In the very earliest days of the Internet companies sold “banner” ads to small businesses. Generally they didn’t perform or deliver much value for those SMBs. And to varying degrees SMBs have been wary of online display ever since.
SMBs generally don’t care about “awareness” or “branding.” They care about leads, calls and sales. Most of the “2.0″ SMB-oriented digital marketing has been focused on establishing a digital presence, getting the right distribution and then on performance-related advertising (mostly paid-search).
Yet there’s so much display inventory “out there” and it’s relatively speaking so cheap that it can’t be ignored. Thus an increasing number of companies have started to push back into display advertising for SMBs — often with some sort of twist or targeting improvement.
As one of the earliest of this 2.0 wave, AdReady, offered a DIY SMB-oriented display solution. It largely flopped because of the DIY part and its complexity (choosing the creative). At the time there was also no really effective local sales channel pushing it, although the company did have deals with Yahoo and several others.
Newer companies such as PaperG and iPromote developed methods to automate display ad creative for SMBs, which is quite significant. Using PaperG, DexOne has been running display ads on behalf of SMBs and it has apparently worked well.
ReachLocal just launched a new display ad product for SMBs, in which it will design the ad creative or allow SMBs to use their own agencies or resources. It uses retargeting to ensure greater relevance and response rates. The new SMB marketing package from Local Corp also includes display.
Earlier this week premium ad network Adblade got into the act with a new display product for SMBs that targets zip codes and uses major sites for distribution. The pitch is that ads will only appear on well-known branded sites such as “MSNBC, USA Today, and Fox News.” The company also claims that these units offer “2x – 3x better performance over standard display ads.”
The zip-level targeting is accomplished through reverse IP lookups, which are often inaccurate in my view. However the company claims 80% accuracy.
Ads can be purchased on a CPM or CPC basis, according to Adblade.
The SMB handles the creative – “uploads text and image” — but there are account execs to help if needed. The landing page can be anything designated by the SMB: its site, Google+ page, Yelp profile or Facebook Page.
The challenges here are familiar: the DIY element and the lack of a channel to push this solution directly to SMBs. My guess is that only relatively digitally sophisticated SMBs or SMB-focused small agencies will discover and test this. However, we might see some of the existing SMB channels provision or buy these ads on behalf of their customers.
I’m curious about your general thoughts on using display for SMBs. Clearly this is widespread in mobile (see xAd, YP) but hasn’t been fully exploited online. Do you think this new crop of SMB display products will do better than in the past?
If so, why? If not, why not?