Brands want the most bang for their buck. Who doesn’t? They want multi-platform, and they want it bigger and better than ever before. They need to combine this with efficiency and scale. Despite having no time, they most importantly need to make a big splash with consumers.
Publishers need to win the deal. They need to execute bigger, better, and they need to be efficient, while delivering scale. With the same time constraints, they need to give brands a voice and they need to make it count.
With that in mind, how do we, as publishers, make marketing wins for our clients? Without oversimplifying the matter, we make wins for our audience.
What does that mean? Ultimately, your clients want eyeballs. They need your draw. More importantly, brands pay extra to be around real, devoted users. They need (as do you) those eyes to stay engaged, interested, and coming back for more. Otherwise, brands can employ networks where they can pay dirt for dirt. However, they know those interactions aren’t meaningful or sticky, so they’ll hand over the money, if you hand them the people. And, if you want your people to stay – to pay – you need to serve up the right brand-to-content balance so they’re not left choking on the bill.
Now, obviously, the more loyal the eyeballs, the more territorial the audience, which requires an attentive, creative, and expert approach to integrating brand messaging into “their” site. But, that’s what brands are paying for: quality! Remember, you’re not stuffing boxes with bargain-basement circulars. You’re looking to get paid for premium content and premium audiences, so you’ve got to create premium experiences.
Finally, we’ve all heard that brands want to fish where the fish are. But the fish won’t bite if the bait ain’t right. There are rules for publishers to follow when it comes to marrying advertising, content, and community. Below we outline some maxims to keep top of mind, along with ways those rules can be applied through ad products and campaigns.
- Be the ball (represent your audience). You know what they come to the site for. Find creative ways to work brands into and around this space. Both the brand and your users will thank you if the marriage is right. Let clients know why your audience wants what they’re selling, then serve it up within the content. How does the product fit into your audience’s everyday life? Better yet, identify how the brand’s core values align with your audience’s passion points and build your program around that.
- The golden rule (respect your audience). No one likes a loud, rude, uninvited guest. If you’re going the IAB route, provide brands with polite units that offer interaction on the site to create immersive experiences without taking users away from the content they came for in the first place. Units like Filmstrips, Sidekicks, and Sliders work well, as do expandable, complex ad units with in-ad content. Remember, while the male audience may be more forgiving to disruptive ads, the female space requires a more refined approach. However, for both, consider hoverIntent to ensure you’re not blasting users with unintended calls.
- Good boy (reward your audience). They’re there to learn or to be entertained. Reward them for interacting with the brand. Bring them deeper, bigger, better experiences – all which are “brought to you by” the brand. For example, expound on an editorial program with a video series, bring on an expert panel to expand on content, or develop new functionality to the site that will help enrich the user experience. Clients will secure stronger, more positive interactions with their brand and your audience will get more of what they desire.
- Think big (create programs). Roll your content into large themes with multiple access points. Additionally, remember people often visit sites to find ways to enrich their lives, or to simplify certain tasks. If you provide content with several key takeaways, your audience will thank you by returning, and brands will thank you by buying. Incorporate product placement into how-to’s, inside access, expert advice panels, etc. Provide this content through videos, editorial, games, and even quick time-wasters. Aggregate existing editorial that fits the program’s theme into a branded space and deliver event coverage or in-the-field research that brings real-life applications and experiences to your users.
- Spread the wealth (syndicate and socialize). Don’t stop with the creation of a custom content section. Remember, scale is tantamount to success. You need reach. Employ syndicatable units that extend the program’s reach. Distribute videos in banner and through 300×600 ad units. Extend interactive opportunities into RM experiences, push reminders and planners to mobile, and find ways to propagate Facebook walls and fan pages with content from your program. Make your content shareable, pinnable, and postable. The visuals that support the content have as much importance as the content itself – if not more. Why? A good visual is an instant way to make a connection. It’s your first impression. A picture paints a thousand words. A great image grants a thousand shares.
- Take them there (offline event creation and event coverage). You may not be able to fly your audience to E3, but you can bring the event to them via coverage with exclusive “brought to you by” content. This also allows for brands to piggyback events that tap a niche or genre group with new consumers. Create real-time interaction opportunities. Use live feeds, Twitter feeds, hashtag shout-outs, voting mechanisms, behind-the-scenes exclusive access, live conversation units, etc. to allow users to “be there.”
- Size matters (fill in the gaps). Many publishers have millions of visitors but a small staff. How can you produce high-impact campaigns with branded entertainment or cover events when you have limited internal resources? Augment your staff by partnering with video production companies, event planners, or outdoor marketing agencies. This requires directors with real high-level vision, multi-platform experience, and leadership ability, but again, that’s what agencies are paying you for.
- Make it click (make it interactive). When marketers want visitors to interact with their brand, generate compelling campaigns coupled with interactive ad products. Engage/create interactive video products, augmented reality experiences, and virtual fitting rooms. Again, it all goes back to “representing your audience” with contextually driven ad products they will relate to.
- Lean and mean (be efficient). Create programs before your clients come to you with RFPs. Tailor packages toward your audience instead of managing creative brainstorms reactively against these client requests 100 percent of the time. This will allow you to create well-thought-out programs that represent strong ties to your audience and will give you the ability to use the time you’d usually spend ideating on an RFP to adjust programs to your client’s marketing goals. Make sure you have a holistic plan that engages scalable extensions of your content, leverages your standardized toolkit of ad products, contains social strategies, and cleverly uses other promotional elements to create 360-degree momentum for your campaigns with the ultimate goal of serving your clients and your user base.
Finally, while this may all sound easy, it takes a concerted effort to devise and execute holistic programs that enhance your audience’s experience with a group of marketers and creatives that can bring their vision and experience to bear.
In summation, you are the master of your market. Act like it. Be a good leader, build a great space, and the people will come. Create great experiences and your audience will bring their friends. Protect that space and they’ll keep coming back – both your clients and audience, alike.
Audience image on home page via Shutterstock.