Top 3 Ways to Maximize Your Crowdfunding Project’s Reach and Potential Through Online Advertising

5 July 2015 | 17 Comments

Recently a fellow creator, Brent Howland, reached out to me about the topic of online advertising. I wrote about the subject way back on Kickstarter Lesson #26, but that was a long time ago, and Brent brought an interesting perspective to the table: His full-time job is in online advertising at Google.

I asked Brent if he would be willing to share some of his expertise with other creators. He’s currently in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign for his game, Jailbreakers, but he agreed to take a “break” to write this post. Thanks Brent!

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Does online advertising work? The short answer is yes. But the longer more accurate answer would be “Yes, if you make it work.”

For reference, when I talk about online advertising I am talking strictly about online advertising banner ads (Display and Video) and Text ads. I am not referring to paid blog posts, paid video previews, or any other form of paid content.

The simple question really is, does serving an online banner ad to someone get them to click on that ad, go to your Kickstarter page, and pledge money? Sure, you can quickly combine a few images and text into a banner, slap it on a few popular sites, and call it a day. Or you can carefully craft an advertisement campaign accurately positioning your product to the right audience via the most efficient channels.

This is your opportunity to ensure your Kickstarter campaign is reaching it’s potential. How many times have project creators finished a campaign with regret? What if I did this, what if I did that, or even why did I do this?

Let’s focus on three main ways you can ensure you are doing everything possible utilizing online advertising for your campaign

Ensure your online ad is as best it can be: Think of your online ad as your one second elevator pitch. How can you utilize that one second a person is viewing your ad to get them be interested in what you have to offer. Users are spending less and less time online browsing websites meaning they are going to be spending even less time looking at your ad.

You must do everything in your power to have the best chance at engaging them.

  • Create a quality ad that’s enticing while still accurately displaying your product. Try to show off your product and what makes it worthy enough to buy. Make sure that your ad is easily distinguishable while still standing out on a site.
  • Try and utilize ads beyond the standard IAB sizes (728×90, 300×250, 160×600) This can be full page ads, video ads, or mobile interstitials (Full page mobile takeovers) these could help your product stand out and avoid banner blindness.
  • Ensure your ads landing pages go directly to your Kickstarter page. Don’t send users to your game’s website, Facebook page, Twitter etc. Any additional clicks that would require your user to get to your Kickstarter page could deter them, you want pledges not Facebook likes!
  • Make an engaging ad with a call to action. Call to actions can help increase performance by telling the users exactly what they need to do. Below is an example of two ads that I ran, the one on top without a call to action performed significantly worse compared to one on bottom (0.20% clickthrough rate vs 0.40% with the call to action ad)

Jailbreakers_300x250

Jailbreakers_300x250_v2

Ensure you find the right place to advertise: Now that you’ve ensured you have a great ad, where should you place it? There are several options and not all options are going to work for the same campaign creators. Nobody has unlimited budget when it comes to advertising, so you need to make sure that you are investing in the right sites in order to hit the right audience

Once you have your budget in mind, do your research on each of the publisher sites to ensure you are making the most out of your money.

    • Work with sites that want to work with you. Ask them questions about their traffic and types of users that go there. Ask them the types ads they’ve run that have been successful and not successful.
    • Ask where the site is planning to run your campaign. Are they going to run it on the homepage or on some other page on their site?. Usually you will be paying by CPM (Thousand Impressions/Ad Views) so make sure that whatever price you are paying is fair and is giving you a good return on investment (Yes you will have to do math!)
    • Check to make sure the ads will run during the hours of the day when people are most likely to convert. There is a high possibility that between the hours of 2AM – 6AM people aren’t going to be spending money. Check to make sure the publishers are serving your ads evenly throughout the day and not just blasting the impressions in the first hours of the day.
    • Check with the site to see what frequency cap they plan to implement.  (Frequency capping: The amount of times an ad is shown to the same user in a given period) There is definitely a difference between showing an ad to the same user 3-5 times a day versus 10 times a day. This is an easy way to ensure you are hitting as much unique users as possible.

Three recommendations on where board game creators should try and advertise:

    • BoardGameGeek.com: This site not only offers quality highly relevant inventory but they have a great staff which offer tons of help and insight for your advertising campaign
    • Facebook.com: I have great success personally with Facebook. I have been utilizing the same video for my ad that is on my Kickstarter page (no extra development work needed). I have received a $1.20 Cost Per Result which means for every $1.20 I spend I have a user who has most likely already seen my video (Engaged) looking at my Kickstarter.
    • Reddit.com: The subreddit /r/boardgames is a great place to advertise. They are very active and you will get a lot of quality views of your ad here. This is a good supplement if you are unable to get users talking about your game.

Ensure you optimize and reiterate: Once your ad campaign is running, it is important that you continue to monitor it. If your ads are not performing, change them. Are the sites are not getting enough impressions then find sites that will.

    • Be proactive and ask for reports from the sites you are serving on and check the performance of your ads. If your ads are not performing well (Low Click-through Rate) then create new ones. A good site owner would be willing to swap out your old ads for the new ones.
    • Continue to look for sites that could potentially be good places to serve your ads. There could be a site you missed during your initial research that could potentially be a great place for you to acquire potential backers. Popular website not going to make a post about your Kickstarter then ask them for online advertising opportunities, find a way to get in front of their users.

Below is a graph of my current Kickstarter campaign for Jailbreakers: Plan Your Escape. This is the simple strategy I am implementing.

Jailbreakers_Ad_Strategy

    • New Ads Launch: This is the halfway point of the campaign where I will implement completely new ads since by this time I would have been serving the same ads for 15 days (Banners start to get stale after a week) This is important because you could be showing new imagery from your campaign that didn’t before entice previous users. For my campaign I am going to add the new character drawings that the artist recently created.
    • Last 48 Hours Launch: Two days before your campaign is about to end is a good time to change your ads once more. This time by adding text that says “This is the last 48 hours to back this campaign.” It will create a sense of urgency which will attract more backers.
      • TIP: Send the ads to the sites a couple a days before this launch to ensure there is enough time for them to set up these ads for you.

Like I mentioned, at the beginning of this post: Online advertising works but you have to make it work. Think about your ad campaign from the minds of potential backers. What type of ad would you engage with? What draws you to a Kickstarter campaign?

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Thanks for taking the time share these insights, Brent, especially while Jailbreakers is live on Kickstarter! If any readers have questions for Brent, feel free to post them in the comments.

17 Comments on “Top 3 Ways to Maximize Your Crowdfunding Project’s Reach and Potential Through Online Advertising

    1. I had the same issue when I was reading this wonderful post earlier until it hit me – “Alex, you were reading on a browser with AdBlockPlus enabled.” Perhaps others are in the same scenario.

      That leads to an interesting topic I’d love to see more about – It’s pretty hard to ignore the power of ad blocking software nowadays. For instance, I created and uploaded some sample advertisements to my site and the software managed to identify and block them immediately. I didn’t even think software could possibly detect them.

      Hopefully ad blocking software never becomes self-aware because I think we’d all be in trouble.

  1. Thanks to Jamey and Stonemaier Games for letting me do this guest post. I am honored to be apart of such an influential blog.

    I am happy to answer any questions that people may have!

  2. Good tips! I would also add:

    Don’t try to “sell” the game via the banner ad! At BGG, I receive a lot of ads that cycle through a ton of animated frames, because the advertiser wants to cram as much content into the ad as possible. The banner only needs to get the person to click! From there, your Kickstarter project does the heavy lifting of selling the product to the user.

    So, just show off the eye candy that’s going to get someone to click. One frame will do; you don’t need any animation that takes 15 seconds to display fully (by that point, the person has browsed away anyways). Maybe you have awesome bits or a great theme. Maybe you’re a reputable publisher with other great games under your belt and your company logo is going to get people to click. From there, people can check out your Kickstarter project, which has to close the deal.

    1. Hi Chad,

      Excellent point! Since my company is new I avoid putting my logo on my ads to ensure the users don’t get confused. If the game attracts them to my Kickstarter campaign they can read about my company there if they want.

      BTW it’s great to see you here! Chad is the man! Super helpful and knowledgeable and has been instrumental in the success of my Kickstarter campaign!

  3. BoardGameGeek costs $500 to run an ad. It costs $1500 to run a giveaway. I sincerely doubt a new publisher gets their money back from running an ad on BGG. Name recognition marketing potential just isn’t enough when dollars are at stake at such a crucial point in a company’s existence. Just imagine how many backers BGG needs to get to a campaign for an investment like that to make sense. Is this sage advice for Stonemaier Games in particular? Yeah, that’s a no brainer. But for an unknown? That is a tough sell for me.

    1. An average $500 campaign on BGG sends 1,700 visitors to a Kickstarter project, even if it’s from a newcomer to the publishing world. From there, it’s all about whether or not those visitors see value, quality, and trustworthiness. It’s not unreasonable to get your money back and then some on that number of visitors, but you’re correct in that it’s not a sure thing, as not every project is equipped to convert traffic at the necessary rate.

      This is why I generally recommend newcomers to Kickstarting to wait and see if their project is converting on traffic before starting an ad campaign. If a campaign is going poorly, the ads likely aren’t going to help. If the campaign is clicking along well, ads will likely provide good additional support for the Kickstarter.

      1. Hi Daniel,

        Honestly I was surprised too! I started an ad campaign on BGG on Day 1 of the Kickstarter campaign (Before Jailbreakers: Plan Your Escape was even listed on BGG) and have seen tons of success. In the first couple of days I received two $100 pledges (for the custom prisoner drawing) plus a bunch of other pledges. BGG is my #3 referrer right now, obviously there a good portion of that coming from the Kickstarter round-up post and overall listing too.

        What Chris mentioned was right, you can’t expect every campaign to do well if users who land on the Kickstarter page simply don’t decide to pledge. But you can find lots of success if your content is engaging enough.

        For the record, when I talked about the different types of click-through rates for my ads in the article, those numbers were not from BGG. I am actually seeing better performance on BGG than anywhere else. (Click-through wise and pledges) This is a huge thanks to Chad’s optimization and overall quality of BGG inventory.

        Those 1,700 avg users Chad mentions are quality users who have a strong chance of converting!

      2. That is a really helpful idea, Chad. I haven’t focused on ads because I really can’t afford an ad buy at the start. But it could be a great boost towards the end, if the kickstarter is doing well – and the beginning (broke) creator can have a bit more security in committing that cash if they’ve already had some success with their campaign.

    2. Daniel: I honestly think that $500 (or more) spent on a BGG ad can reap returns for any publisher, old or new. Look at the link at the very top of the post about Viticulture. That was my first project, so it’s not about a repeat creator garnering more support. No one had heard of Stonemaier Games or Viticulture at that point.

      As Chad says, the ad doesn’t sell the game–the campaign does. But an effective ad can get people to click through. As Brent noted, the people who click on the ad are targeted, quality potential backers who have a strong chance at converting if you present them with a strong campaign. Do you have hard data to indicate otherwise?

    1. Hi Sheldon,

      There are twos reason I chose to launch new ads after 15 days.

      The first reason is that my ads are still seeing relatively good performance still and haven’t become ‘stale’ But yes typically you see a drop in click-through rates after 7-10 days.

      The second reason is I am still waiting for new assets from my artist and didn’t get a chance to switch out the ads yet.

      My overall point is that if you are running a campaign for 30 days you should at least do one ad switch if you want the best possible performance, obviously there are things that will prevent that.

      I am sure there are sites out there that will help with A/B testing but for this instance I am running the test myself through AdWords.

      1. Just to add more to this, Brent’s campaign is also a fairly low saturation campaign. The higher you go over than the minimum buy, you should either:

        1) Change out your ads more often.
        2) Start with more banners to give more variety amongst your impressions. In our case, the system will also automatically start delivering the better performers more often as well, which increases CTR.

        So, while 15 days may work for one project, other projects may need it more often.

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