The holidays aren't even over and already digital marketers are busy planning their 2012 campaigns. Always this time of year inspires us to reflect on what we've done, what we've learned, and how these things can be leveraged for our next ad buy. With this in mind, I've compiled a list of some must-have technologies, placements, formats, units, and properties to consider as you embark on a fresh year of advertising. Not only have these proven successful in months past, but they're likely to remain effective in the months to come.
Ad exchanges. Throughout the past year we've seen media buying agencies incorporate ad exchanges into virtually every kind of campaign. For big brands that require added volume, exchanges can provide more tonnage than working with a regular network alone, and having access to more volume can help brand performance. Throw in the benefit of real-time bidding - with it, you know you're getting a market rate for your buy - and you've got a valuable supplement or alternative to your existing media buys.
Google Media Ads. Why limit your paid search campaign to text ads when you can show active searchers movie trailers? This is an excellent way to present a product in action without having to stray from the familiar search realm. It's different from a Google AdWords buy in that it can be purchased for a flat fee, and Google automates the targeting process instead of requiring advertisers to set keywords.
So far this format is primarily being used by entertainment companies; Disney, for example, is promoting its movie "The Muppets" with expandable trailers embedded in Google Search Ads. As Google expands its availability, so too will advertisers be able to expand their video reach.
Branded YouTube channels. Arguably the king of branded video content, YouTube has seen an upswing in branded content channels from companies eager to promote their products through video while also engaging consumers in an online conversation. Because YouTube is, in essence, half video player and half message forum, it allows brands to meet a dual objective.
It also comes with a positive reputation that attracts consumers to consumer-generated content and heartens them to stick around for the branded stuff. Advertisers like Disney, Swiffer, Victoria's Secret, Walmart, and Pepto-Bismol are all actively maintaining YouTube channels, along with countless others. Walmart is currently using the space to promote its, "12 Days of Giving" program, while Pepto-Bismol has updated its channel with funny seasonal videos that encourage consumers to, "Eat, drink & be covered" during the holidays.
Shoppable mobile ads. If you aren't already making your mobile ads "shoppable," you could be doing your brand a disservice. Studies show that consumers are ready and willing to shop by smartphone, so companies would be wise to incorporate buying functionality in their mobile apps and tablet-based digital catalogues, as well as to establish one-click buying through mobile banners.
Also worthy of consideration for upcoming campaigns is QR codes. According to a study from InsightExpress, more than 50 percent of smartphone owners can now identify a QR code. As more brands incorporate these into their print materials, they should make them highly visible, place them in the "natural eye flow" of the ad, and succinctly explain what consumers stand to gain from scanning the codes. InsightExpress says 32 percent of heavy smartphone users are already scanning them in-store.
Banners that can be saved. In the spotlight this year was the idea of saving banner ads so that consumers could revisit them at their convenience. Through platforms like AdKeeper, brands stand to boost engagement rates…if not control when consumer engagement actually takes place. AdKeeper says that once kept banners typically receive a 5 percent click-through rate, and brands need only incorporate the company's code into their display ads in order to participate.
It will take some time for the concept of saving ads to reach mass penetration, but in the meantime, facilitating this activity will give early adopters the chance to interact with your brand and product without immediately having to leave the site page on which they originally find your ad. In other words, this easy embellishment is worth experimenting with in 2012.
Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.