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How to Be An Authentic Marketer: Imbedding Text Ads Within Content

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(Wordcount: 1,090; Pages: 3) Authenticity is a peculiar thing: marketers believe that it has something to do with one regular Joe telling another regular Joe to take some sort of action, where the action will benefit the company the regular Joes are talking about. But, in a recent analysis of an 11-week online marketing campaign for a cable network, we discovered that authenticity can also mean straight-to-the-point communication between marketer and consumer.

For example, the copy that yielded the greatest interaction and response (clickthrough and comments) were the copy messages stating exactly what the marketer wanted to say, in a normal tone, in any context. "Round-about" or overly-enthusiastic copy barely registered. And announcing to audiences that the message is a paid advertisement (read: encroachment) in their media environment with a useful (read: spam) message did indeed have a negative impact.

Google proved - or made possible - the effectiveness of text ads. But imbedding (text) ads within content has traditionally taken the editorial perspective that it isn't editorial, but advertising, which harm editorial image, offend consumers, and ultimately assures that your brand of content is ignored. Our analysis demonstrated that a majority of 43% noticed our client's copy (on blogs, forums, and chat rooms), with at least 15% stating their intentions to do what the copy asked of them (requesting more information by visiting a website or tune in to a program.)

Of note is that just 3% of those who made a comment to our copy felt our copy was spam (out of nearly 75,000 consumers who offered over 3,100 distinct interactions), with an equal 3% announcing how appreciative they were for now being informed through the copy.

The real secret to being authentic is to either a) provide a consumer forum on your own highly-trafficked site and as an administrator, offer information (a la Google's own Blog which makes announcements different than their official press releases) or b) empowering anyone, not just "trendsetting influencers" or even fans, with information you'd like conveyed.

To understand this second tactic better, a little advanced psychology is required: what the marketer is doing is paying (or in a more sophisticated scenario, trading with) a user for access to the targeted communities that user frequents. (Employment of that frequent user by a third party is the loop-hole). Direct payment, however, isn't necessarily the only asset a marketer has to leverage, but rather the opportunity for the user to garner attention or the spotlight amongst the community they frequent.

In other words, everyone wants to be the influencer, and because the lifespan of an influencer isn't as long-term as researchers believe (1), anyone can be an influencer during a short-life span. And what they require to be an influencer is information that's relevant to everyone, but only they possess and (are encouraged to) release on their timeframe. That information comes from the marketer.

It is, in fact, beneficial to the momentum of the campaign to have new influencers take over where old ones left off since the old influencer risks becoming "tired" or "passed his prime", as all fads do.

There are several variables that you should take into consideration during your utilization of effective copy within content, discussed here:

Length of campaign and critical dates it crosses.
We strongly urge one-month long campaigns (2), preceded by a month or two of audience cultivating (or teasing) in order to achieve the maximum impact from your marketing investment. This cultivating permits the marketer to learn of conflicting product/service launches, to counter consumer confusion from a pre-existing product or service already on their radar, and to plan for those periods where there are dips in response.

For instance, in our analysis, an average of about 100 copy messages were released weekly for the entire 11-week period, with as many as 250 during critical periods. However, the response was not consistent, with substantial dips during seemingly "all-clear" dates, dates which coincided with our client's program premieres. Upon further inspection, holidays alone didn't account for this loss of response. Neither did negative consumer interest, since all our data reveals that the important three - network, genre, and show - were all generally well-received among our target audience. By this careful investigating of campaign duration, our client is now armed with the necessary scheduling information to experience a steadily increasing return on their future marketing investment.

Length of copy within content.
Ironically, the most effective copy was the longest, story-like, explanatory copy or any copy that presented a relevant point of argument, particularly within static communities such as boards, blogs, and forums. Even searches that present search results or text ads in "snippets" longer than 2 or 3 sentences (but shorter than 6-7 sentences) will receive strong response. (Shorter "snippets", like Google's text ads, work because they still leave a searcher curious enough about the answer to their query to click on it. The more detailed the "preview", the less curious, and the fewer clickthroughs, we believe.)

Source of content.
It's important to note that every copy message was imbedded in user-generated content areas, which, despite long-held standards regarding the source of content, are perceived by their users with a degree of reliability equal to that of the most prestigious news-outlets. (Wiki's are successful for a reason, you know.) Thus, when any user of the community embeds a text ad into an user-generated content environment, it will be perceived as legit info, even if it's simultaneously perceived as spam.

For example, while interacting with a very niche and rabidly interested audience, our copy was perceived to come directly from the official administrator of this community. Eventually, the administrator received an official press release and posted it in a prominent section of the community, clarifying his involvement in the message to his audience, and continuing to build momentum sparked by the original copy.

It is our opinion that a user with approximately 30 to 60 days worth of interaction with a community is perceived as a reliable source, reliable inasmuch as their interactions with the community are actually based on knowledge of the topics being discussed within the community. Passion about the topic, although useful in order to maintain an individual user's interest within the community, is not a pre-requisite to participate. (There's another loophole here; can you guess?)

Demos of target audience
It goes without saying that copy tone and where it's placed matters. There really is no secret here except that the person who you empower with your information should be of the same audience you're attempting to target or at least familiar with their thinking.


(1) "A New (Shorter) Perspective on Charismatic Brands and How They Influence Audiences"

(2) "Everyone's a Punk Rocker - Examining the Effects of a Sustained Promotions vs. Short, Focused Promotions"

Al Berrios is Managing Director of al berrios & co., an innovative strategy consulting firm advising leaders on the impact of human behavior on their strategies and on how to change their organizations to address the behavior. Write to Consumer Strategies Report at editor @ alberrios.com.


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