2005: Lose Weight, Be Promoted!

It's that time of year.

People across the country are compiling their resolutions for 2005. Fitness clubs are crowded, disorganized desks are being cleaned, and self improvement books are flying off retail shelves. Curiously enough, research shows that a majority of Americans intend to pursue one of a handful of common New Year's resolutions. Online advertisers are no exception. How can committed online advertisers achieve commonly held New Year's resolutions? Read on...

Get into shape. Like the U.S. population, many online media plans are growing bloated. Increased demand has inflated prices for popular placements, making it more difficult to achieve return on investment (ROI) goals. The solution: trim the fat. In 2005, smart marketers will utilize targeting to increase relevant messaging to their core prospects, but also suppress messaging to their "impression eaters" - users who consume expensive online advertising but will never convert. For instance, recognizing that dial-up users will rarely download online content, an online music service may choose to message only to prospects who are surfing over a broadband connection. Elimination of 50 percent of the audience would more than finance any targeting premium while enhancing campaign performance.

Get smarter. In 2005, many Americans have resolved to try new things, read more books, and further their education. Likewise, ongoing education must be a critical component of any online targeting effort. Smart marketers will likely set aside 5 to 10 percent of their overall online budgets for testing of new segments and corresponding messages. While such an approach has been a staple of direct mail for years, the increased granularity now available in the online space will make constant testing, analysis, and refinement a structured piece of every well written campaign brief. Like education, online testing can be costly in the short term but will ultimately pay dividends many times over as segmentation schemes are improved and campaign waste is eliminated.

Get organized. Is your desk a mess? Have sloppy piles replaced labeled files? Are you always running late? Many Americans have vowed to improve their organization in the New Year. Online advertisers must take note. While online request for proposals (if they are even provided) typically describe desired placements and ROI metrics, they are often missing critical information around the target audience. In 2005, smart marketers will recognize they are buying online users, not online inventory. As a result, they will share more behavioral, demographic, and contextual profile information so that publishers are better able to deliver a more targeted audience. Improved organization must extend to timelines also - an extra week or so should be built into upfront media planning and another week layered into creative development so that more granular and effective advertising can be delivered to a smaller, more relevant online audience.

Find a mate. Just as millions of Americans will be searching for Mr. or Ms. Right, so too will many online advertisers be searching for attractive targeting partners in the coming year. Many will be disappointed with what they find. Smart marketers will take their time and conduct a careful courtship, while remembering that one's true character can often be found in the company one keeps. That in mind, advertisers should investigate any targeting provider's existing client portfolio, ensure that inventory is reputable and of sufficient quality, and evaluate each potential partner's long term financial and business viability. Don't be afraid to take it slow! Absolutely no campaign should be launched without ensuring that data usage and security policies are documented and consumer privacy policies are established. Likewise, new targeting schemes should be cautiously tested before making any serious commitment.

Be promoted. Finally, many industrious Americans have ambitious plans to advance their careers in the New Year. In 2005, the path for successful online marketers points to increased targeting utilization. Those who experiment and refine their targeting campaigns will unlock new insights into their customers and generate significant improvements in their marketing effectiveness. These marketers will succeed and quickly surpass their less resolute competitors.

Happy New Year. Good luck with your resolutions!

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