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02/25/2009 IAB Stimulus Plan

The IAB is hard at work trying to solve the Online Advertising problem. The problem? Most of it is no good. The good people at the IAB will try to implement standards and inspire creativity.

In the spirit of collaboration, here’s my suggestion for on online advertising stimulus plan. Long on ideas, short on dollars.

  1. Start With an Engagement Plan – Remember this is a two-way medium. You can’t hide behind space requirements and sizes to excuse the creation of animated billboards. What do you want people to DO? And for this part of the exercise, remove the word “Click” from your vocabulary. There are lots of things you can do within the ad itself. Is your engagement plan browsing? Or is it creating? Or is it requesting or even buying? People on the other end aren’t robots. Watch and click is good for automatons. Map out an engagement plan before you start developing the creative.
  2. Stop Thinking “Ad” – Just because we call it an ad, and buy placement like an ad, it doesn’t have to be an “ad.” Think instead widget, microsite, or application. An online ad can be all of those things. And those are much more interesting than an ad. That’s the beauty of the online medium; that ad can be anything you imagine it to be. Remember, we’re interrupting people doing something else. If we’re going to ask them to engage with us, we should provide the most meaningful and robust engagement we can.
  3. Leverage the Technology – The online ad space can do pretty much anything these days. You can buy stuff right from an ad, you can connect databases to it, you can let people customize things it in, and you can figure out from where people are watching your ad. The technology allows us to make things more personal. It allows us to pull from content from different places online and feed content back to those places. The best part is, we don’t have to create a lot of this from scratch. Third party vendors like Eyeblaster, Adroit and Adgregate can help.
  4. Focus on Fewer Sizes – Size does matter in online advertising, especially for budgets. Online pubs try to sell as many different sizes as possible to get rid of inventory. Media buyers buy these sizes in packages to, presumably, keep costs lower. However, all that does is raise production costs. And it pushes sizes that usually don’t perform that well. So take a stand. If you’re going to do something engaging, something that will take time to craft and do right, don’t spread your budget on producing a gazillion different sizes. Pick two and go with them. Usually the pubs or the third parties can tell you which two sizes clearly outperform the others in any given category.
  5. Connect It  – Online advertising can’t exist in a vacuum. Make sure there are other robust contact points that connect with your online ad. It could be your Facebook page, a microsite, Twitter, or an iPhone app. Make sure that you connect all of these back to clear conversion paths, so when the person on the other end is ready, your company is ready too.

Yes, more money would help. I agree with Mike Shields at Mediaweek, a small shift in TV budgets to online budgets could help create something new. But it’s not only the money.

It’s not that difficult. It just means we have to stop looking at this online marketing opportunity as “ads” and start delivering the promise of the digital medium.


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