Tech strategies: Placement Is Key to Banner Ad Success

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Common sense tells us that the greatest creative in the world that is not targeted properly will do you no good. This is true in any medium, especially in banner advertising.


Most marketing types know that a banner has to be placed on a site that reaches their target audience. What most marketers new to cybermarketing do not know is that where you place the banner on a site can be the difference between success and failure.


Understanding why potential customers go to a specific Web page and what they are looking for - or not looking for - is critical to effective targeting. If you were reading an intriguing book or magazine article, you would not want a giant advertisement to pop up in the middle of the featured piece that has grabbed your attention. However, you might be receptive to the same message if it was presented to you in a friendlier manner, such as on a product comparison page.


For marketers to get a positive return on investment on banners, they must be placed where respondents will be receptive to your message. No advertiser ever won new customers by being disdained - or, worse yet, by being ignored.


Direct marketers learn more each day about the etiquette of e-mail. Perhaps, too, there is an etiquette to be learned when it comes to banner advertising.


The following are some simple questions that must be asked:


• What are your objectives in placing this banner?


• Who are you targeting?


• Do your banners speak to your targeted market?


• What Web sites are visited by your target market?


• Do you know which pages or sections of your possible Web site placements are the correct ones for your offer?


The fifth question is critical. The first four questions are almost givens.


As an example, a marketer of high-speed routers for network connections wants to draw traffic to its site.


The first question is answered by the simple answer, "They want qualified traffic to its site." That is a no-brainer.


The second question gets the operative word "qualified" in play. You certainly do not want any marketing types clicking on this ad (you would not know what to do with the product). You would like network administrators running high-end Web centers and servers to the Internet.


The third question is the creative question. If the banner does not meet this criteria, "Return to go and do not collect $200" - especially from your client.


The fourth question is the general media-buying question. Most buyers will know how to do this. If not, they are in the wrong vocation.


Now the final question. Having stated the premise, it sounds easy - but it is not.


The hypothetical router company knows, along with its marketing executives, that CNET, PC World, Tech Web and multiple Ziff Davis sites are prime for the campaign. This is part of the normal research on the fourth question. The salespeople at these sites are excited to sell the Web real estate to the client. Which real estate is the real question, as well as how often and at what price?


The sections themselves, within the sites, still may not be targeted enough.


If there is a "route" section or an Internet hardware section, then you may be getting warm. Any space in a section like this cannot be overlooked. It is still not the prime location, and here is why.


Content pages are not good for banners. They are too sticky. People go to these pages for information. They do not want to be interrupted by a banner. (Remember the intriguing book or magazine article?)


Price-comparison pages or table-of-contents pages make more sense for testing. The end of a section built on content may be a good and relatively reasonable banner purchase.


Understanding why someone goes to a page and what he is looking for is critical to reaching your potential audience. When Web browsers are comparison shopping, they are doing just that - comparing one product with another for price, benefits and availability. Having a banner on this type of page is an invitation to shoppers, to get the purchasing-decision facts they came to find. It is not an interruption, but rather another resource offering helpful tips.


The main theme must be to test all five elements of the equation. If you do, success will be the result.


• Roy Schwedelson is CEO of Worldata Inc. and co-founder of WebConnect, both in Boca Raton, FL.
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