The Tear Sheet Factor

Ever experienced the following?

  • Scenario 1: After painstaking months of selling, cajoling, and gratuitously begging your client to try an online ad program, launch day approaches. You tell the client the campaign goes live in the morning. You arrive in your office the next day with the message light flashing. Messages one through five from Client scan like this: “Can’t see ad… expressing concern… why aren’t we up?… getting heat from boss… call me! ASAP!”

    Speed-dial Client to reassure. A simple tap of the refresh button and… presto! You should see the online ad. Ten minutes later over the phone, you re-reassure. Twenty or so more reloads should do the trick. If the ad-serving gerbil actually does cough up the ad, heaven forbid Client will ever able to repeat the event.

    So… Client begins to wonder: “What exactly did I just buy?”

  • Scenario 2: After painstaking months of selling, cajoling, and gratuitously begging your client to spend money on a flight of full-page ads in The Wall Street Journal, launch day approaches. You tell the client the campaign goes live tomorrow. You arrive in your office the next morning, find the paper, and rip the ad from page five. You drive over and plop the ad down on Client’s deck. Client admires ad. Holds firmly between hands and beams over the handiwork. Immediately strolls down hall to show Boss… then, the boss shows his boss… and so on until the CEO admires ad. Everyone is happy.

My friends, that’s the Tear Sheet Factor.

Until we replicate this simple occurrence in online advertising, we’ll miss the opportunity of having our clients actively endorse online in their own companies. Sure, there are exceptional clients who truly understand the power and impact of online. Many, if not most, have a hard time articulating the value when they literally can’t wrap their hands around the advertising.

How to fix, you ask?

Time for publishers to implement what I call the virtual tear sheet. Here’s how it works.

For every online buy, publishers create a set of live pages with actual site content that include the client’s ads, displayed at 100 percent rotation. The pages are located at a unique link or are password-protected. They are accessible during the length of the campaign. Select three or four major sizes or placements in the campaign to keep it simple.

When a campaign is launched, the agency can easily demo live or send an email containing links to the virtual tear sheet. Since the pages are created with ads slotted at 100 percent, there are no surprises.

For a real-life example, click this link to view an online tear sheet for a new American Airlines campaign featuring a rich media window placement. (Be certain to click on the ad to see the jump page. Take the tour and print your own virtual boarding pass. Have to keep the creative director happy. But I digress…)

How well does this work? Ask Mike Renfro, the Midwest/Southeast accounts manager at CBS MarketWatch.com. He’ll tell you he experienced a big increase in customer satisfaction simply because he can realistically demonstrate how his site serves up the client’s work. It’s also a pretty handy resource to demonstrate to prospects how well his site supports rich media.

Can you achieve the same effect with static screenshots? I’m sure most of us have sent out the usual PowerPoint deck with numerous slides recapping the campaign placements. Some publishers are trying to streamline the process. Interep Interactive, the online rep service, recently announced it’ll make ad-placement screenshots available online. Sure, this will confirm the placements. But there’s nothing like showing actual, dynamic creative — live, in its intended environment.

Is it hard to implement? Given the database-driven nature of most sites, generating an extra set of pages takes only a small amount of extra effort from the ad support group. If the online publishing community really wants to build the case for online, shouldn’t it focus on confirmation if it wants affirmation?

If you’re an online publisher, I challenge you to motivate your staff to implement this idea in the next 60 days. Heck, I’ll aim high and insist the Online Publishers Association (OPA) make virtual tear sheets a customer-service standard.

Before we get that client call again asking, “Hey, where’s my ad?”

Many of you noticed ClickZ newsletters changed recently. Executive Editor Rebecca Lieb gives you a quick rundown.

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