I Got My (Microsite) in a Box!

by Doug Weaver on March 18, 2010 at 8:00AM

For the last three years I’ve been on a mission to bury the microsite.  The whole idea of building these little Potemkin marketing villages, bolting them onto our domains and then coaxing and cajoling consumers to visit them would be quaint if it weren’t so destructive.   For more than a decade I’ve watched as publishers have spent big money building custom microsites and then driven themselves to distraction supporting them with traffic. All this hand waving usually results in a one-time deal that frustrates everyone, burns through precious resources and leaves no footprints in the sands of brand building.  Enough!

In just about every workshop I conduct I urge — plead with! — sellers to end the madness.  “There’s no reason to do these anymore,” says I.  “Take the visual assets of your media brand, fold in some creative and product messaging from the sponsor, dump it all into a Flash ad unit and distribute it!”  The rollover ad unit can give the willing consumer virtually all the functionality that she’d find in a microsite.  And then you can bring the ads to the people instead of bringing the people to the ads.

I know:  We’ll call it “Microsite in a Box!”  Or….

PointRoll just announced the release of The  Dig@torial which “…allow(s) advertising content to live inside a banner directly adjacent to editorial content pulled from the publisher’s site. The effect is to bring the idea of a branded microsite directly to a publisher’s homepage.”

Uh, yeah.  What that guy said.

I’m not saying that the packaging and release of this or any single ad unit is a tipping point (25 cents to Malcolm Gladwell), but it’s darn helpful to see this idea popping up elsewhere.  What will really make a difference is what publishers and agencies do (and don’t do) now.

  1. Just say no to Microsites. Stop asking, stop offering.  There’s no right way to do the wrong thing.
  2. Start looking at the banner box as a co-distribution platform. “Let’s put a little bit of our environment alongside your brand message and take it for a spin.” And let’s not stop at our site’s borders, but rather…
  3. Let’s start using lookalikes and audience re-targeting (bad word;  need a new one) to extend our creative ideas onto the greater web.
  4. Sellers:  Be the broker. What if that creative idea you generate can sustain a number of different sponsors?   If you haven’t got a good working relationship with PointRoll, Eyewonder and other rich media providers, you need one.  And while you’re at it, get to know some smart creative people as well.   You’ll find yourself at the center of a network like this  sooner than you know.

Microsite in a Box.  Context-t0 -go.  Dig@torial.  Whatever you call it, it’s a tool every digital seller should have in his back pocket.

Reader Comments (10)

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  1. Charles Letchwell March 18, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    This is crazy talk. Ads shouldn’t have content or information in them. They should have big letters that focus people on clicking through to other places. There’s lots of people out there who like to click! Keep it traditional, Doug.

  2. Doug Schumacher March 19, 2010 at 1:28 am

    It looks like Facebook may be proving something of a wooden stake through the heart of microsites. They had nice budgets while they lasted.

    On the Banner Box, I’ve seen some rich media techs pipe in an impressive amount of content into expandable banner formats. Entertainment companies have been able to get people to stop in their tracks and watch a trailer, so it will be interesting to see if the less sexy products and services can pull off the same feat on a regular basis.

  3. Doug Weaver March 19, 2010 at 7:07 am

    I think what people miss is the fact that rolling over and interacting with a flash ad is a positively reinforced behavior. “I did it, it was kind of interesting. Nothing bad happened. I may do it again.” Clicking through on the other hand is a negatively reinforced behavior. We’re asking a lot less of the consumer when we bring the interaction opportunities to them, rather than yanking them from place to place with click through commands.

  4. Doug Weaver March 19, 2010 at 7:09 am

    Anybody who hasn’t been to Charles’ ‘crapads.org’ site really needs to. Oops! Did i just ask people to click through? Damn.

  5. Brian Quinn March 19, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Charles, you have a wonderful site and an even more wonderful vision for digital advertising. You must be the guy responsible for the “Dancing Mortgage Girls”! And for that, I say thank you!!!

    Doug, we call this “Site-in-a-Box” and it has worked extremely well for us. We still build mini-sites, but they basically serve as “repositories” for the content that gets fed into the content/ad units.

  6. Mark McLaughlin March 21, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    First of all, crapads.org is the best site in the industry. Charles – buying ads on Mediapost that get you to click to go to crapads is the height of irony and hilarity. I think I clicked on those ads about 100 times.

    Now to get serious, what Doug is asserting here is so smart and self-evident that you need to wonder why it is so uncommon. My observation is that the same people who accuse traditional media advertisers of being stuck in the status quo are often managing digital advertising campaigns using best practices from the dial-up era. If the Internet had been born with broadband speeds and the coding languages that we have today, nobody would have ever considered anything other than putting the content inside the ad.

  7. Charles Letchwell March 23, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Thanks everyone for the support, I need your help.

    Some interactivity extremists have launched a vile initiative against us, and they’re trying to do away with our tried and true methods of driving clicks.

    Please boycott this site and let us know if we can help your clients get the clicks they deserve!

  8. Rich Nadworny March 31, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    The Micro site is dead.

    The banner is dead.

    The Web is littered with dead bodies. What do people actually do there all day?

    Doug Schumacher is on to something though. Look at how brands like Coke, Adidas and Pizza Hut are moving micro site-type campaigns onto Facebook. At least they solve some of the problem of how to drive traffic to them.


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