interactions available, and IM campaigns are a "sure thing" for advertiser and agency ROI.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when creating your own campaign, and thoughts on how to deliver creative branding and interactive tie-ins to engage and interact with the IM audiences.

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How to find your IM audience

  • Location, location, location
    IM applications use ad servers, which allow advertisers to slice and dice their audience to target demographics by geographical location. Advertisers can be more accurate in reaching their target audience through user information, vs. IP address targeting, which is less precise. Talk to your rep and tailor your campaign to your target audience.

  • Day segmenting:
    Instant messenger advertisers can also use day segmenting for more effective advertisements. IM is prevalent both in the corporate and social atmosphere. Audiences on IM platforms tend to vary throughout a given day: kids hop on IM after school, corporate users sign on at 9:00 am, parents get their chance after their children are asleep at 9:00 pm.

  • Use multiple instant messenger platforms
    Most users use one IM application or another; few are exposed to all of the environments, so buy ads on all the properties. You will spend the same amount of time on creative and reach an extremely large, semi-engaged audience with very little overlap.

Creative cookbook

  • Keep it fresh: Vary your creative to keep ad units engaging
    As I mentioned above, using fresh ad units at different times of the day can increase your audience exposure and also your interaction rates. Create different versions of the ad to run at different times of the campaign (like coming soon, starts today, now playing for the movie new releases). You're reaching a lot of consumers, but if the campaign is running for several days, you'll want to vary creative to ensure the user is engaged. Try placing the ad on a three- to four-day rotation so there is a new experience every day for three days before seeing the first creative again.

  • Think outside the box: Use expandable ad units
    Unlike traditional ad campaigns, IM ad campaigns have significantly less space available to engage the user. Thus, mouse-over expandable ad units (MOEs) are especially useful for driving interactions and creating an experience despite the lack of real estate that is accessible. Expandable panels enlarge the area for stronger and clearer creative to engage the user when the ad is rolled over. Users can watch videos, email the ad to a friend, download or set an AIM icon, download a brochure, or play a game directly in the rolled over window.

    Sony used an expandable ad to promote the James Bond pic "Casino Royale." Rolling over the ad produced a movie preview, while clicking on it took viewers to the site.

    Keep in mind that when designing an expandable ad, your controls and navigation should be as far from the sides of the ad as possible so that the user doesn't accidentally rollout of the environment.

  • Engage: Use a strong and descriptive call to action (large and persistent)
    The traditional banner space in the IM environment is very small, usually 120x90 or 234x60 depending on the application. If you are creating a mouse-over expandable, be sure to use as much space as possible to let users know that they will have something to interact with if they roll over the ad. Remember that your call-to-action is the first and only immediately visible section of your ad. Be specific about your call-to-action. For instance, don't say "Roll over," say "Roll over to Play Now" or "Roll over to See the Video" or another specific action that is appropriate for the creative being utilized.

  • Reward the user: widgets, coupons, downloads, etc.
    Everyone loves free stuff! The IM environment is already extremely interactive; users are downloading custom sounds for their login/logout alerts, creating characters for their profile pictures, and sending text, video and audio to their friends. Brands are contributing to this interaction by enabling users to download a variety of widgets, coupons, etc that are a product of the user's interaction.

    Try integrating with the IM environment by sponsoring a custom skin or icon. Depending on the environment, you may even be able to allow users to change their icons or skins without leaving the ad. Also, try adding a widget. Making these takeaways IM specific, like icons or avatars, can further promote interaction.

  • Keep it simple: Structure ad with clear content
    Since the space is rather small, we suggest keeping your creative tactic simple and being dedicated to a single technique. For example, within an IM campaign, use the mouse-over expandable to show a video, download an icon or allow users to embed a widget into their profiles. Do not implement all of these features within one ad unit. Try one feature; see how the ad performs, and make changes to it. Change your creative, switch your call-to-action, but don't overload the ad unit. Instead, combine this tactic with keeping the creative fresh and rotate through different creative concepts on multiple days.

I hope these tips for success assist your instant messenger ad campaign in driving interactions and surpassing campaign objectives. Instant messenger campaigns are popular, user-specific, and continue to attract advertisers and brands. They are the new hub of interaction for users of all ages and demographics. Brands and advertisers are eager to join the interaction to share ideas, experiences and products through this promising medium.

Erin Coker is director of advertising services for EyeWonder, Inc. Read full bio.

Erin Coker joined EyeWonder (www.eyewonder.com) in 2002, serving as the director of product development for three years and director of creative services for two. Coker designed and managed the development of many of EyeWonder's products and...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Erin Coker

2007, December 20

Great points, Roland.

In terms of the expense - I absolutely understand, and although we as EyeWonder have run several campaigns which spanned multiple different portal IM placements, ultimately its a decision you and your client need to make.

EyeWonder is a certified, tested provider on five different portal IM platforms and using just two different sizes you can cover 5 IM placements. Compared to even a standard ad campaign, this should improve the creative costs, instead of creating more.

Commenter: Roland Reinhart

2007, December 20

Erin, thanks for the tips.

Our agency has run a variety of teen-targeted media on instant messaging platforms over the years. Here are a few notes from my experiences:

- Regarding the recommendation of buying across multiple platforms, that can be very expensive. In our experiences with AOL, Yahoo and MSN, they often required this to be part of a larger media buy.

- Plus, the custom formats vary from AOL to Yahoo to MSN, so there's added creative costs to customize for particular platform that often don't match the specs of other platforms. That adds to the difficulty of trying to create an ad unit or advergame that is compelling for the end-users to interact with.

- Also, while there may be some day part segmenting, we've never in the past been able to target by age/gender, especially on AOL. This article doesn't mention if that's changed.

By the way, you didn't mention anything about automated attendants. We had very good success with testing them in the past, particularly on AOL. They do require a great deal of planning and development to make they useful and engaging. We surveyed the teens that interacted with our deployments -- the majority reported that they were receptive to interacting with a brand through IM. But keep the lawyers away -- they try to stick an asterisk and 10 lines of disclaimer text anywhere they can. :)