Thinking Beyond the Banner

While you have endless choices in online media creative units, it can be a scramble to produce everything before your deadline. This is because the creative is usually being prepped and developed around IAB standard sizes (as it should), and people aren’t thinking about a) the full engagement path of the user, or b) all the possible value-added placements and additional opportunities.

Below is a list of items and options that your creative folks should consider. I’m not saying your creative team should produce all of this stuff before they know it’s coming. I’m saying that a campaign’s creative specifications list should grow – as opposed to, “The banners are done, but here are a bunch of odds and ends we need last minute.”

To add a little depth to this list, I’ve broken it into two parts: engagement path items and alternative placements.

Engagement Path Creative Units

You must have these on your list from the get-go, so you have a complete user path that funnels users toward your marketing objective or through a meaningful brand engagement. The list below is what you should be thinking about for your campaign’s creative to form complete experiences right from the start – not just banners.

  • Universally appealing offers: Highly creative banners are great, but if conversion is your goal, start with an arsenal of offers you can test. Insert static (non-animated) real estate in your banners and landing pages. People often get focused on the messaging of the banners, and they don’t remember that it’s the offer that gets people to click and convert on the landing page.

  • Landing pages: When we’re doing media for a client and another agency is doing the creative, I often see banner creative being presented without its corresponding landing page. That’s like buying an airline ticket with no destination – the two go together.
  • Thank you pages: So someone filled out a form and entered/downloaded a contest – are you done with them? Don’t just say thank you, say, “Thank you and now check out our products” or “Here is another great offer if you give us a little more information” or “Call this 800 number to speak with someone.”
  • Triggered e-mail: I’m not saying spam people, especially if they didn’t opt in to your list. But at least a) let them know they’re getting one confirmation e-mail after their transaction, and b) send a confirmation e-mail thanking them for their engagement and following up with some core offers and information.

Alternative Placements

Here’s a list of items that you should consider or at least prep your creative folks for. Chances are that at least some of these items will end up on the list.

  • Text links: These are the little gems of any plan and typically are limited to 50 to 100 characters. The challenge is to say something meaningful enough in that short little blurb to get people to click. However, it’s also the sheer volume of impressions you get from these placements that can often make them a worthwhile placement – text link ads are often on the bottom and sidebars of every page in a site.

  • Advertorial placements: Another overlooked gem. Get them whenever you can – they get indexed in search, and often the site will promote the article. With the right slant, the article you write can not only get many eyeballs, it can also create a ton of clicks from consumers who are warmed up and ready to convert.
  • Buttons: Like text links buttons, these can be a challenge to get much more than your logo into them, but if they can be animated or matched with a little text, you can build in a click incentive. Again, the sheer volume of buttons you might enjoy as a value-added placement can make them very worthwhile.
  • E-mail text sponsorships: If you asked me what I would prefer in an e-mail sponsorship between a top banner or a top text sponsor, I would take the text sponsorship every time. The top text sponsorship doesn’t get blocked by Outlook and is embedded into the editorial. The copy is often quick, to the point, and you can really promote your incentive.
  • Standalone e-mail: Clearly this is a common value add and option in any e-mail program. So even if you’re not renting e-mail lists as a focus, chances are one or two of your bundled media buy packages will include some standalone e-mail. So make sure you’re sending something good.
  • White paper syndication: Doing a tech/B2B lead gen campaign? Take your best white papers; make the titles short, sweet, and appealing; and write some abstracts that make people want to download the white paper. Don’t title the paper, “SOA Infrastructure Deployment Requirements for the Enterprise.” Say, “10 SOA Tips You Need to Know.”
  • Video overlay ads: Maybe you don’t have video, but consider going into YouTube and creating a vast list of videos that your target audience might watch, and sponsor them with video overlay ads. Selling cameras or promoting the latest Nikon? There are tons of how-to digital photography videos all over YouTube – shouldn’t your brand and offers be shown to the people watching them – especially if you can do CPC?
  • Facebook ads: These aren’t banners, but they can be surgically targeted to a very specific audience for B2C (define) and B2B (define) to promote different actions. You can build your fan base, solicit shares and likes, show a video, or just link people to a landing page. In addition, you can do a big CPM (define) buy or use the self-serve CPC (define) ads like Google AdWords.
  • Search ads: Of course you’re already running AdWords and other search ads, but are you integrating your search marketing with your campaign? I’m not suggesting you disrupt the channel your search folks have lovingly optimized to maximize ROI (define). Instead, layer your campaign on top of it with some incremental dollars, especially around your branded terms that may have gotten a boost from all your advertising and your competitors’ terms. Bring search and media together and look at the attribution benefits of your display on search.

Finally, don’t be lazy – give all these alternate placements their own tracking links. Sometimes they’re the placements that push a campaign’s site placements into the performance bucket, or they actually outperform more traditional placements. So, if you track these little gems individually and they work, you’ll know to ask for more.