Searching on keywords or clicking on hyperlinked words has become the most prevalent way people navigate the Internet. Those little pop-up in-text ads with hyperlinks create an opportunity to extend search keyword campaigns. And while the strategy isn't new, it's finally showing promise and earning its own line item on ad metrics spreadsheets.
No one company knows that better than Vibrant. While the contextual advertising company doesn't trade stock on any public exchange -- not yet, anyway -- it plans to release revenue numbers Thursday demonstrating growth for in-text ads and connection to search and branding campaigns.
The New York-based Vibrant had record revenue and profits in 2009, achieving double-digit EBITDA margins, with a rise in consumer packaged goods (CPG) topping 68% year-on-year growth, according to Doug Stevenson, Vibrant co-founder and chief executive officer.
In the fourth quarter revenue grew 34%, but overall Vibrant managed to grow its audience to more than 50 billion hyperlinks in 2009 -- reaching 170 million unique users, up 29% increase compared with the prior year, Stevenson says. "Brand advertisers spent four times as much with us in 2009, compared with what they spent in 2008," he adds. And if the companies didn't see the conversions from the unique visitors they surely wouldn't invest budgets in the campaigns.
As marketers shift dollars from traditional ad channels, advertisers see the value in leveraging growing platforms and premium publisher networks to drive performance and user engagement.
Take Hewlett-Packard, for example. Vibrant supports its in-text advertising strategy. Natalie Jeter, U.S. advertising manager for servers at HP, views in-text advertising as an extension of paid search and search engine optimization. The search team works with the in-text marketing team to ensure that keyword strategies align.
Words used in search also appear in the in-text ads. "The beauty is you don't pay for impressions similar to the way you pay for display on a cost-per-click basis, even if people mouse over and read the ads," Jeter says. "In display advertising you can have wasted impressions. The metrics have been so wonderful that we separated it out from banner ads."
In other words, HP separates banner ad metrics from in-text metrics in its reports because Jeter didn't want the high numbers from in-text to skew metrics in banner ads. Today, HP has two campaigns running that contain in-text advertising: one with Intel, and another with AMD.
It's important to have the same message across all marketing campaigns, especially in-text advertising and search, but these ads also help to brand companies. So a "Coke and a smile everywhere you go," says Eli Goodman, search evangelist at comScore. It's all about targeting people with the direct message in the content they read. Those little blue links containing pop-up ads cannot only provide companies with in-text advertising, but branding from those messages, too.
The ability to create branding campaigns through search and in-text ads delivers the message to people as they are immersed in the content they want to read. And although the marketing strategy isn't considered traditional behavioral targeting, it does target an ad based on the consumer's behavior.