Capturing Last-Minute Sales

With Q4 well underway, media buyers are scrambling to find placements for clients in need of a promotional boost and a shot at their share of the holiday retail market. Increasing an advertiser’s exposure online at this time of year is vital. According to a report from Jupiter Research (a unit of this site’s corporate parent), online holiday retail sales will top $17 billion. If that’s true, this year’s sales volume will be the biggest ever.

Though many holiday campaigns are already underway, all’s not lost for late-comers. Jupiter Research suggests many consumers will wait until the last minute before finishing their online shopping. Releasing new, eye-catching banners within the next month could produce big results.

As with any campaign, deciding which ad formats to buy can eat up a lot of valuable time. Here are my top picks for the formats most likely to generate buzz among online shoppers … and, hopefully, produce some sales.

Video Banners With Sound
When I wrote about this format a few months ago; some readers voiced concerns about introducing video and sound into an already-overwhelming environment. True, these bold, eye-catching ads can incite a negative response on occasion (what ad format hasn’t?). But this can be avoided if close attention is paid to placement.

A video banner appearing on a site already cluttered with visuals and noise will be either ignored or shunned. The same ad on a property that doesn’t frequently run video banners provides the novelty necessary to stand out and entice consumers. Ensure the video serves a real purpose in promoting the product or service. Superfluous, in-your-face creative only leads to confusion and frustration.

The Aura Group has enjoyed considerable success in this area. It’s persuaded Marriott to give the format a try in 2004. Through a partnership with VitalStream and Macromedia, it can offer the banners (in three standard sizes) for as little as $0.02 per impression.

Leader Boards: A New Classic
First introduced last December by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) as part of its Universal Ad Package, leader boards (like the one you see at the top of this page) have become a modern classic. Generally measuring 728 x 90 pixels horizontally, they offer holiday advertisers plenty of room for an attention-grabbing message.

These formats are currently offered by a great number of sites and networks, many boasting large volumes of online shoppers. The formats are relatively inexpensive (prices vary based on the property). They’re as easy to create and launch as your average banner, though an average 468 x 60 pales in comparison. Think of the leader board as an opportunity to “supersize” existing creative — a necessary consideration near the holidays when competition for online eyeballs is stiffer than ever.

Holiday E-Newsletter Button

This time of year, e-newsletters focusing on holiday-related topics are abundant. They invite last-minute thematic insertions. A simple button placed in one of these e-mail messages can lead to impressive results — especially when the newsletter is delivered by an e-commerce-enabled retail partner with a loyal consumer following.

Don’t have a relationship you can leverage? Ask your favorite ad network whether any shopping sites that meet your client’s demographics and audience profile plan special, pre-holiday mailings. Reps are always looking to recruit additional advertisers as the potentially lucrative fourth quarter draws to a close. They’re likely to offer good deals on normally pricey insertions.

Consider employing one of these effectual formats — before the year runs out. This is going to be a good season. Capture the glory.

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Tessa Wegert is a freelance writer specializing in e-marketing, technology and advertising. With a background in online media buying, print advertising and consumer marketing, she has worked with both traditional and interactive agencies planning marketing strategies and executing campaigns.

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