What Are You Really Offering Your Advertisers?

Two years ago, I wrote a magazine article stating that it’s time we stopped worshipping at the altar of click-through. My point was that click-through is — at best — a misleading metric for determining the success of a particular ad.

At the recently concluded ClickZ Marketing Strategies 2000 Conference, I was encouraged to find that many in the agency community are beginning to embrace this reality.

Unfortunately, there is still a healthy contingent of media buyers who lean on the old click-through crutch instead of taking the time for critical thinking. We site publishers need to stay ahead of the game and be able to offer a clear rationale for what value we offer our advertisers — with or without click-through.

What are you really offering your advertisers?

Are you offering them meaningful access and exposure to your audience? And, ideally, opportunities for fruitful interaction?

If not, doing so should be your goal. Everything you do in developing your media kit should point in this direction.

The types of ad units you offer should be appropriate for your site or newsletter. They should showcase your sponsor without overwhelming your reader. There should be a variety of types, shapes, sizes and approaches. And they should facilitate interaction.

ClickZ doesn’t claim to have all the answers when it comes to creating ad units that work. We are just like the rest of the industry — experimenting here, borrowing ideas there, combining ideas in unexpected ways. We’re always open to trying something new and not afraid to recognize when something isn’t working.

Hey, the web is still in its infancy. So we have to continue to be open to anything, right?

Banners have become less and less a factor for ClickZ, representing only a minor fraction of our overall interactive sales. If you wish to borrow any of our ideas, you are free to check out our media kit at any time. And be aware we’ll be updating it again soon.

A quick overview of the rationale behind some of our ad units…

Content sponsorships: This page is a sponsored page. BURST! Media, which underwrites this effort, is seeking to attract “publishers with passion.” So BURST! has gotten behind a series of columns written just for publishers. I’m conscious of the audience BURST! seeks to attract as I write these columns, but my primary interest is in creating great content for online publishers information they can put to work.

In exchange for a healthy monthly retainer and long-term commitment, BURST! gets exclusive advertising on all of these columns, as well as the growing base of readers who get the columns delivered to them in full HTML every week. Every publisher BURST! attracts represents a significant revenue stream for BURST! that, ideally, will pay for this sponsorship many times over. The meaningful metric for BURST! is new publishers, not clicks, and hopefully through repeated branding, BURST! has been fortunate to attract more than a few over the past six months.

You may want to consider content sponsorships as a vehicle if they can deliver specific audiences to advertisers. Again, meaningful interaction is the key metric.

Text ads: The more I work with them, the more convinced I am of their value. But while at one time I advocated that we as an industry should move to a standard of six lines by 60 characters plus URL, I’m finding in advertising on other pubs that longer text ads work better than shorter text ads.

Some online discussion lists I advertise on stick with a three- to four-line standard that I find very difficult to work with. Based on my experience with them, we’ve moved to offering two nine-line text ads on our ClickZ Forum just to make sure that our advertisers have a better shot at getting their message across.

Don’t get me wrong! Both of these lists are great for us to advertise on, but when you have such tight limits to work with, you can barely get beyond a headline and a URL.

If you can offer a way for your advertisers to make their case in a reasonable amount of space on your pages or mailings, you’re creating a great opportunity for them to increase the odds of really reaching and interacting with your audience. The more you can do to facilitate that, the better the chance they will make long-term commitments to you.

Advertorials: In that same vein, we found that some advertisers need a lengthier format to tell their story. We figured that if we could put a 20- to 25-line advertorial toward the bottom of the home page, we wouldn’t be blocking our readers’ access to the content they are trying to access, but would be in the same place, week after week, for when they do want to read a sponsor’s message. When we first started the advertorials, we were afraid that they wouldn’t work, but we took a shot anyway. Turns out they were stellar vehicles to announce such things as conferences, events, new products and special services. We have only a handful of advertorial spots remaining for the year, so they must be doing the trick.

It may turn out that none of these ad units are particularly appropriate for your site or your audience, but they serve as an illustration of how you might want to take a hard look at your site to determine how best to facilitate interaction between your audience and advertisers. Favor one and you lose your business. Favor the other and you lose your audience. Bring them together and you prosper.

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