“Hyper-Targeted” Banners

I used to be a skeptic when it came to banner advertising.

After all, direct response marketing is built on the concept of relevance – targeting the right message to the right audience at the right time. Doing this with banners – buying a particular spot on a particular website, say – tended to be prohibitively expensive. The kind of banner advertising that was affordable for nonprofits seemed to be little better than blasting an unfocused message across thousands of sites, to millions of users, and hoping to score enough hits to justify the investment. As a result, ROI was uniformly low.

Recently though, the game has changed. Advances in technology and strategy have completely transformed banner advertising (aka “display” advertising), creating vast new opportunities for nonprofits.

It started some time ago, with the advent of demand side platforms (DSP) for display advertising. These offered the promise of better targeting at affordable costs, among other benefits. The digital team at Russ Reid was intrigued by the potential that DSPs offered, and started testing into them with some of our clients.

The results have been staggering. Costs per donor have dropped across the board, and return on investment has skyrocketed. Banner ads, once considered primarily an awareness medium, are generating positive ROI in many cases, with ample room to grow and scale.

What’s driving this performance? Largely, it is relevance – dramatically better targeting. A DSP works in part by modeling response behavior on your website. People visit your giving page; some give and some don’t. Now, we can monitor that behavior and relate it back to other things we know about those users . . . sites they visit, searches, use patterns and so on. This is information that DSPs have for millions of other users out there in the marketplace. The DSP can then create a profile of people who give to you – versus people who don’t – and serve your banner ads exclusively to those people. They can do this on regular websites, on social networks, and just about anywhere in the digital world where prospects can be found. As more people respond, the model gets better, and so do results.

In essence, this fixes what I always disliked about banner advertising. Now, it can be both inexpensive AND hyper-targeted – a combination that leads to incredible results and vast growth opportunity for digital acquisition.

If you’re not doing banner advertising with a DSP today, you need to be. We’d be happy to help. Let us know if you’d like to discuss it.