Thursday, July 09, 2009

Are You Getting the Most out of Advertising?

In a recent post on's blog, Dan Rayburn mentioned coverage of MJ's memorial service: the fact that everyone is "caught up in the traffic numbers and the many ways they can turn those numbers into nothing more than a headline." He makes a good point in suggesting more coverage on the business side of webcasts. "Are they trying to sell sponsorships during the event...Are they seeing any success at all when it comes to covering their costs?"

This is a big question when it comes to live events, especially trade shows. Based on my research of two major virtual conference providers, the average cost of a 2-day virtual conference is upwards of $70,000. Most offer up to 5 major sponsors for the event so if you can get each of them to dish out $14,000, you may be in the black - as long as you're willing to work for free to put the whole thing together.

Let's say you can find 5 sponsors who will keep you afloat. How do they then get their message out in a way that stands out from the rest? You'll find them competing for the most flashy ads, the biggest virtual billboard, the most free downloads, etc. But does that really work? I've become somewhat immune to advertisements as we know them and I suspect the same is true for most of America (at least the ones who've learned that it's impossible to lose 30 pounds in one week, short of liposuction and extreme dehydration).

So how do you get your message across in a way that relates to the audience you're trying to reach? Someone who does this particularly well is Peter Shankman. In his email query service for journalists, Help A Reporter Out or HARO, you'll find a written ad with a link at the beginning of each email. This may sound like a common sense thing to do - put an ad in an email - but HARO ads have a more personal touch. The reader sees that businesses are represented in a genuine recommendation, rather than flashy marketing speak.

That said, screening advertisers carefully will surely be of great benefit. When asked about a policy to "keep it real" in advertising, Shankman replied that they "reject about 10% of want-to-be advertisers." It may seem obsurd to turn down advertisers but the idea of casting a net will only get you so far. When I see a website with ads that seem like scams, the site immediately loses credibility in my mind. Fair or not, that's just how it is.

P.S. This blog post is brought to you by RGA, Rick Grant & Associates ;) and the letter Q.
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