Tag Archives | Advertising

Help Save Direct Mail

Direct mail is only boring if you let it be boring.

Toronto, Ontario based agency Lowe Roche found a way to spice up their direct mail campaign for Pfaff Porsche by taking a Porsche 911 and parking it in front of mansions in the Rosedale, Forest Hill and Bridle Path neighborhoods of Toronto.

Pfaff Porsche Direct Mail Ad

Lowe Roche then took a picture of the car while it was parked in the driveway of each home, and used that picture as the focal point of a custom direct mail piece they created for each home on the fly.

In addition to the car, Lowe Roche also brought along their own photo editor, printer and runner, so they were able to create and print each piece of direct mail right there on the spot, and skip the process of organizing, labeling and mailing each flyer.

The results speak for themselves: Of the homes that received the direct mail ad, 32% booked a test drive online.

What’s surprising is not that this campaign worked. Of course a family that receives a piece of mail with a picture of their own home on the front is going to pay attention to it. And when that picture includes a hot sports car, they’re going to generate some interest.

What’s surprising is how easy the concept was to create. They made a template, they took similar photos of each home, and kept the offer simple. By eliminating as many complications as possible, they were able to create the ads at scale, and give them just enough personalization to be effective.

So considering how easy it was to create, why can’t this same concept scale to something even bigger?

With digital printing, there’s no setup required to create a direct mail piece at scale, so printing costs shouldn’t be a factor. (Sure, each ad is going to cost a little more to print than a typical direct mail ad, but not so much more that it would eliminate the ROI of a reasonably targeted campaign.)

If you wanted to mirror their technique and use an image of each recipient’s house, a technology like Google’s Street View would give you the images you’d need to customize each ad, but why limit the concept to just photos? For example, look at what Absolut was able to do with customizable printing to create a series of nearly four million bottles that were each individual and unique:

So what about using a similar process to create a direct mail ad that’s also a unique piece of art?

This process would be especially effective for companies that have good data about their direct mail recipients, and can customize it beyond just their address.

For example, it’s well known that Target has a huge amount of data on their Target Card holders, and they use that data to customize the types of offers that their customers receive.

So what if, instead of coupons, you sent customers an ad that is customized to the types of things you know they like? Think ad libs for print ads.

The goal here shouldn’t be to create an exact duplicate of the campaign that Lowe Roche created. Instead, the goal should be to get inspired by their creativity, and to think of ways to customize your own advertising to achieve the success that they created.

Just because something has always been done one way, doesn’t mean there isn’t another way that might work even better.

Acceptable Ads Are Good For Everyone

Battle by Ran Yaniv Hartstein

There’s a war being waged in the world of online advertising: On one side, advertisers desperately trying to get their product in front of as many readers as possible; on the other, readers desperately trying to ignore ads and get to the content they’re looking for.

In this war, the readers have many weapons:

  • Instapaper and Read It Later strip out a site’s content and present it in an easy to read way, free from ads.
  • Apple’s Safari browser includes a new feature called Reader, which lets you view content “in a clean, uncluttered space free from blinking, annoying ads”.
  • Adblock Plus is the most popular add-on for Firefox, with more than 143 million downloads to date. The service not only removes ads, it also prevents tracking, blocks Flash, and even changes scripts and stylesheets on the fly, all to let users “retain control of the internet and change the way that you view the web”.

Obviously these tools indicate that there’s a large gap between what readers want from a website, and what advertisers want from readers.

However, in a somewhat surprising move, Adblock Plus recently announced that it will allow what it calls “acceptable ads” to be shown by default.

So why the change? Are advertisers winning the war?

Not exactly, but we’re starting to see signs that a mutually beneficial agreement can be reached.

According to Adblock, their goal for the change is to “support websites that rely on advertising but choose to do it in a non-intrusive way”. By giving sites that use non-intrusive advertising an advantage, they hope it will encourage other websites to use non-intrusive advertising as well, which will make the web a better place for everyone. They also acknowledge that “without this feature we run the danger that increasing Adblock Plus usage will make small websites unsustainable”.

To qualify as acceptable, ads must be static (no animation, sound or similar), preferably text only, contain no attention-grabbing images, and use at most one script that will delay page load. Eventually Adblock Plus would also like to require ads that respect a user’s privacy, with mandatory Do Not Track support, but they feel that it’s not yet possible to enforce such a requirement, so they’ve just added it to their list of desired improvements.

The first ads that come to mind as examples of this acceptable format are those from The Deck, Fusion Ads, Carbon Ads, InfluAds, Yoggrt, and Ad Packs by BuySellAds. These ads are generally a single static image with a small line of text, and sites are limited to just one ad per page. Advertisers buy a share of a limited number of impressions, and these impressions are split evenly between the sites participating in the ad network.

The advantage of these types of ad networks is that they’re win-win-win. Advertisers get guaranteed impressions across a variety of pre-screened sites, publishers get guaranteed income and don’t need to clutter up their site design with huge blocks of ads, and readers get to read without the distraction of invasive ads and multi-page articles designed to drive up page views.

According to a survey run by Adblock, “Only 25% of the Adblock Plus users seem to be strictly against any advertising.” adding “The other users replied that they would accept some kinds of advertising to help websites.”

In fact, when Twitterrific removed The Deck ads from the paid version of their app, users actually requested the ability to buy the app to support the developers, but keep the ads so they could find out about new products and services being advertised on the network.

Since these networks have more demand than supply, they can be selective about what products and services they allow to advertise. They become a curator of content, and readers view the ads as added value, in the same way they trust the products and services that their favorite authors recommend. This also benefits the advertisers, since readers are more likely to pay attention to an ad when they know that it will be relevant to their interests. The end result is that costs go up on a per impression basis, since advertisers are paying for a limited resource, and have exclusive rights to a reader’s attention on each page, but response metrics for those ads go up as well, since they overcome banner blindness.

Of course there will continue to be give and take as advertisers, readers and publishers try to find the right balance between the reading experience, and the cost involved in creating that reading experience, but as recent trends in the online ad world have shown, we’re finally taking steps in the right direction of creating a web that works for everyone.

Carl’s Jr. Uses YouTube Stars For Online Video Success

Carl's Jr. Portobello Mushroom Six Dollar Burger

One of my advertising rules of thumb is this: Content that works well online is not the same as content that works well on television.

To see why, let’s look at Carl’s Jr.’s latest ad campaign for their Portobello Mushroom Six Dollar Burger.

First, their television commercial:

Next, one of the videos created for their online campaign:

See the difference?

While their heavily produced, perfectly scripted, hero-shot filled 30-second commercial managed to acquire more than a quarter million views in under a week, less than 200 people rated the video during that time, and less than 500 commented on it, indicating that a very low percentage of those quarter million viewers were actually engaged by the video. (Plus, their previous videos have around a thousand views or less, so I’m guessing most of the Portobello Mushroom Six Dollar Burger’s quarter million views were bought and paid for though an ad buy.) By contrast, the second video, created by one of YouTube’s top users named NigaHiga, acquired more than a million views in under a week, nearly 20,000 ratings, and more than 16,000 commentst, indicating a HUGE amount of engagement.

So what did Carl’s Jr. do right?

  1. Create original content – Instead of trying to push existing assets online with banner ads and video buys, a smart company will reach out to prominent users and elicit their help with creating original content that will appeal to that user’s existing fanbase. The resulting videos might not have the highest production quality, or may stray from the strict brand guidelines from time to time, but they will be done in a style that the online community has come to expect, and will be an open and honest interpretation of the product by the creator, rather than the company speaking through a hired personality.
  2. Involve the viewer – If online content is good, viewers will often want to emulate the campaign with creative of their own, so smart companies will encourage that response and find ways of compensating users that go above and beyond to engage with the brand by creating videos of their own. In this case, each sponsored video ended with a call out by the star to the viewers to encourage them to make their own ‘How do you eat yours?’ video. As a result, while most pure UGC campaigns require a huge prize or some other promise of fame and fortune to get a response, this campaign is fueled by viewers’ desire to relate to the personality behind the video, and the compensation is the fact that the star might actually see the video response. A UGC video response campaign also doesn’t have to cost a lot when using YouTube, since the site’s built-in video response feature and viral sharing tools mean the backend is already in place for a campaign with little to no effort required from the sponsor company.
  3. Use the toolsYouTube provides built-in tools for creating and spreading a message, and smart companies will make sure any online video campaign uses them to the fullest. For one, each video should be embeddable. It sounds obvious, but there is still the occasional video that gets put online by a company that can’t be embedded into other sites, and it’s just a waste of potential free media. Second, smart companies will establish a way for viewers to integrate their own content quickly and easily into the overall campaign. Whether it’s posting video responses to campaign videos or tagging their own videos with a specific keyword, giving users the ability to contribute will do a lot to increase the viral spread of a campaign idea. Lastly, tools like the ‘Favorites’ area of a brand’s channel and Flash video viewers allow a company to separate videos into unique campaigns and make it easy to do a lot with a little.
  4. Start from the top – If the budget is big enough, there’s a lot of value in going after the biggest online stars you can find and afford. In this case, Carl’s Jr. got a few of the top 10 most subscribed to YouTube stars to create a video, and the results speak for themselves: After less than a week, each video had an average of 250,000 views, with some receiving more than a million. It might be tempting to save a few bucks by going after the up and coming stars, but there’s a reason certain content producers have so many subscribers, and that’s usually because they consistently make quality videos that others want to watch.
  5. Give creative freedomToo often, companies get online stars involved in their campaigns and then limit what they can say and do, or try too hard to keep them on brand. The main problem with this is that viewers can usually tell when a message is heavily controlled, and views, pass-along and overall engagement will decrease dramatically as a result. Second, the popular YouTube users are popular for a reason, and they will know what their fans want and what works best, so why try to reinvent the wheel? By giving the content creators more creative control, the videos will be more original and more unique, the views will be higher, and the costs associated with trying to control the message will be much, much lower.

As far as online video campaigns go, the Carl’s Jr. Portobello Mushroom Six Dollar Burger campaign was a complete success. They got a number of top users to create content, that content has generated a high amount of engagement, and viewer response has been very positive overall. Sure, it’s not the flashiest campaign, and it’s definitely not the most expensive, but when the results can speak for themselves, who can doubt the power of a well-run online video campaign?

The Good:

  • Uses existing cewebrities to tap into existing communities and create content that is specifically targeted to the online audience.
  • Engages the viewer and encourages participation.
  • Uses existing YouTube tools to their fullest, which extends the campaign while keeping costs down.
  • Offers an online only coupon to try out the product, giving viewers an exclusive offer and connecting the campaign to actual sales.

The Bad:

  • Some of the videos are a bit on the quirky side, and may catch unaware viewers and those that aren’t used to web content by surprise.

The Future:

  • Brands use existing online personalities to give their campaigns life and guarantee initial success.

YouTube – Carl’s Jr.