Are you missing out on free banner ads?

What a fascinating email inbox I had on Friday, after my article about the great banner ad con trick. One reader told me that he cancelled most of his company’s banner ads when he arrived there, and put the budget into pay-per-click advertising. It contributed to enquiries doubling. “Salesmanship indeed”, he added. “Smoke and mirrors, yet they make me feel like I am leaving a cult. Am I going to burn in hell?” You’re not, sir.

But it was suggested by another reader that many of the banner ads out there on magazine publishers’ websites aren’t paid for anyway, and that part – or all – of the cost of the website is simply buried as a sales support cost for the publication. My correspondent said that when they discuss print advertising with many magazines, they’re offered a “package” of the print ads and online banner ads, even though they didn’t ask for the latter. If the price seems reasonable for the print ads alone, of course they take the online banner ads too. Internally, the magazine may allocate some of the revenue to the print title and the rest to the website, but that’s of no concern to the advertiser.

My response here would be that even if placing the banner ads is free, you still need to ensure that they’re worth more than the cost of creating them. Often they’re not even worth that. Quite a few magazine websites are rubbish, with precious little effort or budget put into them. As a consequence, they attract few visitors, as you’ll see from the clickthrough figures in your own website analytics. Half a dozen visits a year from such sites (worth what? £10? £20?) is not unusual.

And if the salesman claims the banner ads do have a value, then why not ask for the print ads alone and a further reduction in the cost? It’s worth a try. But it’s an interesting observation, and explains how the print publishers have been able to buy off the threat of independent online publications. The problem is, they’re buying it off with your money.

Discussion

  1. Andrew

    Hi Chris,

    This is an interesting topic that your readers should take time to seriously consider. With regards to the point you make above I’d be interested to know why your correspondent is still using print advertising. Sure, in some cases print advertising can work but only if your ads are everywhere your audience is and that makes it extremely expensive. It’s also very difficult to measure the ROI of print advertising.

    In my experience the main reason for using print is usually:

    a) The competition are doing it (they might not be doing the right thing)
    b) If we stop our audience will think we’re in trouble (just tell them you’re using different marketing methods)
    c) We got a good deal (cheap but ineffective)
    d) We’ve always done it (but we’ve never known if it worked or not)

    I’d recommend that your readers think about creating an interesting piece of content, hosting it on their own site and drive traffic to that content through PPC. In addition the content can also be distributed and promoted through social media channels. One piece of interesting content can be repurposed and reused across many channels, improving the ROI. At least then you have control over your own destiny and can measure and analyse the results of your endeavours.

    Best regards
    Andrew Leon Walker
    Rame Marketing

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