Sep 28, 2010

The long tail of online media

How well do you understand online advertising, and where your media company is placing your banner ads and search box results?

Try an exercise... go to Google and type in a small business in your neighborhood.
Perhaps's "Joe's flower shop." You might get a search engine result like this where the results are about florists, and where the text box ads are also about florists and related items. So far so good. Now click on one of the local results, adn you might get a a directory listing link like this.

Notice the banner ads on your local flower shop? Not about flowers -- maybe the ads or for cars, sneakers, mobile phones, even pharmaceutical conditions or particular drugs. Why is this? You weren't looking for these things in your search.

This is a combination of several effects. One is that if you are logged in, and you have cookies enabled, there is demographic and behavioral information that can be leveraged for online media placement. (In fact, try the same exercise while not logged in to any email or social media systems). The other major effect is the media industry's design, a tactic called "the long tail." Note that Ford motors, Nike, or that pharma company did not particularly wish to target Joe's florist and other small businesses for media placement. But their media company may have paid an ad network to find people in a certain demographic: age, gender, spending levels.

Now, how likely is it that a person trying to order flowers from a local shop, will suddenly become interested in buying a car, or go to their doctor about a new pharmaceutical drug? The effect is more likely to be very subtle branding, but not much direct response.

So, if you are placing online media for a direct response consumer RM ad, be proactive and intelligent about where your media company is placing your banners. What percentage of your spend is on this "long tail" that is probably not going to get a very high response rate, due to lack of relevance to the search. If you are paying by the impression (CPM), it may be costly, if you are paying by acquisition (CPA), then perhaps the low hanging fruit can accumulate.