To Renew or Not to Renew?

A time comes when every media buyer must step back, regroup, and begin to analyze the results of her client’s most recent online advertising campaign. What initiates this momentous event is not the client’s request for a campaign management report — that comes later.

Instead, the site with which the buyer is advertising makes this call to action. As the campaign draws to a close, she’s sure to hear from an eager sales rep inquiring about her interpretation of the campaign’s performance. That site representative is concerned with only one thing: Does the buyer want to renew her placements for another month?

It may not be a question for the ages, but “to renew or not to renew” is a query that provokes a fair amount of reflection by online media buyers. The actual process of renewing a campaign is quite effortless, involving little more than signing off on a new insertion order. Actually deciding whether to renew or the placement drop it altogether in favor of another site is what requires some exertion. There are a number of factors to consider before you can give a definitive reply.

The obvious first step in contemplating a renewal is for the media buyer to review the campaign results. This doesn’t just mean analyzing the overall CTR and CPC of your campaign. If you’ve covered all of your bases, you will have tagged pages within your client’s site before the campaign began and tracked user interaction throughout. This will leave you with valuable post-click data that can be evaluated to determine whether your placements are attracting qualified users — consumers who actually interact with the site as opposed to visiting just the home page — and what segments of your client’s business these users are most interested in. Both of these things can also be determined by tracking conversions (sales, signups, downloads, etc.), an aspect of your campaign that should also play a role in influencing your decision to renew.

Before you judge your campaign on these factors alone, remember some placements are better suited to branding initiatives and shouldn’t be dismissed solely because they underperform in other areas. I recently ran a campaign that included an advertorial-style placement that asked users to click through to an interactive Web tool found on the client’s site. In this case, the client perceived clicks to be the conversions, as his objective was to encourage consumers to interact with the tool. Although the CTR was an astonishing 6.3 percent, the CPC was over $3 — a little steep for this advertiser’s modest budget.

I was ready to pass on a renewal — until I reviewed the client’s most recent log reports. His site had experienced a huge increase in traffic during the campaign that could only be attributed to the advertorial placement. It seemed users were affected by the placement and, in addition to clicking on the ad itself, were visiting the site of their own accord. Of course the ad design likely contributed to its success, but there’s no guarantee another site’s audience would react the same. It was enough to convince both the client and myself to leave the placement up for another month — if only to see if we’d obtain the same impressive results.

When you do decide to renew a campaign, also consider the ad creative being used. A common mantra in offline advertising is if response to an ad is good, it should be run again. Many marketers also believe advertising loses its effectiveness if the advertiser doesn’t keep reminding consumers of its presence and will thereby run the same ad creative for months at a time before developing new ads.

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau UK’s The Five Golden Rules of Web Marketing, the same applies for online advertising. But although “online ad effectiveness grows with each exposure,” using the same stale creative for long periods is apt to bore your audience. Be sure to include some fresh creative in your renewed campaign and measure the results of each ad individually to gauge which designs produce the best results.

If you find yourself constantly considering campaign renewals, you’re probably doing something right. These days many media buyers are proceeding with caution, booking their placements as they go instead of committing to months of advertising at a time. This technique ensures the buyer can easily jettison any poorly performing advertising, allocating his client’s budget instead to placements that have already proven their worth. It’s a good tactic for building a successful campaign, time and again.

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