Ten Things to Do Besides Banners

We are familiar with great decline of banner click rates. It’s funny how we now look at a 0.2 percent click rate and think that’s good. There was a funny parody of “Adweek” called SadWeek that appeared when the dot-com bubble burst around 2001. One article was headlined, “Banner Click Rates Drop Below Zero Confounding Marketers and Mathematicians.”

The industry has combated it several ways including research to justify the branding power of banners (which I whole heartily believe in). However, branding clients always agree with a campaign being about the brand until they read their reports. Then, they start to look at things like clicks and action rates.

At our agency, we try to get the client to focus on a campaign’s top-line metrics. We have high CPM (define) banners for branding and visibility and a wide variety of non-banner placements that tend to get more or cheaper clicks to balance things out.

For example, one buy we do again and again is on a site that sells us all the banners and skyscrapers at mid-range CPMs. Then, as almost a value add, the site throws in millions of text link and button combination units as fixed placements at the bottom of their pages. Then we come in with Google Site Targeted Text Ads that we apply to our media buy from our media budget. As a result, we get the visibility we want from the site with the banners and tons of low cost clicks to bring the cost per click and cost per action from the site way down.

Here is a quick list of some things you can include in your plan that are not banners.

  • Text links. OK, these are oldies but goodies. Text links are most often 65 or more characters of text sometimes accompanied by a logo or button that are often fixed placements. They are typically at the bottom of a page but sometimes can creep their way up above the fold in the side of a page. In my experience, the vast quantity of these you get — because they are often fixed placements on every page of a site or site section — makes them the darling of a campaign. The key is to squeeze something compelling into the limited amount of text you typically get.

  • In-text ads. These are very subtle but in our experience effective. Sponsor certain keywords in networks like Vibrant or Kontera and then those words — when published on participating sites — show up in the copy with two green underlines (as is the case with Vibrant.) When a user rolls her mouse over the underlined word, a window pops with either a static text ad, rich media flash ad, or even a video ad. The cool part is that this part (the voluntary impressions) cost you nothing. In-text is like paid search so you only pay for the click — typically $2 to $4.
  • Google content ads with site targeting. So here you might say, huh? Google comes out of the search budget. Well have a look at Google’s site network and see if any of the sites in the network overlap with your plan. This a great back door into those sites where you can actually get some cost-per-click placements. How much? That depends on the bidding, but you still may find that even if they are a couple bucks they come out to be cheaper than the ones you are getting from banners.
  • Sponsored search. OK, again people say that should be part of our search budget. That’s true, but present the results integrated with your online media if you can. Reality is, paid search and everything we do comes under the umbrella of “online media.” Breaking search out separately doesn’t allow you to really get a topline handle on your online channel. Sponsored search is part of online media and at a very high level should be viewed as an integral part of a company’s online presence.
  • Advertorials. This is definitely one of our secret weapons. Write a great article, embed it with links, and buy some online advertorial space. Many sites don’t offer it but are willing to try it. Get them to promote the headlines throughout their site and get it on their home page for at least some period of time. Oh yeah, drop it on PRWeb as well!
  • Facebook social ads. These ads are text and image combo ads that appear in the news feeds of a person’s Facebook start page. When a Facebook member logs in, there’s a listing of what all their friends have done in their profiles — this is where you place the ad. Ads can be targeted by a wide range of geographic and demographic selects. However, there is a $50,000 minimum.
  • Newsletter sponsorships. This is another oldie but goodie. However, look for the newsletters where you can get a text or text and image combo sponsorship at the newletter’s top. These are great for a few reasons. They tend to perform very well, you get a lot of real estate for copy, and they hang around for a long time in a person’s inbox driving clicks from weeks and sometimes months to come. Finally, they can easily be forward when people forward their newsletters. The downside is they need to be reserved pretty far in advance, you cannot increase impressions when you find a placement is working, and they often cannot be canceled once reserved.
  • Application advertising. The jury is still out on the level of clicks you are going to get out of these and whether they will outperform banners. Basically, it’s a new category of advertising that lets you buy media in the huge and rapidly growing universe of Facebook applications, Google gadgets, and general widgets that people can add to their desktops. The biggest category by far is Facebook applications that people can add to their pages. These include utilities that enable people to list their favorite movies, compete in fantasy sports competitions, communicate and track friends in new ways — just about anything you can imagine. Some of the more popular application developers are selling ads within their applications. Sponsorships include standard banners and buttons but you can also get text ads in their feeds and skins.
  • In-video static. OK, I am not talking pre- or post-roll here — the commercials that run before or after a video. I’m talking the static little text and image ad that comes up in the bottom of a video. Many smaller video sites use them and YouTube has started experimenting with them. The good thing here is they are click enabled, people definitely see them as they are rather intrusive, and they can pop during or after a video is played.
  • Splash page. These are the full-page ads that pop before you can enter a site or article from an e-mail link. If the user does not wish to click on the ad, they can click “no thanks” or “proceed.” Now people say they hate these and they are intrusive but from a performance basis they have worked well for us. They cannot be ignored and if you deliver the right creative, offer, or message they can get a very high click and action rate. You also get a lot of real estate to work with. The one draw back — they can be pricey so it is important to have great creative and offers with them.

That’s all for now. Again, please let me know if I left anything out and I will add it a future column!

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