Getting Creative With Online Ads

One thing was loud and clear in this week’s readings.  Money is not the determinant of success when it comes to online ad campaigns.  Creativity is.  The Marsden campaigndedicated just 4% of its budget to an online ad spend, while the Public Sector Blognoted that Bush and Kerry spent just 1% on online ads in 2004, and Scott Brown’s 10% spend was a record high.

Using the “long tail” idea, campaigners are able to take advantage of the Internet’s extremely fractured audiences and tailor messages to specific nanotargets.  For example, a candidate can reach females 65+ in Virginia who are searching for information about their Medicare benefits.  This approach is more labor intensive than traditional advertising methods, yet it makes much more sense the target audience is so specific.  Why bother paying to advertise in the Richmond Times Dispatch when for much less, you could be sure to reach that target audience – AND track the results?

Josh Koster insists that “the trick it to be everywhere, with tightly targeted messages.” This makes sense, but how can a campaign achieve that?  What these examples show is that creativity is key.

Koster points out another benefit – these targeted ads are so inexpensive, quick, and easy to set up (especially if they are simply text ads with no creative), that they can easily be tested out and tweaked accordingly.  This is a benefit that traditional advertising definitely does not offer.  In addition, success is much more measurable when clicks, email opens, and site visits can be quantified.  By contrast, direct mail pieces are essentially untraceable once sent out, and other ads can offer impression numbers, but not much else.

What I found most interesting about this week’s reading was the targeting of the media outlined in Nanotargeted Pressure.  Koster and Davis point out that “using paid media to drive earned media is not new,” but using digital paid media to do so is certainly a newer frontier.  I have a unique interest in using social media to target the media, but had never considered something like Google or Facebook ads to reach media.  Facebook’s “workplace targeting” feature is especially interesting- and I can think of some creative ways for jobseekers to target employers using this feature.  To see such a huge achievement with only $1750 invested truly speaks to the power of targeted digital advertising.

Other examples of creativity were abound in this week’s readings.  Rather than complain about the media’s (lack of) coverage of Iran’s election, Koster actually did something— crashed Iran’s propaganda/news site.  For those people who think that Twitter is about people sharing what they eat for lunch, this is concrete evidence to the contrary.  For those well-versed in digital advertising, perhaps they’d like to trylinking to a website other than their own?  Not only does this disassociate the ad with the campaign that placed the ad, it directs the audience to a source that they (likely) view as credible and non-partisan.

And for the truly innovative, CNN covered Koster’s realization that anyone standing in line on election day Googling for political info is probably determining who to vote for— so why not leverage Google ads on election day to reach those individuals?

While I knew that online advertising allowed further segmentation of audiences, I didn’t realize its true potential until reading this week’s articles. It will be interesting to see how online platforms continue to leverage their assets (in this case, demographic information about their users) in order to gain advertisers on large and small scales.


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