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7 ways to make online advertising work for you

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It's official: The online advertising world is in love with search engine and e-mail marketing. In fact, they are expected to grow more than 41% and 25%, respectively, this year. In contrast, the use of banner ads, according to reports, is declining. Although the traditional 468-by-60 pixel banner is still the most popular ad format, it's on the downswing, leaving an open door for b-to-b marketers that plan and execute a tight branding strategy. Here are seven tips that will help you make the right moves in an ever-changing online ad environment.

ΠMake precampaign testing a permanent part of your strategy. The process of precampaign testing might not seem cost- or time-effective, but in the end, doing advance work can help you avoid a crash-and-burn campaign, said Eric Valk Peterson, VP-media for Agency.com.

"You want to test your campaign with offline focus groups using a third party, although you can do it yourself, too," he said. "Third-party companies such as Insight Express and Marketing Evolution can make sure your results and statistics are relevant."

Testing-especially for rich-media ads-will give you an idea of how long a prospect will stay with an ad and if your message is coming across.

Pay only for what you use. Advertisers love paid search because it's cost-effective; they pay only when qualified leads are delivered to their Web sites. But banner advertisers can take advantage of that same business model, said Douglas Casey, VP-interactive media for Martino & Binzer.

Don't see it offered in the organization's media kit? Sometimes all you have to do is ask. "Pubs are very hungry. They may not advertise that they will do pay-per-click [deals] but ... they will," Casey said. "Even with the rebound, there's still a lot of inventory out there and with a little negotiation you can get a great deal."

? Consider daypart advertising. The business-to-consumer market uses dayparting all the time. Budweiser takes advantage of its target market's end-of-the-week malaise by placing banners on popular Friday afternoon online hangouts, said Jarvis Coffin, CEO of BURST! Media, an ad services company. B-to-b clients should use the same strategy, he said.

For example, Verizon DSL recently wrapped up a daypart campaign on BURST! Media's network. The spot, which ran from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, targeted business customers, Coffin said. Don't feel confined by the typical business hours, though. You can winnow down your target days and times based on the industry.

For example, financial services companies may want to target ads more frequently at the end of a fiscal quarter. "Once you agree on the right message and the right place, the right time only stands to reason," Coffin said.

Add behavioral targeting to your arsenal. According to a recent report by research provider eMarketer, companies such as Revenue Science and Tacoda, which help advertisers analyze a target's surfing patterns and behavior over time and serve ads based on those results, are seeing a huge increase in business.

According to the report, behavior-targeted ad spending should account for $627 million by the end of this year; that number will climb to $934 million by 2005. The reason? Behavioral targeting helps advertisers find better qualified leads, especially if you can target people by geography.

"Most b-to-b decision-makers are flooded with offers, and the pubs they read tend to be really dense because there are a relatively small number of them. They are incredibly valuable," said Dave Morgan, CEO of Tacoda. "If you want the message to get through to that audience, deliver an ad that's targeted to a person because of who or what they are. That said, deliver it to them in a different context. Instead of targeting, for example, small-business owners on human resources sites, target them when they are reading local news or sports."

Use rich media appropriately. More than 42% of all online ads served include some form of rich media, according to DoubleClick's Q2 2004 Ad Serving Trends report. But just because everyone is doing it doesn't mean they are doing it right, said Dave Hills, 24/7 Real Media's president of media solutions. Rich media is best received when it includes applets or tools that provide value to the end-user. "Use [the same] creative offsite that supports what you're doing onsite," he said. "Take a small piece of functionality that mimics a tool on your site and embed that on another site. Let people use your tools where they need it."

` Let affiliates spread your message. Affiliate marketing-whether via an online button, ad or link-is a form of referral. Take Southwest Airlines. The company was trying to boost the profile of its online business traveler reservations center, at www.swabiz.com. With the help of online marketing and consulting firm Spur Digital, Southwest created a program for Houston Technology Center, a nonprofit technology business accelerator. Visitors to Houston Technology Center's Web site who clicked on the SWABIZ banner and purchased a ticket received double frequent-flier credits and were entered in a free-ticket give-away contest. The center also received double frequent-flier credits to use for employee ticketing. The results were impressive, said Steve Latham, CEO of Spur Digital.

"People loved that Southwest was supporting an organization that they cared about," he said. "The company saw a really strong lift in sales."

' Text-based ads can work. Your text ad won't necessarily stand out from the page, but that's sometimes a good thing, Casey said. Because it blends in with the rest of the content on a site, your message may break through the clutter and get read, he said. And there's an added bonus, too: Text ads are often cheaper than banners or more traditional media. "If you look at the total cost of ownership, a lot of times text-based ads are simply more cost-effective," he said. M

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