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Choosing the right online environment for your message

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By Jacqui Boyd, online media director at Acceleration
Choosing the right environment to place your ads is perhaps the most important success factor for your online advertising campaign, writes Jacqui Biyd, online media director at Acceleration.

You need to make sure that you are able to reach the right people with your message, in a format that will grab their attention, and at a cost that is appropriate for the benefits you receive.
What follows are a few tips about the elements you should be looking at when you're weighing up the possible environments for an advertisement or a campaign.
* Consider the profile of the users – In much the same way as you would research the readership of a magazine or newspaper before placing an advertisement with the publication, you should investigate how well a website you're considering for an advertising placement matches with the demographics and psychographics of your target market. Most major sites can provide detailed information across a range of demographics and psychographics, and many can provide detailed breakdowns of the gender, age, career, interests, income levels, and geographical location of their visitors.
* Look at the content of the website – One should consider how well an advertising environment matches the identity of your brand as well as the objectives of the campaign or advertisement. Are you aiming for a broad audience or a special interest group? Do you want reach and frequency, or do you want to target a specific audience? The answer to these questions will help you to determine whether you should be placing your advertisement with a major general news portal or a niche content site, such as a sports or entertainment news site.
* Investigate the unique opportunities the website offers – The online world is as cluttered with advertisements as the offline environment. For that reason, it is worth finding out about any unique opportunities a website offers for your ads to rise above the noise. These opportunities may include sponsorships, podcast and blogs, newsletters, and promotional mailers.
* Check the creative sizes and layout of the site – The layout of the website is another important factor to bear in mind. What options are you offered for the placement of your advertisement – above or below the fold? How prominent will your advertisement be, and how much clutter does the website have? Does the website adhere to IAB standards for creative sizes, so that you won't need to develop creative for just one environment?
* Ask about targeting capabilities – The ability to target audiences by demographics and psychographics is one of the most powerful benefits that online advertising offers. However, different websites offer varying targeting capabilities. If it is important to you to reach audiences according to their geographic location and other demographics, you should partner with websites that allow you to specifically target the users you want to reach.
* Weigh up the costs – Cost is always important, but also think about value for money and return on investment. Most South African websites still charge per thousand impressions. You should benchmark each proposed advertising environment against similar websites, and also bear in mind the opportunities on offer (you might be willing to pay a premium for a unique opportunity), the audience the website reaches, and the targeting capabilities it offers.
* The site's track record is important – If an environment has worked well for you in the past, there's a good chance that it will deliver good results for you in the future, provided your creative remains fresh and your audience and objectives are similar. It is worth looking at how the results an environment has produced for brands similar to yours, if you haven't advertised on the site before. Also consider the website's history – is it a credible, established website with a loyal audience?
Most advertisers will need a mix of environments to achieve the goals of their campaigns. Apart from considering the elements above, they should also ask themselves about how well the mainstream and niche environments they use as advertising vehicles complement each other.