Advanced targeting and buying the audience are all the rage now. With retargeting, social graph targeting, psychographic targeting, etc., the options are endless for advertisers to cut down on "wasted impressions." Add in the dozens of data providers that allow you to target in-market consumers with ease and the ability has never been higher to reach the right user at the right time.
But is it all about placement? What about the message? In a white paper by Microsoft's Atlas Institute entitled "Ad Creative or Media Placement -- Which Is More Important When Optimizing Online Direct Response Campaigns?" the group found that, "While both are important, media placement has a much greater influence on online ad performance than creative does. Conversion rates varied much more among identical creative running on different placements than they did among different creative treatments running on common placements." They certainly aren't telling us to forget the message, but their research indicates it may take a back seat to placement, at least for optimizing direct response-focused campaigns.
On the flip side, in a well-received open letter to the industry last year, "A Bigger Idea: A Manifesto on Interactive Advertising Creativity," IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg urged online marketing professionals to remember the importance of the idea in marketing. He asked the industry to "prove to your customers that causing the heart to beat quick is at least as important as making the mouse click." The main thrust of the piece was the topic of the ever advancing commoditization of media inventory online and the impact of it on our industry, but his urge for better creative as a way to bring more dollars to digital was highly discussed (and debated) in the blogosphere.
Sometimes the great idea can be hard to find. And even if you do find it, can you bottle it and apply it to online advertising creative? Will the audience feel the same way in this era of banner blindness?
For those of you out there looking to liven up your creative, here are four companies with solutions that may interest you:
Brand Affinity Technologies provides an easy way to incorporate sports celebrities in your ads. Choose from thousands of nationally, regionally, and locally targeted talent. Secure them on a campaign basis for use in cross-media endorsement campaigns with no long term contracts or negotiations.
Top dogs: Ryan Steelberg (president/CEO) and Chad Steelberg (chairman/CTO)
Founded in: 2007
HQ: Irvine, Calif.
Product: Athlete and celebrity endorsement deals; consumer engagement tools
Website quote: BAT is the world's largest talent marketplace, providing real-time tracking and affinity data on 30,000+ talent and access to over 3,300 celebrity athletes for advertisers and agencies to feature in national, regional, and locally-targeted cross-media endorsement campaigns.
Notes: Clients have included Ford, Intuit, and Sony. Partners include Getty Images, Microsoft Advertising, Fox Sports, and CBS Outdoor. Awards include being named an AlwaysOn OnMedia Top 100 Winner for 2010 (category winner among ad service providers). Executive awards include 2009 Sports Business Journal "40 Under 40" for Ryan Steelberg.
Quote: "Historically, the process of contracting and activating celebrities for endorsement and sponsorships has been extremely challenging and time consuming. BAT is changing that, allowing advertisers of all sizes to easily create knockout campaigns -- via online, TV, content and social media, print, outdoor, radio, or even appearances and memorabilia -- that effectively tap into the passion that people have for their favorite celebs," Steelberg said.
Linkstorm powers online display ads with a familiar, cascading menu format. These menus (much like website navigation menus) are independently served from the actual ad, so they keep file sizes small and can be swapped out at anytime without having to switch out creative tags.
Bottom line: We increase the ROI of your display ad campaign by putting the user in control through choice, utility, and tools -- resulting in a better experience for both users and advertisers.
Top dog: Ari Brandt, CEO
Founded in: 2000, relaunched as Linkstorm in 2008
HQ: New York, with offices in San Francisco and Chicago (resellers and deployments in 14 countries).
Product: The core display advertising product is extremely flexible, with offerings including video, ecommerce, dynamic data, form fields, social media, and mobile.
Notes: The company works with more than 100 blue chip clients in more than 14 countries worldwide, including programs with major ad networks.
Quote: "In our current economy, advertising effectiveness is an absolute imperative. The unique technology pioneered by Linkstorm allows marketers to gain greater efficiencies from their display advertising," Brandt said.
SocialMedia.com can turn your ads into social experiences that contain Twitter messages, comments from web communities, and virtually any social data from any site (including yours).
Tag line: Make Your Ads Social
Top dog: Kurt Abrahamson, CEO
Founded in: 2007
HQ: San Francisco, Calif.
Products: Social Overlay, Social Stream, Social Video, Social Hub
Homepage quote: SocialMedia.com turns standard ad units into social experiences that resonate with friends, influencers, and community members.
Notes: SocialMedia.com's technology platform creates and serves social ads for publishers like MySpace, IDG, CafeMom, Conde Nast, Flixster, and Hi5. SocialMedia.com has the most complete access to third-party social data and is the only ad platform using Yelp and Foursquare data in online display ads.
Quote: "SocialMedia.com was founded on the principle that more effective and trusted ads include real messages from real people. We've been the leader in social advertising since 2007, and we continuously pump what we learn back into new and innovative ad products. For every action that a user can take on a social network (share, like, rate, comment), we enable them to take the same action in social ads across the web. Users' actions and comments feed back into the ad, creating authentic, sponsored content. The entire web is becoming social, and we believe all ads will be social too," Abrahamson said.
Weather Underground is a leading provider of weather data on the web. It can also power weather data in ads such as the temperature of a vacation destination city's banners or providing useful drive-time weather info for creative targeting the business vertical.
Tag line: Where Weather Drives Traffic
Top dog: Alan Steremberg, co-founder/president
Founded in: 1995
HQ: San Francisco
Homepage quote: "The internet's first weather site, wunderground.com, is today the second most visited site within the weather category and has developed sophisticated geo-targeting capabilities using weather data to trigger campaigns depending on local weather conditions."
Notes: Weather Underground provides weather data to many businesses across the world including Google and The Associated Press.
Quote: "Utilizing live weather data within ad creative engages the target audience and enhances the relevancy of your message. Weather Underground can integrate real-time weather data to work with any creative across your entire media campaign," Steremberg said.
Josh Dreller is VP of at Fuor Digital.
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