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Advertisers Should Focus on Content Over Location

July 17, 2009

There’s a debate going on in the online advertising world. It’s getting tougher and tougher to grab the attention of viewers with so-called banner ads. Yet, some sites are charging more than ever for space.

Online Broadcasts vs. Television
James Kewageshig tipped me off to a piece from PC World that states advertisers are paying more for a slot online than on primetime.

“If a company wants to run ads alongside an episode of The Simpsons on Hulu or, it will cost the advertiser about $60 per thousand viewers, according to Bloomberg. On prime-time TV that same ad will cost somewhere between $20 and $40 per thousand viewers.”

Could it be that they don’t have to worry about fast-forward? Hulu claims their space is “clutter-free” — unlike many sites. So they’re banking on the viewer’s full attention. Plus, the ads are usually a lot shorter than the 30-second-minium television ads. As I viewer myself, the ads can still be annoying. But at least they’re not as frequently annoying as being interrupted every seven minutes during a 30-minute primetime show.

Websites vs. Magazines
So how does this all compare to print? A short FastCompany article that surmises that the reason print is dying is because of online ads being crud. Advertisers are still prepared to pay higher for ad placement in a well curated magazine than your website.

How about simply adding interactivity to your banner? According to, the addition of interactive doodads to banner ads increases click through up to 70%!

Their parting shot:

If Web advertising’s formats were half as clever as all the internet content out there, wouldn’t everyone be better off, and making a lot more money?

It’s All About Relevancy
True. The key is knowing your target and providing them with interesting, informative information. It’s our job to provide the exceptional experience, not the space we buy.

Stephen Murray takes this a step further:
There was a quote this morning in the newspaper that struck me. The author was discussing the Obama administrations recent efforts to overhaul how professionals are paid (Teachers, Doctors, Executives). Essentially, the goal is something that’s closer to a Pay-For-Performance model:

“In executive suites, he says, we rewarded reckless risk-taking and got the worst recession in half a century. In doctors’ offices and hospitals, we pay for more care instead of better care and get a wastefully expensive health-care system. In K-12 classrooms, we pay teachers, good and bad, for showing up instead of successful teaching and perpetuate schools that fail.”

Attempts at progress increase the risk of failure….

“The risks of unintended consequences are large, and there’s a chance we’ll get more of what can be measured — not what we truly want or need.”

These same goals and risks apply to our business as well. We must not fall into the trap of focusing on what can be measured easily. In our role, as Intelligent Marketers, the most important skill we possess is the ability to listen closely and be sure we’re answering the right question. We could all design misleading ads that had tremendously high click rates. But that doesn’t mean we’re doing our job of delivering an exceptional user experience.

NOTE: This post originally appeared on Threeminds. Written with Dean McRobie and Stephen Murrary.

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