Buying the Women's Market Online

When I first started buying online media, one didn’t do much in the way of targeting buys or doing research to see what sites had the most reach or the best composition against a given target. There were only two handfuls of sites you could advertise on, and the folks visiting them were pretty much alike.

Sites you could buy were the Merc Center, Yahoo (but only through Softbank), Infoseek, Pointcast (now entrypoint.com) and other smaller niche sites.

Most advertisers were technology focused. A few were consumer goods trying their hand at a new medium. But at the very beginning, there was really only one demo: men in their 30’s with at least an undergraduate degree and $60K plus per year household income.

If an advertiser sought to reach another demographic, the online buyer or planner looked for sites to advertise on in the same way as one does with small-circulation print. A particular demographic for a given vehicle was assumptive based on content.

One demographic that was at first thought to be of little import on the web and has fast become the most important and powerful target is women.

Women are one of the three fastest growing audiences on the web (the other two are the 50-plus market and the under-18 audience). They now make up 47 percent of the online universe according to @Plan’s Winter 2000 survey.

It should come as no surprise to any of you with a history in marketing beyond just the last few years on the web that marketers should want to reach women, for women between the ages of 18 and 49 have been the most important target for mass-marketed products for most of the history of advertising.

It should also come as no surprise, then, that cropping up on the web are more and more sites catering specifically to the female audience. But they are not all created equal, and the sites you recognize the most come with a few catches when buying.

When an advertiser wants to reach a female target, a buyer first goes to the usual suspects. These are Women.com, the Conde Net properties such as Epicurious and PHYS, and iVillage.com.

But there are some things you should know about these high-profile women’s sites before jumping into a buy.

The big sites mentioned above and others of their ilk tend to be very expensive compared to the rest of the marketplace. CPMs are high, and there is little room for negotiation unless there is a significant dollar commitment on the table. Conde Net won’t negotiate rate with you even if there is a lot of money on the table, as it is a matter of company policy carried over from the print site to not move off rate card.

Others will move on CPM, but have minimum monthly total buy limits. You can’t even talk to Women.com unless you have $10K per month or more to spend with them. I’ve even heard a rumor that they are upping it to a $20K minimum per month buy.

So, if you’ve got an advertiser who is after the female audience but doesn’t have budgets like Microsoft to spend online, where do you go?

Well, now, as the years have gone by and there are literally millions of web sites, the marketplace and research have converged, by chance, to make your life a little easier.

Thousands upon thousands of sites currently accept advertising. And we now have tools like Media Metrix (formerly two companies, PC Meter and Relevant Knowledge) and @Plan to research sites for both potential cume reach against a given target and what composition of a particular site is the target we are after.

Using this research, you may be able to find other sites that do very well against a female demographic that you simply didn’t think about before because the site hasn’t positioned itself as exclusively for women (like the quasi-male bashing advertising of Oxygen does).

Other options are network buys targeted to run banners only through the women’s channel of content. Networks like AdSmart and 24/7 both have very strong channels of women’s content that can be tested at low CPMs relative to the bigger-name sites. That way, you’ve at the very least minimized your financial exposure finding out whether or not the target will perform for you.

And keep on the lookout for more and more sites catering to a female audience to hit the scene. They’ve come a long way, baby, and the market ain’t gonna stop here.

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