Prepare for Holiday 2005, Part 2: Online Advertising Opportunities

As I stated in part one of this series, now’s the time to start planning your holiday 2005 online ad buys. If you want to ensure the best visibility for your advertisers this holiday season, you’d better contact publishers and submit RFPs (define) now.

Integrated content and sponsorships lead this year’s ad opportunities, though rich media opportunities and interactive tools are also making a strong showing. Every year, publishers get more creative, combining holiday content and ad opportunities, with editorial and advertising co-creating content ideas that make sense for both the advertiser and the site visitor. Many of these ideas originate from visitor feedback.

Take Meredith Corp.’s Better Homes & Gardens‘ site plans. Meredith starts surveying its consumers in the summer to see what they’re thinking about and when they plan to take action around the holidays. The holidays are’s heaviest-trafficked time of year.

To encourage more daily repeat traffic, Meredith built a “100 Days of Holidays” promotion. The promotion runs from September 24 to January 2 and is based on the six major holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s. It features sponsored daily video tips hosted by the Food Network’s Sandra Lee, sponsored recipe booklets, and a Gift Gallery with hundreds of gift ideas and ad placements. It also includes mini gift galleries for nested advertiser content, containing only their products with links to transactional pages. There are daily holiday email messages containing an exclusive sponsor; interactive holiday tools, such as a customizable pumpkin stencil maker for Halloween; custom message boards for advertisers; and advertising opportunities for popular on-site polls.

Meredith is already in sales mode, responding to RFPs and proactively pitching “clients that make sense,” that is, brand-building-focused clients. It utilizes Dynamic Logic to help advertisers understand the effect of their online campaigns on their brands. The minimum buy-in is $10,000, with specialty areas such as the Gift Gallery ($50,000 minimum) and recipe booklets ($75,000-$100,000) costing more. Meredith accepts almost all forms of rich media and offers in-house production to help facilitate ad buys. It’s already booked 50-65 percent of its available holiday inventory.

Yahoo has also developed unique content to help promote the holidays and create new ad opportunities. During November and December, it will offer a must-have list for the holiday season — its sponsored Top Ten Toy Buzz Index, a microsite generated from its existing Buzz Index. There will be sublists, such as Top 10 for Boys and Top 10 for Girls. There will be a coupon promotional opportunity for offline retailers (“Visit X Brand for 5% off any in-store purchase of $100 or more”). Additional integrated content includes a scratch-off game built into ad units and wish list ads that allow users to create custom, emailable wish lists.

AOL’s 2005 holiday special is aimed predominantly at women, combining the season’s best featured content from such Time Inc. brands as “Real Simple,” “Cooking Light,” “Southern Living,” “In Style,” and “Parenting.” Holiday-specific content such as holiday recipes and cooking tips, creative home decor ideas, gift suggestions, “Santa Central,” and holiday shopping features from AOL inStore and holiday music from Radio@AOL will also be featured within a variety of AOL channels, including AOL City Guide, AOL Entertainment, AOL KOL, and AOL Latino.

AOL will also offer integrated sponsorship packages, including logo-leading pages, advertiser content integration, rich media, and video-enabled units incorporated within AOL’s holiday photo galleries. AOL holiday advertisers can also purchase rich-media-enabled front-door units on the AOL Portal, AOL Service, and AIM Today. AOL’s planned sweepstakes, Your Holiday Wish Come True, will incorporate sponsor products among the prizes. AOL will offer a full mix of pricing models., with its strongest time of year in Q1, offers advertisers a discount for Q4 if Q1 2006 ads are booked now. eDiets has a strong readership during the holidays, with visitors seeking tips on healthy recipes, eating right, and making it through the holidays without putting on excess pounds. The site is planning an immediate push to ad agencies to let them know about their Q4/Q1 ad special. It has lowered its testing price, allowing buy-ins at the $5,000 level and renewals starting at $15,000. It’s also offering CPC (define) text links in newsletters and CPA (define) opportunities through newsletters and confirmation pages when the advertiser fit is right.

These are but a few examples of the kinds of ad opportunities available for the upcoming holiday season. Just as the holiday season seems to creep up on us earlier and earlier with each year, so should we begin planning our holiday media spends.

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