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!
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)
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.
- 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?
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.