Thursday + Gregory Huffstutter = The Ad Man Answers
Thursday + Gregory Huffstutter = The Ad Man Answers
Q: I'm the editor of a just launched parody website, eTrueSports.com that is getting some positive press and good word of mouth, which leaves me at the next step, advertising/promotion via the web. Could you take a look at the site and offer any suggestions?
Frank Coffey, Editor
A: Normally, the Ad Man doesn’t involve himself with giving advice to independent businesses unless he is getting a consulting fee, stock options, or blood sacrifice in his honor (goats work best).
This case, however, is an exception. The Ad Man used to be the co-editor of his college’s humor newspaper, so he has a soft spot in his heart for parody websites.
Some of the following advice will be specific to their particular website, but some will be applicable to any start-up internet property looking to attract advertising or generate traffic.
Since contacting the Ad Man, eTruesports has gone on re-vamp their site. But this is how it looked at the time of their original plea for help.
Let the advice-giving commence…
When trying to attract advertisers, it helps to know what advertisers look for when evaluating websites:
* Number of monthly unique visitors
* Avg. length of time on site
* Avg. number of page views per visitor
* CPM (cost-per-thousand - see Ad Man Answers #4 for definition) and CPC (cost-per-click)
* Clean, easy-to-navigate site with standard IAB units
* Nothing that's going to patently offend our client. Yes, we answer to someone over at the car company, beer distributor, insurance agency that may -- or may not -- have a sense of humor. And that person's job is to protect the image of their company and avoid customer complaints. The edgier the comedy, the narrower the pool of advertisers willing to take that chance. You might still be able to get a Red Bull or UFC or the "Mr. Woodcock" movie, but if you go too raunchy, you can bet 95% of potential advertisers will stay away. Don't mean to be a buzz kill -- or stifle your creativity -- but an advertising agency will never take the risk of running on a new site if we could potentially lose our client. If the humor is appropriate for the Sat Night Live crowd, you'll be fine. Parody is usually safe (if you avoid taboo topics like abortion or Catholic Church). But if you go too "Family Guy" or Maxim Magazine, we'll be hesitant.
The four things eTrueSports could do to improve your chances of attracting paid advertising:
1) Get rid of the Google Ads. They cheapen your site and make it look like a low-traffic blog. Instead, put an IAB banner or medium rectangle (or both) and offer it for free to 2 or 3 advertisers that have run in similar sites. Rotate between these initial unpaid advertisers so your visitors don't see the same ads every time they come to your homepage. If advertisers see that you can attract other paid advertisers (they won't necessarily know what's paid and what's not), it legitimizes your site. Nobody wants to be the first to pay for an unproven commodity.
2) Join a network. Many advertisers work with companies like Tacoda.com or Advertising.com, that aggregate thousands of sites into "channels", so you can buy "entertainment," "college," "travel," "sports"... and your ad will be rotated across their network of sites. These companies also specialize in "behavorial" and "contextual" advertising, which are the new buzzwords for online advertising. If you're not familiar with those two terms, get to know them intimately so you can talk the talk.
3) Do a user study that shows average age, income, family situation (married/kids) of your visitors – that way advertisers can see if it matches up with our clients' demographic target. A user profile should also help you sell yourself to a network. Maybe you can do some kind of short survey -- raffle a prize for visitors who take the time to respond.
4) Consider revamping your homepage design. Honestly, I'm not enamored with your logo and I think your tagline "News For People" is too mushy and amorphous. Ask yourself -- what makes my site special? What content do I offer that you can't find anywhere else? Are you the "Less-Filling Sports Site"? Are you "What ESPN Won't Tell You"? If your tagline is going to be a parody, take it to the extreme, like "The Universe's Most Trusted Name In Sports." Also remember, the shorter the better for taglines... try to make it 7 words or less. And as for your homepage banner, the cleaner the better. I'll refer back to the gold standard for this sort of thing -- the Onion. Their logo at the top of their homepage is professional, distinctive, and evocative of a real newspaper. Take design cues from them. There's a reason advertisers feel comfortable buying space on their site.
Things eTruesports can do to advertise your own site without spending a lot of money:
1) Keep doing what you're doing with contributing quotes on other websites and getting press releases out to newspapers. It's free and the more people who link to your page, the more converts you'll make.
2) Become a content partner with someone who has a site with more traffic. A "proper" sports site like CBSsportline.com or Yahoosports.com might be interested in running some of your columns as a "lighter side of sports." You'd get a forum to drive people back to eTruesports, they'd get free content that makes them look hip.
3) Exchange ad space with some of the similar sites I listed above (Sports by Brooks). Offer to let them run a banner ad on your site for a month, then have them return the favor. There's a saying: "A rising tide lifts all boats." If someone likes
Defamer.com and TMZ.com, they'll probably like PerezHilton.com. Think of where you can drive cross-traffic with people who like chuckling about sports absurdity. [Note: this will involve developing your own banner advertising creative]
4) Pull a stunt that will get you on the news (but hopefully not arrested). This site has lots of good pranks and stunts as thought starters.
Good luck and happy parodying!
* * *
For better or worse, eTruesports has taken several of the Ad Man’s comments to heart.
This is how the site looks today. Note the new design look, tagline, and mock advertising.
The Ad Man is still waiting for his sacrificial goat.
Gregory Huffstutter has been punching Ad Agency timecards for the past decade, working on accounts like McDonald's, KIA Motors, and the San Diego Padres. He recently finished his first mystery, KATZ CRADLE. The first 100 pages of his novel are linked here. For general advertising questions, leave a comment or send e-mail to katz @ gregoryhuffstutter dot com with 'Ask The Ad Man' in the subject line.