What is Boutique Advertising?
BackBeat Media is the birthplace of the philosophy behind boutique advertising and the boutique network, though we really hate to use the term "network" since it brings with it so many terrible connotations. With the rise of narrowcasting - the growing specialization of both cable television and the internet - advertising models that still cling to the notion of a whole population being reached via a few network channels are no longer valid. The traditional demographic models relied on by the marketing industry of the past have been replaced by a landscape of clans, tribes, and virtual neighborhoods. Of course, the question on everyone's mind is how do we traverse this labyrinth of online worlds to reach the right audience.
At BackBeat Media, we believe in doing the work for you up front. Rather than relying solely on inexact cookie technology for tracking habit patterns across an otherwise unspecified terrain, we believe in the cultivation and targeting of online communities. We see the web not as a vast sea of faceless buyers to be tracked, but as burgeoning communities with which the advertiser interacts. BackBeat Media's sites are selected with these specific communities in mind.
In this way, we target right up front for you. By planning with specific consumer technology groups, we are able to understand the cultures, identities, and interests of these communities and deliver them the products and services that they value in their lives. In turn, advertisers see the long term returns of targeting and branding to the correct audience.
An Industry Suffering from a Lack of Standards
Behavioral marketing as a strategy for targeting consumers has seen a bumpy rise and fall in popularity over the last few years. This is largely because we as an industry simply lack the standards and technology for tracking users across the web at this time. Even if we could agree on a single way to track behavior, the information would still be unreliable. Multiple locations (e.g. work, home, and cafes resulting in a single user appearing as many) as well as firewalls (resulting in many users appearing as a single aggregate user) confuse reporting wildly. In addition, many users regularly delete the cookies critical to tracking in this method. Consequently we at BackBeat Media have decided not to rely strictly on behavioral marketing until the technology is available to support a trustworthy practice. Anything short of this would be fooling our advertisers.
Cost per Click:
Cost per click and cost per acquisition campaigns continue to suffer from a lack of evaluative standards for tracking performance as well. Despite the inconsistencies in monitoring true clicks and the impossibility of publishers tracking true acquisitions, many believe that these campaigns are the most effective way to ensure reliability and the greatest return on their investment. Of course, the massive CPC campaigns made famous by Google are the best example of this strategy. Unfortunately, much of the value of advertising is neglected in this thinking. Based on this philosophy, many advertisers jump in and run a CPC campaign for one month only to jump back out when they do not see the results that an artificially inflated standard claimed they would. These advertisers often go site to site for a few months and then become altogether cynical about online advertising because they never saw the immediate click-to-sale results that the cost per click model claimed they would.
To put it frankly, this is simply flawed thinking. Advertising has never claimed that an ad would result in on-the-spot sales and the web is no different. Online advertising offers the potential for immediate sales. This is an excellent additional benefit of online advertising. However, the immediate gratification of the CPA model does not sum up online advertising. Keep in mind that not all sales from an ad are immediate. In fact, it is likely that few are immediate, especially when offering higher price tag items. A campaign will result in untraceable purchases months down the road. With this in mind, a short campaign often does not give the reader enough time to remember an advertiser, much less know and trust the company. Unless one is already an HP or Apple merely notifying the public of a recent offer, brand identity is critical when considering a campaign strategy. Actually, HP and Apple both know this and consider it heavily in their campaigns. Simply put, the shortsighted strategy of a cost per click model that does not account for branding leaves advertisers depending on questionable tracking standards and robs them of the long term visibility that was critical to the growth of the most successful corporations today.
Even on the Web, Branding Still Matters!
Let's also not forget that branding still matters. Something in between a habit and a myth has emerged in the world of online advertising where one only considers clicks and only clicks matter. This is a disservice to both the advertiser and the publisher. First, the publisher is not being paid for providing the service of branding that is key to any magazine or television ad. Second, the advertiser has ceased to take long term branding into account. Well it may come as a surprise to many, but the same branding that fueled the success of Coca Cola and Nike is at work on the web. Surveys across our group of sites show that advertisers who have been with our sites consistently for 2 years or more are known and trusted by our readership. Those who have not been do not share the same market perception. Consequently, it is very important for advertisers to ensure that their product or service is in front of the correct audience in a consistent manner over time. Otherwise much of the value of advertising is lost. Our boutique strategy is designed to facilitate this effectively and with ease.
The boutique model is a strategy that grew out of the realization that these current models for online advertising simply do not address the entire advertising picture and consequently do not completely take advantage of the interactive medium. Though we do in fact employ aspects of the models critiqued above, we have found contextual marketing within clearly developed and highly targeted communities to be the most reliable and effective strategy for realizing the full, short and long term potential of interactive advertising. We believe that the boutique model best ensures that the right products and services are in front of the right people.
We turn down money all the time. If we do not think that a site is a good match for an advertiser, we will not bother the advertiser or our readership with a bad fit. This is counter to the heart of the boutique philosophy, which frames the interactive landscape in terms of communities. We have even had sales people pitch campaigns lower than the proposed budget because we do not want an advertiser's click through rate to suffer from over-saturation. So don't be shocked if we confess that our sites may not be the best for a particular campaign. It has been known to happen. Our commitment is to the advertiser, the publisher, and the reader. Our plan is to make the campaign work for everyone involved.