Programmatic advertising online could be called problemmatic advertising

Thinking of jumping in on buying online ads? Or letting advertisers put their ads on your site? Think online advertising is cheaper than “traditional media” like TV, newspapers, billboards and direct mail?

How to make your online ad buys not a problemBuyer beware, and not just for the reasons cited in this NY Times article:

As of a few weeks ago, advertisements for JPMorgan Chase were appearing on about 400,000 websites a month. It is the sort of eye-popping number that has become the norm these days for big companies that use automated tools to reach consumers online.

Now, as more and more brands find their ads popping up next to toxic content like fake news sites or offensive YouTubevideos, JPMorgan has limited its display ads to about 5,000 websites it has preapproved, said Kristin Lemkau, the bank’s chief marketing officer. Surprisingly, the company is seeing little change in the cost of impressions or the visibility of its ads on the internet, she said. An impression is generally counted each time an ad is shown.

The change illustrates the new skepticism with which major marketers are approaching online ad platforms and the automated technology placing their brands on millions of websites. In recent years, advertisers have increasingly shunned buying ads on individual sites in favor of cheaply targeting groups of people across the web based on their browsing habits, a process known as programmatic advertising — enabling, say, a Gerber ad to show up on a local mother’s blog, or a purse in an online shopping cart to follow a person around the internet for weeks.

Source: Chase Had Ads on 400,000 Sites. Then on Just 5,000. Same Results. – The New York Times

Sure, keeping your ads off objectionable sites is a noble reason for refining the sites where your ad appears, but the reality is, having your ad appear on a clickbait site is unlikely to get you a conversion (sale).

If it wasn’t profitable to build clickbait sites to just serve up ads, they wouldn’t exist. If that’s what you want to do, we can show you how to be the scum of the earth, better in our seminar.

Think about the ads you see online- and how many you interact with (assuming you aren’t part of the  30% of internet users who have enabled adblocking in your browser). If you are like a lot of people, it takes a whole lot to make you click. How many people do you know who say I’m going online to look at ads?

The ads that are potentially most likely to be seen? Video pre-roll, the ad that runs before your video, comes in two flavors- must watch and skippable after x seconds. Video pre-roll has to have amazingly compelling intro to get you to watch it through- unless, of course it’s targeted so well that your questions may be answered in the commercial. Here’s an award winning pre-roll campaign for an agency trying to get your attention-

And here is a Cannes Award winning campaign for Geico that you can’t stop watching, but, it may or may not get you to buy car insurance from them.

The thing both these spots get right- is realizing you don’t really want to watch a pre-roll commercial, so they’ve made it interesting. It’s not a TV spot- it’s a youtube spot- built for the platform and working hard to not be intrusive.

As to all the other ads websites, most you can ignore. Easily. Even in your Facebook feed, how often do you click on an ad?

Here are some tips to make sure you have a better chance on conversion.

  • Remarketing to people who’ve been on your site already is usually a better bet. You know these ads well- you’ve gone to look at something at Amazon- and may have even purchased it, but it keeps showing up on your feed forever. Hint: better bet is to show ads of how to use “it” or accessories for “it” than to keep hammering the ad of “it”- unless you are offering a discount (which may tick your customers off if they bought it for more on your site already- so have a price guarantee). The basic rule of sales applies- people do business with people they know- so these ads tend to preform well.
  • Advertise to people who know someone who is your happy customer. While it’s hard to get people to post “Hey, I just bought “it” at your store, without a potential reward, it can happen. More likely, is advertising to people who are similar to people you’ve already sold to. Facebook allows you to upload a customer list and they will find people who are friends of the people who have bought from you in the past.
  • Advertise to people who are like the people you’ve sold to. This is also a Facebook option, using their software you can match demographics and geography and other factors to your customer list and advertise to people who are more likely to buy from you.
  • And maybe the least intuitive ad- isn’t an ad at all. Create informational videos, instructional videos, or reviews and target people by their interests. Think about your research before buying- do you look for reviews? Watch comparison video’s, unboxing, assembly? This kind of content can solve a buyers questions- and possibly drive them to buy more than an ad. Target the ads carefully, because ideally, these types of posts should work organically, without a ton of ad dollars.

For most advertisers dipping into “programmatic” the numbers sound amazing that are offered by programmatic networks, what’s amazing is the verification of actual display of ads is self reported, not audited like conventional media for distribution, insertion, reach and frequency. It’s the wild west of advertising accountability out there, which means it’s really up to you to figure out how to track your ad spend for effectiveness. There are all kinds of ways to do this, that add a level of complexity, but can also help you refine and improve your ad buys.

We explain some of these tools in our Websitetology seminar, but if you have further questions, you can always call and talk to us about how to most effectively guarantee that your programmatic isn’t problemmatic.

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Stock Media Doesn’t Have to be Boring

A common lesson we drive home with Websitetology is how you use an tool is doubly important than the tool you’ve chosen. A hammer and box of nails are useless if you don’t have any idea what you want to build. WordPress is a fantastic, perhaps the best, tool you can use in making a website for your business, but WordPress only makes it easier to publish your web content—you ought to know how to make good content before you publish.

Stock media like photography and video is the same way. Stock photography websites are often the butt of jokes that make it out to be completely pointless and unusable. Stock footage company Dissolve sought to curb this reputation with an ad for their product, made entirely out of their own stock footage.

Dissolve – “The Association of Obscure Associations”

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Style Guides That Get It Right

Style guides can be an invaluable tool for your business in both physical and digital spaces. For example, if you are working with anyone else to make a website, or design a business card, having a style guide can go a long way in making sure everything is done right the first time.

Without one, you are sure to face constant back and forth communication for this information and multiple redesigns and rewrites when something doesn’t come out the way you want it.

Wikipedia defines a style guide as:

[A] set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization, or field. A style guide establishes and enforces style to improve communication. To do that, it ensures consistency (within a document and across multiple documents) and enforces best practice in usage and in language composition, visual composition, orthography (including spelling, capitalization, hyphenation, and other punctuation), and typography.

Source: Style guide – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

DC's 2015 Palette: Varying Shades of Gray

DC’s 2015 Palette: Various Shades of Gray

Style guides go back a long time. If you take a peek at http://thestandardsmanual.com/ you will find the very first edition of the style guide for the New York City Transit Authority, published in 1970. Signage for the subways in NYC have such a distinctive look because the city created a style guide to provide a consistent message that would not be confused.

Style guides don’t have to be dozens of pages or be specifically about branding, either. Especially for smaller businesses, a single page with the correct color palette and some high-quality (preferably vector eg. .ai or .eps) files containing your logo can suffice.

The web is a perfect platform to host your style guide, but many companies have been hesitant to embrace the medium. For example, Apple’s latest style guide is a sprawling 197-page PDF. Not exactly terrific bathroom reading.

Uber, the private-contractor based cab company on your phone, is a company that most definitely embraces the web with it’s branding guideline website. Everything you need to know about the brand is freely available, and the appropriate logos are available to download without any hoops to jump through. It’s even built on WordPress, so you know we’re excited about it.

What it really means is that you don’t have to be a huge tech company to put out your own style guide, the foundation is out there for anyone regardless of technical or design backgrounds.

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