Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Contextual Ads Hit The Airwaves.

Google pay-per-click Adwords, which places links next to related search results, have a great track record (heck, CCC has a client whose entire internet business is built on them). Well, it seems radio has taken notice and is not content to let the Internet have all the fun. Broadcast giant ClearChannel has begun to offer “in-context” advertising on its stations, placing radio spots against news, songs, or other ads that might spur interest in a product. GEICO tested the service by running :15 second spots for vehicle insurance directly after radio ads for other vehicles, hoping that listeners who perk up at a promo for new cars might then be more attuned to an ad for car insurance. Wal-Mart tried it, too. The retailer marketed its exclusive sales for AC/DC’s Black Ice album by running ads immediately after an AC/DC song was played on a selection of 106 stations in 91 markets. If no AC/DC song was currently on the station’s playlist, the 30-second spot appeared after a song by a similar artist.

Sounds pretty good. In fact, Wal-Mart moved 784,000 copies of the album during its first week in stores: the second-largest debut week for a new album to date in 2009, according to Billboard magazine. But before we all jump on the contextual bandwagon, consider this: what does that do to spot inventories? If CCC wants to advertise a restaurant client, do we have to wait for a food-related song? Just how often does Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” play these days? Or worse, what about related content that’s negative? Do we run only after a news report about food? What if it’s a salmonella scare? Ad relevance tied to content is good … but not at the expense of appropriate frequency to build awareness ... or at the risk of linking your product with content that seems appropriate on a scheduling spreadsheet. Still, as Wal-Mart and GEICO proved, there's a place for this new direction, it's just not for everybody.

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