Friday, 19 December 2008

Online Advertising 101 - This Ad is Annoying

Advertising with my own money....
With all the possibilities that have opened up over the l
ast few years for brands to join in conversations, I sometimes forget that the economics underpinning the biggest social networks are still all about eyeballs, scale and broadcasting. So, selling display ads! I saw a presentation earlier this week talking about the success or otherwise of running traditional advertising on Facebook: now most people would say that this isn't the best way of using Facebook as an advertiser, but while there are millions of people using it there will also be lots of DR campaigns chasing their eyeballs and wallets. Interrupting people with commercial messages while they are chatting to their mates is no different from selling cheap DVDs table to table in the pub, but there is clearly money to be made in that as well, because people do it. And it is the same on Facebook: if the ads are cheap enough then it doesn't matter how few people notice them.

And they are really cheap - actually really really cheap: starting at around $0.10 CPM (as all Facebook ads are priced in US$). Now don't have much experience of direct response text ads on Facebook, so when I heard this, I thought it might be worth while having a go.... put something provocative together, stick $15 behind it, and that would get me about 150,000 page impressions.

So what do I have to advertise? Well, it might also be useful to see what the people who noticed the ads thought of them, so I came up with this:

This ad is crap.
Does crap advertising on your profile page
annoy you? I work for an advertising agency that puts them here. Tell me where we're going wrong.

So a lucrative sideline in copywriting clearly awaits.... Not surprisingly this wasn't accepted, because those polite souls who run Facebook don't allow offensive language in ads (this surprised me at the time considering what content is on Facebook, but what doing this has taught me is that each user of the site will set the content at a level they feel happy with by choosing who their friends are. Advertisers want to reach everyone, so have to be more careful. More on this later). So I changed it to this:

This ad is annoying.
Does annoying advertising on your profile page annoy you? I work for an advertising agency that puts them here. Tell me where we're going wrong.

And I set up a WordPress blog called This Ad Is Crap as a landing page giving a bit more information. The rationale for hiding my identity, and claiming in the personal information that this could get me into trouble if I was found out was to try and create a bit more of an undercover feel - that anyone reaching the page might feel more like they were part of a secret project. (rather than being part of a cynical piece of research - not sure if my rationale is correct or ethical, but that was the reason).

After having to remove all references to Facebook from the landing page ('breach of copyright' apparently), my ad was accepted. I targeted all adults 18-35 in the UK, and bid $0.10 CPM with a daily cap of $5. In retrospect I should have spotted that there was a CPC option as well, but this was a bit of a rushed job...

And sat back to see if anyone noticed it. My view is that this is a slightly different ad from what you normally see there, so I was expecting a 'good' clickthrough rate. 'Good' in these sort of environments means 0.01% (or an Ignorethru rate of 99.99%). So a click target of 15 ($1 per click). However my inept attempt at a landing page, and the fact that I was asking people to offer their thoughts in the comments, would probably mean very few actually commented. So these are the results:
29 clicks, 167,582 impressions, at a CPC of $0.51. And one comment. Considering lack of image in copy, dodgy landing page, all the online adverting 101 stuff that I would tell anyone doing it for the first time and didn't get round to myself, not a bad job. This shows why so many direct response advertisers are there, as it is so very cheap that it doen't matter if hardly anyone actually notices the ad. If you actually have something interesting to say or sell (rather then just being a smartarse like me) then this is a great system, particularly if the targeting is accurate: I didn't make too much use of targeting here, but that might well be a test to play around with next year if I ever have $15 going spare in 2009.

It is also interesting to think about when talking to people who think their 'web 2.0' project on Facebook means that they are participating in social media. I now have a case study paid out of my own pocket that says that just catching someone's attention while they are with their friends with an ad that is a bit different doesn't mean that they will the spend any time joining in with what the destination site wants them to do.

And although one comment is very far from representative, it is certainly an interesting perspective, and one that has made me reconsider my cynical reaction to my initial ad not being accepted.

Anyway, back to spending other people's money armed with a few new opinions.....


Simon Kendrick said...

That's a brilliant idea! It could even have some positive externalities in making the exposed more likely to look at the ads - even if only to critique/ridicule them

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