October 29, 2009


by Michael de Souza, Executive Producer, South Africa

Here in South Africa in recent months, we’ve noticed two distinct approaches to managing campaigns on the BuzzCity network. There are those who upload their campaigns and let them run, hardly making any changes. Then there are clients who monitor and optimise their campaigns, making constant tweaks, testing new bidding levels and exploring targeting options. No prizes for guessing who’s getting the best performance and return on adspend.

Some of our most experienced advertisers are sinfully lazy! They upload a campaign based on past experience. They set start and end dates, enter a bid rate, upload one version of a good solid creative and perhaps include some relevant targeting. Then they sit back and let the campaign run. Sometimes this means that an early mistake will play itself out through the entire campaign. That's an extreme case. Most advertisers still get decent results – it's just that they could be doing a lot better.

So, I’ve taken note of how some of our very best advertisers* continually optimise their campaigns and I hope they won’t mind me sharing a couple of their secrets with you.

Here’s what they’re doing:

A/B testing 
  • Always test several versions of your creative. There’s no way to be sure which message the market will respond to. If you’re promoting a VOIP service with an ad that says “Make free mobile calls”, upload four or five versions. Include variations of the basic call to action, like “Make free calls now”, “Talk for free today”, and “Claim your free airtime”. Always be sure to include some wackier options that will stand out from the crowd, like “Slash your phone bill” or even “Paying for calls is *so* last year!”.
  • Of course, not all versions will perform, but your chances of hitting on a banner or text ad that really shoots the lights out is now five or six times higher. Once you have enough campaign data to see which version is winning, adjust your bidding accordingly, to take advantage of the best performance. Kill those versions that are not getting clicks.
  • For agencies working for large brands, ensure that you aren’t stuck with one version of the creative. We all know about slow approval cycles, so get your client's stamp of approval on at least 4 to 5 creatives before the campaign goes live.
  • Note that running multiple versions of a campaign will not have any impact on your media costs as you can still set a daily advertising cap.
Use both banner and text ads
  • Many advertisers start out with either text ads or graphic banners, rather than both. What they don’t realise is that by doing so, they halve their potential reach. Why not start with double the exposure?
Make use of conversion tags
  • Distinguish between the ads that result in quality clicks and those delivering traffic that delves no further than your landing page. BuzzCity offers conversion tags that enable advertisers to see which campaigns result in your desired outcome, be it a signup, a download, a sale or navigation deeper into your site. It's easy to do and doesn't cost a cent. Read more about it here
Banner ads: experiment with imagery and colour
  • The most successful campaigns are punchy, with short sharp messages and colours that pop. It takes very little time for your design team to create several versions of a banner ad. Try making one in hot pink on black, another in high contrast black and white. Even if you’re working with a restricted palette of colours, you can and should still create several versions.
Bid high, bid low, bid middle
  • Bidding lower or higher than normal will often result in unexpected success. Different bidding rates attract different publishers and audiences. By bidding lower, you get fewer exposures per day, but the clickthrough rate can actually go up. Try cloning your campaigns three times, at three CPC rates. Leave all the settings, other than the bid rate, the same, then see what happens. Then as the results come in, adjust accordingly.
Make your advertising consistent and recognisable
  • Some of our larger advertisers lose money because their ads do not have a recognisable look or theme. What happens is that the same users click on different ads, not realising they are linked to the same offering. While space is already cramped in mobile, try to include your brand name or logo in each ad. This will save you money and ensure that a higher proportion of your budget is spent on clicks from fresh users.
As digital marketers (and you’ll know this if you work at a digital agency or specialist mobile company), we are constantly emphasising to our clients the benefits of digital media – it’s measurable, adaptable, accountable and real time. We criticise traditional media for not being as nimble. Be sure that you don’t fall into the trap of not practising what you preach.

Making ongoing changes can be time-consuming. It also requires analytical enquiry and a spirit of competitiveness. You may even decide to hire someone new – an optimisation manager – to monitor your campaigns and get the most out of them. But the rewards are there. It's definitely worth it.

*Footnote: Which advertisers get the best return on the advertising dollar?
Mobile content providers -- the companies that sell ringtones, MP3s, tips of the day, etc -- tend to be the best marketers. Their businesses operate on tight margins, as a slice of every transaction is paid out to telecom carriers, media aggregators and the license-holders of the content. The biggest variable in their business model is the media cost and how many clicks it takes to get a transaction. They know what each click is worth and what click rates are acceptable.