Most digital-ad-spending forecasts for the rest of 2009 (and beyond) are predicting little-to-no growth this year. But that data may not tell the whole story: a recent survey of senior marketing execs — many with interactive advertising budgets that top $1 million annually — found that most expect to spend more on digital campaigns over the next six months.
Women’s sites, which have been attracting a growing share of advertising revenue in the downturn, are as well positioned as anyone to land some of that extra spending. Over the past six months, the volume of display ad views (an indication of how many campaigns were running in a specific vertical) on sites like Glam Media and iVillage outpaced views on sites in the health, automotive and travel categories, according to *comScore*. In April, for example, there were 4.7 billion display ad views on women’s sites — compared to roughly 2.2 billion views on automotive sites, and 1.2 billion on travel sites. Brands like P&G and Kraft are “investing big time” in women-centric advertising, according to Liz Phillips, senior partner and group media director at MEC Interaction.
That pattern — of women’s sites doing well in slow economic periods — has held true in previous downturns as well, as marketers try to focus on the primary purchase decision-makers in the household. The target is typically women aged 25-54, and most have kids, which makes them more valuable: eMarketer notes that digital moms are more likely to use their favorite sites for purchase information than search engines, magazines, and even TV. Meanwhile, a BlogHer study (pdf) found that single women sans kids are also using the web and social media to influence their own (and their peers’) purchasing decisions.
“They want to target women and moms without having to be locked into a parenting channel,” Phillips said. “So we’re seeing tremendous interest in sites that offer a mix of traditional elements like display and newsletters, with custom options like blogger outreach, video and psychographic targeting.”
As the exclusive sponsor of Momversation, the mommy-blogger series from digital-content studio DECA, Target has banner ads on the homepage, mid-rolls within the clip, and occasional in-video promotions. The retailer took a chance as Momversation’s launch sponsor for Q4, and the series has since grown to attract over a million monthly video views (including syndication). Target re-upped its sponsorship for a full year, “at a substantial multiple of what they signed on for at the launch,” according to Michael Wayne, DECA’s co-founder and CEO.
With Momversation, DECA created a one-stop video shop for advertisers trying to connect with multiple mommy-bloggers (and their followers). “You take the best bloggers and put them under one roof, and then an advertiser can reach the entire cross-section of their audience — different ethnicities, different geographic regions and different points-of-view — with one sponsorship,” Wayne said. Networks like BlogHer and Glam also aggregate mommy-bloggers, which is the kind of packaging that media buyers are looking for, according to Phillips: “We know moms are busy; they don’t always have time to cruise multiple sites, so getting our core message across on a single property — or even a single article or episode — is key.”
Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, turned to Real Girls Media to help launch its new GLK SUV. The campaign included a mix of display ads and sponsored content (blogger Amy Allen Clarke test-drove a GLK and documented her experiences — and readers were encouraged to share her posts with friends through giveaways and contests). Clarke’s six blog posts generated over 2,800 comments during the week that she test-drove the GLK.
Real Girls Media has developed similar campaigns for brands like Crystal Light, Sun Chips and Pam cooking spray. Rebecca Weeks Watson, Real Girls Media’s director of business development, said the buys are in the “hundreds of thousands” of dollars, and strategic investor Meredith (NYSE: MDP) helps sell ads across the Real Girls Media network (including flagship site DivineCaroline.com).
Setting up branded micro-sites for specific products has been popular in the past, but Phillips said advertisers struggle with this costly strategy because creating content isn’t their forte. Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Shine runs on a magazine-style editorial schedule for that reason, according to EIC Brandon Holley: “There are seasonal events — like ‘New Year, New You’ or the holiday gift guide, or for summer vacation — and we can sell content in those areas like a special section in a magazine. We can also create content on-the-fly.” Shine launched a dating guide, for example, two weeks leading up to the premiere of dating movie He’s Just Not That Into You; comedy duo Frangela weighed in on some best- and worst- date moments in a series of video clips that featured He’s Just Not That Into You ads and topics.