Boosting Your Media Buy’s Performance

OK, the online media guy is commenting again on creative. Over the last few weeks, we’ve received several rounds of banners from a few of our clients’ “creative” agencies (or agencies of record). These banners were consistently missing applied best practices, inspiring me to offer these tips.

Remember, and I’ve said this many times before, well-planned media will only put your creative in front of your target audience. It won’t get people to do what you want them to do. Only good creative can encourage desired behavior or emotion. It doesn’t matter if what you want the consumer to do is on- or offline. It’s your messaging, offerings, and imagery that get people to do what you want them to do.

If you’re trying to encourage an immediate online conversion, direct is best. Get right to the point and be pragmatic. When we launch different banner concepts online, we always have a group we actually call the pragmatic concepts. Nine times out of 10, they’re the best performers. If you have the best price, lowest rate, a great coupon, free sample, or informative whitepaper or free guide, make that the point of the banner.

Some best practices and tactics for getting the most out of your banners and creative optimization:

  • Create a benefit matrix around products. People typically think, “How will you help me?” and “What do you have for me right now?” List those genuine benefit statements and catalog the offers you can make right now.

  • Choose the measure first, then the message. Decide how you’ll measure the banner’s success, then focus the banner’s message, offer, and call to action on achieving that metric. (That may seem obvious, but we see disconnects between those two factors all the time.) If you can’t map your message to your metric, chances are it won’t work.

    Looking for leads? Sell the lead conversion event in the banner and landing page. Tell them why they want to download the whitepaper and give you their info, not why they should buy your expensive technology product or service. Let your marketing escalation and salespeople do that.

  • Keep it short. Don’t make people cycle through 20 seconds of slides to get the point of your offer. Make it three frames, max, two to three seconds each frame. If it takes more than three seconds to communicate your message, you’re too verbose. Get right to the payoff by using reverse-pyramid style copywriting. Start with the payoff and follow with the lead in or supporting facts.
  • Use the power of suggestion. Tell people what you want them to do. Do want them to click now, download now, access now, get now, or sign up now? Tell them.
  • Use a static call to action. Your call to action should appear on all slides, not just the last slide of a looping animation. On horizontal banners, place the offer or call to action on the right side. People read left to right, so their eyes will end on the offer or call to action. On skyscraper banners, place your static offer or call to action on the top and bottom of the banner. And be sure to use large fonts and contrasting colors.
  • Treat your banner like a billboard. Your banner must stand out and communicate your message as if people were passing it in a fast-moving car.
  • Use variety. Use a wide variety of graphical treatments so all your banner concepts look very different from one another. Even with different offers, if all your banners look similar at first glance, chances are they’ll perform at the same level. If one tanks, they’ll all tank.
  • Keep offers simple. One benefit, one offer. Don’t put multiple offers in one banner.
  • Deliver on your offer right away. Land people on instant conversion pages that deliver on the offer.

Wrap Up

Keep in mind these best practices are for animated GIF and basic Flash banners, the majority of the banners in use now. They don’t cover all the best practices for rich media and video, although they can be applied to those media.

While it’s great to be a huge rich media fan and advocate, don’t do rich media for rich media’s sake. If your goal is low-cost conversions for B2B (define) or B2C (define), rich media isn’t always the way to go. It has high production costs that can make testing, versioning, and optimization difficult and rapid version nearly impossible. If your metrics are more branding based and applied to engagement and banner interaction, then, yes, rich media is the way to go.

To boost the non-interaction metrics (actual clicks and post-client conversions), we test messaging and offers in AdWords and GIF banners, then migrate the winning concepts to rich media. Of course, if your goals are branding and consumer engagement, then rich media blows away standard GIF and Flash banners.

If you want best practices for rich media banner production, check out PointRoll’s great list of tactics.

Did I miss any tips or best practices? Let me know! I’ll be sure to publish them in a future column and give you credit.

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