Wanted: A Turnkey Solution to test display ads (Fast, Iterative Learning w/Real Dollars)

I realize this post may open the floodgates of email from the gajillions of readers of this blog, but the "lazyweb" could solve a  problem i've been wondering about. (And note, this is my personal page, and it in no way reflects the opinions or positions of my employer and is not a solicitation of a proposal) 

The Setup:

A lot of the brands i come into contact with are classic, big, mass-market brands. They focus mostly on TV or some sort of instore promotion as a way to grow their top-line sales. As a result, they put tremendous amounts of time and energy into getting their advertising message perfect. This creates a planning cycle that often starts 18 months or so before the :30 second spot airs. 

As these brands move to online advertising, their planning cycles aren't really changing that much. Digital gets planned along with the tv, the creative is often linked explicitly to the tv in the name of "integration", and therefore the digital creative is often planned at least 8-10 months before it "runs". And, a similiar amount of energy/time/planning goes into getting the digital message (the words, the visuals, the consumer "target", the tone, the call-to-action) perfect before they launch. Its' like we're planning our banners like we plan our TV spots. 

Note: It's going to seem counterintuitive to many of us, but the majority of these campaigns focus only on awareness. That is, they aren't concerned about a click, or any sort of action. These are mass-reach, impression driving campaigns, not CPA/CPC, response based campaigns. 

The Challenge: 

We should be able to plan and execute our digital display ads so much faster and cheaper. The growth of exchanges and the proliferation of ad networks has created a flood of cheap, not-quite-free banner space (see: Mediamath, contextweb.com or, for better, higher quality contextual placement Brand.net). There are amazing tools out there that make it easy to do data-driven targeting of the creative unit. There are crazy powerful tools that make it easy to dynamically create, in real-time, creative units from a library of images, messages, and other creative elements (see: Teracent, X+1). And, there's a growing supply of providers who can match up in display impressions w/back office sales data (at least for the industry i work in).

With all this data, all this display space, all this measurement, why isn't there a product that brands can buy that enables them to do the following: 

  • Have a known period of "testing" (like two months)
  • Put a known amount of working dollars into the market (not much money, mind you)
  • Have a set of two to four consumer "targets" to test
  • Have a set of two to four different creative messages to test
  • Have a known result to test against (in this case, cash register rings in the store, not clicks, necessarily)

The goal: Come out of a 1 to 2 month test, with a higher degree of confidence that they've got an advertising message that will drive instore sales with a specific consumer segment. And, all this by putting a significantly smaller proportion of the annual marketing budget (like a fraction) to work, before the bulk of it is committed.

The desired outcome: Risk management for the main campaign; a higher confidence in the combination of message, media placement and consumer target. And, do this in a way where the brand doesn't have to work that hard at it, where it's NOT a big production, and where the brand can learn fast. 

The need: 

This has got to be productized, like something a brand could (almost) buy with a few clicks. This should be something that a brand could buy, a) in a turnkey way b) for a known amount of money c) with a known amount of "working" dollars required. This would be delivered as a service, with some support from the vendor in designing, producing and executing the program. It would be delivered in a standardized window (e.g. 1 month of planning, 1-2 months of testing, 1 month of analysis) with known/consistent deliverables (that would enable cross test comparisons)

There's got to be a productized version of this out there somewhere.

No brand would be interested in:

  • Some technology that the internal/external IT group or agency group can use
  • Smarter ways to buy media
  • Buying media directly from exchanges and or networks
  • Brands won't want to hear about your dynamic, real-time, multivariate testing capability. they'll want this to work automagically
  • Dynamic optimization
  • Your agency creative, strategy or production services
  • Campaign management tools
  • CPC tools or SEM mgmt tools
  • Any sort of customized project from some agency

They'd be looking for a turnkey solution that can be bought off the shelf. There's got to be something like this out there….But i've looked, and i can't find it. 

Lazyweb, any ideas? 



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