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2 posts from June 2011

06/21/2011 Display Advertising: Working or Not?

A recent study by C3 Metrics reported that online display advertising accounted for 44% of advertisers’ transactions in Q1 2011. C3 was apparently able to study some 50,000 online transactions and found that display ads drove the initial awareness of the brand.

When you add that on top of the latest eMarketer report that the U.S. display market will increase by 24.5% this year to $12.3 billion, you’d have to think that display advertising has finally come of age, right?

Not if you read what most of the experts say. Or if you talk with anyone you know who surfs online. Here are a couple of the “nicer” critiques from Rob Gatto of Pointroll and Mitch Joel of Twist Image. When creatives talk about display, it gets uglier.

When was the last time anyone asked you “Did you see that banner ad today on the New York Times.com?” If they ever did, it was probably when Apple was rolling out its Mac vs. PC ad online. Otherwise, no one is talking about, albeit remembering most online ads. That’s because most online ads lack the creative juices imbued in other ads, like print or TV.

That’s too bad, because there’s lots of room for creativity here once you start looking at this format differently.

Most people aren’t. Here are a few examples of today’s display ads from some of the leading sites.


LA Times.com
Washington Post
My Favorites - Burlington Free Press
Now, these are just ads I found on the home pages today. Most are pretty bad. The LL Bean one at least makes me want to look at it. It wasn't until I visited YouTube that I saw an ad that made me want to watch and interact with it.


Now maybe some of you will say I'm only seeing these lousy ads because I'm being retargeted to (that's when advertisers cookie your browser when you visit their site. Afterwards their ads follow you around the Web like something stuck to the bottom of your shoe). That's not the case, though. I am being retargeted, mostly by companies I'm already a customer of and have already made the one purchase I'm going to make from them.

What do you think? Are these good ads or bad ads? Or is the only way to judge them based on clicks or conversions? I think it's both creativity and results, not one or the other.

As I’ve noted before, there aren’t a lot of sites promoting great banner creative. Even on my favorite, Banner Blog in Australia, I’ve noticed much lower quality and creativity than I’ve seen in the past.

The data shows display works better now. Maybe it does. But the format and content still need a lot of work.


06/06/2011 A Good Story

It was great to see and hear C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley talk about their book “Content Rules” at our #BTVSMB lunch last Thursday. I love how they blend in interesting stories and anecdotes to make their main points come to life. They clearly modeled what they want people to do, rather than just telling them what to do.

One of the most interesting examples happened in the Q+A. One of the attendees was asking advice about something that happened at his company. His boss had rewarded the employees by treating everyone to a Kentucky Fried Chicken lunch at the office. One of the employees asked if they could take pictures or videotape the lunch and use the content online. The boss said no, that it would only be interesting if they had a bunch of models eating KFC for lunch. 

Both C.C. and Ann responded that the boss was wrong, that they should have used it. But the person asking the question proved himself why it was wrong.

When he told the story, he included some details that got everyone in the room thinking. As soon as he mentioned KFC, we all had pictures in our heads of what was happening at that lunch. When he mentioned his boss’ response about models eating KFC, those pictures in our heads went into overdrive.

A good story, or good social content, includes pieces that allow each reader or viewer to make strong, individual connections to it. The book “Brain Rules” makes the point that in order for us to remember stories like this, it’s critical to include items in the story that we already have relationships with.

The story from that business IS interesting because it not only gives us an insider’s view (which we all want) but it connects to things on the outside that we already know and have relationships with. More importantly, it’s an interesting story because it humanizes the business. And that’s one of the main advantages social marketing has over other channels.

I guess another lesson is: Don’t censor too much. Put your stories out there and let your audience help you determine what works and what doesn’t.


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