Fourth-Quarter Tune-Up: Five Keys to End the Year Strong

With Labor Day over and 2005 planning well on the way, it’s easy to get distracted from what’s going on now. At this time of year, we focus on securing budgets, mapping out revenue forecasts, and deciding where to host the department holiday party. We tend to loose momentum behind campaigns that were planned several months ago. Trends and technology change so quickly in this industry. What you planned in January may not be as tight as you thought it would be when you revisit it in September.

If you want to ensure you make your forth quarter numbers, here’s a quick check list you can use to end the year on a high note:

1. Use Rich Media Wherever Possible
The most recent Q2 DoubleClick ad serving trends report shows rich media outperforms traditional formats by a factor of five for click-through rates. It also affords big improvements in brand impact scores for unaided/aided awareness, brand association, understanding, consideration and purchase intent. From our aggregate client data, we see post-impression activity levels seven times greater than with traditional formats.

Sure, rich media costs more and is complex to execute. To detractors I say, “Do the math.” Factor the incremental gain versus the media investment. Often, just a 5 percent increase in response pays for the production investment, and then some. Rich media ads now comprise over 42 percent of ad formats served, so why waste media dollars?

Even smaller ads can benefit from a splash of Flash.

2. Use Multiple Calls-to-Action
So often, great online creative ends in a confusing or weak call-to-action. Pretty disappointing when you consider this is “interactive” advertising. Even with a solid CTA, many marketers don’t take into consideration the fact their entire span of potential or current customers are often in different stages of awareness or consideration. It’s important to map out the best possible CTAs in a single ad to cover the span. A new technology product, for example, could offer a white paper or downloadable brochure for the unawares, a free demo for shoppers, and special “buy now” for impulse buys.

Plan for customer stages. Not everyone is as ready as you are to buy.

3. Pre-Test Creative
One interesting nugget of learning from the Internet Advertising Bureau’s recent Cross Media Effectiveness road show was too many campaigns are launched without pre-testing concepts. Among the five most recent studies, I was surprised to hear that after pre-testing the creative, two campaigns had to be totally scrapped, two had major revisions, and only one could be run as-is. And this creative came from major marketers and high-quality agencies. Yikes!

Why is it we don’t actively pre-test ad creative before we run it online? We’ve diligently pre-tested TV and print for years. Doesn’t online work deserve the same due diligence?

Firms like Insight Express can quickly turn around a creative test for around $10,000. If you’re launching new work next month, have it tested first to boost results.

4. Leverage Content Integration
If you’re looking to squirrel away those last few budgetary dollars, consider implementing your own collection of relevant content via a “walled garden” approach. This could mean owning a content section within an existing property, or creating your own site where you’re the exclusive advertiser. It’s a great tool in that you own the environment; it limits competitive incursion; and of course, the content comes from a trusted source. You can partner with publishers to create a content collection, but that can be costly and you limit your ability to leverage it elsewhere.

A great example of this strategy is launching your own AvantGo Channel, and propagating awareness via your current customer communications channels (newsletter, site content, etc.).

Don’t be shy about being your own publisher.

5. Behavioral Targeting
Buzz and hype notwithstanding, I can attest that behavioral targeting is well worth the effort. Implement this new targeting technique to better focus your advertising on customers who have demonstrated prior interest in a particular subject, product or service as demonstrated by their site activities. In doing so, you create “audience clusters,” or sub-targets within some of your best performing properties that can be leveraged now and in future campaigns. While it can seem difficult to plan this type of targeting effort across different properties (sites use different targeting technologies from companies like Tacoda or Revenue Science), you can develop planning trends through experience that can be applied throughout your plan.

Hopefully, some or all of these tips will help you deliver a stronger 2004 plan. If so, don’t be shy about sharing that big year-end bonus with your source of inspiration!

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