Thorough and Careful Wins the Race

Compared with marketers working with offline media, Internet media buyers have it pretty good. We can devise and launch online campaigns in a matter of days (sometimes even hours, if a sales rep owes us a favor). We can measure consumer interest instantaneously and provide our clients with up-to-the-second campaign results. We can even stretch our ad budgets to the extreme by negotiating rock-bottom pricing, leaving more money for creative ad design.

But these ostensible benefits can also end up damaging our work if we commit the cardinal sin of being shortsighted. We’ve seen it happen before. First, our eagerness to sell the pros of this medium to the skeptics spawned the eternal “measurability debate.” Clients came to expect those immediate, computable results and have been placing all their hopes on the often meaningless CTR ever since.

Then we fell victim to the lure of expensive rich media technology. We jumped on the chance to stun audiences with never-before-seen ad formats, kicking ourselves afterward when our entire budget was spent on ads that took too long to load or proved to be too advanced for mass consumption.

And we’ve all felt the sting of launching a campaign too quickly, only to discover spelling mistakes in the creative or incomplete redirect URLs.

This last quandary is only one of the many negative consequences that can come from rushing the launch of an online media campaign. Just because you can take a campaign from nonexistent to live 24 hours, doesn’t mean it’s in the best interest of your client. The number of factors to consider when planning an online campaign is comparable to what’s involved in arranging an offline launch, a process that generally takes several months to orchestrate. Yet Internet media buyers repeatedly overlook most of them in the mad rush to get a campaign up and running.

Somehow, this scenario almost always makes a casualty of one particular aspect of a media campaign: the ad creative. It stands to reason, really. The planning of the campaign requires a significant amount of research into placements, formats options, and so on, thereby reducing the possibility of carelessness. Online creative, however, can be whipped up and delivered to a site at the last minute. It’s the final step in developing an online ad campaign, and the creative can suffer greatly if things are rushed.

In their haste, media buyers often fail to realize having a lackadaisical attitude toward creative ad design can be terribly detrimental to an advertiser’s brand image. Marketers are always touting the importance of maintaining a consistent brand image across all media and warning about the negative results straying from this principle can bring. It’s easy to forget this when planning an online campaign in a hurry.

When you’re racing the clock, policing your ad copy and design departments to ensure they abide by your client’s existing standards is probably the last thing on your mind. But don’t convince yourself no one will notice any discrepancies that may result. Every image and message you publish for mass consumption is stored away in the collective mind of the consumer. Fail to present a cohesive front, and you risk confusing and ultimately alienating your client’s potential customers.

Think it’s the client’s job to ensure this doesn’t happen? Many marketing directors have so much on their plates they won’t even notice a glaring mistake in creative until it’s too late. This leaves the full burden on the shoulders of the campaign planner. Preventing this type of disaster is a simple matter of following some guidelines and resigning yourself to filling out a brief checklist every time you review new creative. Before you send your ads out into the world, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are fonts, colors, and logo placements consistent with past online (and offline) ads? Check the overall layout to ensure it accurately reflects your client’s style guide or brand toolkit conventions.

  • Does your creative maintain a tone consistent with your client’s past messages? If the company tends to run formal ad messages and your new ads jest with their target audience, run them past your client again to ensure he is aware of the disparity.
  • Are the ads effective at conveying the desired message? Will they produce the proper branding effect? E-mail them to your colleagues, along with past ads if they are unfamiliar with the company, and ask the above questions. Their insight may just make you aware of some additional issues you missed.

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