September 11, 2010
How To

Creating Better Online Ad Campaigns: 5 Tactics

SUMMARY: When times are good, marketing might run on autopilot. But when the budget axe starts swinging, it's time to look at every channel and ask, \"How can we do better?\"

See the tactics a display advertising expert suggests to help your team get more value for its advertising dollar. Find out why ad networks might not be the silver bullet you're looking for.
by Adam T. Sutton, Reporter

Online display advertising is one of the most inefficient marketing channels, says Martin Betoni, Creative Director, Centro. Betoni has worked with display ads for about twelve years, and for most of that time, he saw many marketers putting their ads on "autopilot."

"I think when things were good, people were floating along and happy to send their media anywhere as long as it got up and running as soon as possible," he says.

That attitude quickly changed as the economy turned and marketing budgets dropped. Marketers looked for more efficient ways to get their ads onto websites and to get more value from them.

Below, we highlight five tactics Betoni has seen work for creating better performing and more efficient display advertising campaigns.

Tactic #1. Look into networks

Online display advertising networks are booming. Betoni estimates that more than 400 are now operating online, sending marketers' ads across a variety of publishers' websites.

Part of this rapid growth is due to marketers' need to drive more efficiency in their budgets, reaching more websites with fewer dollars. Ad networks can be a good way to achieve that goal, but there are trade-offs, Betoni says.

Networks cannot always offer detailed data on the audiences an ad has reached. Individual publishers are more likely to offer deep data on who visits specific areas of their websites, and how ads perform there.

"On a network level, the data gets a lot murkier."

Tactic #2. Find the right audience

Marketing teams need to dig into campaign data to ensure ads are reaching potential customers. Serving ads to the wrong audiences is a waste of money.

Too often, Betoni says, he sees ads that have little relevance to the sites that publish them, such as a movie review website hosting an ad for a consumer health information site.

"That is a bad buy. First and foremost, you have to make sure your ads are getting in front of the right people."

For marketing teams to be able to dig into the data, the data needs to be reported. Publishers or ad networks that deliver thin or unreliable reports should be judged with a wary eye. You'll need strong data to improve efficiency.

Tactic #3. Design ads to achieve specific goals

The inefficiency is partly due to the display industry's rapid rise, Betoni says. Marketing teams pressed for time haphazardly created ads and looked for bargain inventory. The bad habits stuck.

These ads often were not carefully designed with a specific goal in mind. If it wasn't done initially, going back and taking time to design an ad for a specific purpose is likely to boost performance.

Display advertising typically has one of two goals, Betoni says:
o Raise awareness
o Drive conversions

Ads designed to drive conversions typically benefit from simplicity. They quickly communicate a call-to-action and encourage people to do it. A good example is Google AdWords' paid search ads, which are text-based.

"The direct response model doesn't translate well into the premium ad space," Betoni says.

- Premium ads raise awareness

Premium ads are much better at capturing attention and raising awareness. However, Betoni notes, many marketing teams can do a better job in this area.

"If your goal is to build awareness for a feature film, a 720x90 ad that asks you to click probably isn't going to do [the job]," he says.

Instead, for the example of a feature film, Betoni suggests using different formats, such as larger ads that take up approximately 30% of the above-the-fold page area, and integrating them into the site's design. The ad should not annoyingly expand or shift content. It should capture attention and can contain features directly in the ad such as:
o Movie trailer
o Photo gallery
o Story synopsis

Tactic #4. Increase relevance to the visitor

Display advertising is becoming very clever. Some systems are capable of analyzing visitor information to deliver a customized ad, which is more likely to capture their attention.

For example, Betoni recently saw an ad on the social network Facebook for a video game. The ad automatically captured a member's image and profile attributes and incorporated them into the creative design in real-time.

Other ad systems are behaviorally targeted. They leverage information such as visitors' recent Internet browsing history to deliver ads for products or websites similar to those recently viewed.

Behaviorally targeted ads have shown to improve performance. However, be aware of two key issues:

1. The lift in performance depends largely on the targeting system's sophistication. Make sure you understand how the targeting works and whether it's relevant.

2. Targeted ads typically cost more than untargeted ads. Make sure the ads are driving better results compared investing the additional cost in more general inventory.

Tactic #5. Test new concepts and designs

Achieving better performance requires rethinking past designs and overhauling older strategies. The traditional online display advertising standards that designers have "been shoe-horned into for the last few years" should be reworked if your team wants to achieve better results, Betoni says.

He suggests testing ads that:
o Use more page real estate
o Are not confined to standard industry sizes
o Have more bandwidth, such as the capacity to contain video
o Look well integrated into a site's design, not tacked on as an afterthought

"The principles of how to create good advertising, regardless of the medium, have never really changed," he says.

Useful links related to this article

Members Library -- Choose the Right Ad Network: 5 Tactics to Understanding Targeting and Reporting Options

Members Library -- Chart: Lines Between Display Ads, Search and Social Blurring Rapidly

Google Adwords


Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions