Selasa, 21 Juli 2009

Disposable Advertising, or Don't Kill the Microsite

The Subservient Chicken site attracts 10-20K unique visits each month.

The debate about their increasing irrelevance aside, if we are going through all that trouble to build campaign microsites, why are we always in such a rush to pull the plug on them when the campaign is over?

I've heard two kinds of arguments: (ir)relevance and cost. I can rarely agree with either.

Unless the information on a microsite is so super time-sensitive that it becomes misleading as soon as the clock strikes twelve, I don't see how an old microsite -- retired and cut off from ad budgets, perhaps, but still breathing -- can hurt anyone. Coke's brand equity hardly suffers when I buy a poster on eBay that sports "A Pause That Refreshes" tagline instead of the current "Coke Side of Life". Have Burger King's Whopperetes become so off-brand that the microsite, launched for the 2006 Superbowl, is no longer live?

And I'm not picking on Burger King; the company is better than many others in preserving its own digital ad history. Many of BK's campaign sites are no longer around -- Whopperettes, Power Sitting (blog post) that made fun of Atkins in 2005, the fictional rock band CoqRoq (blogpost, also 2005) -- but the ones still alive show that they can pull in traffic long after their best-by date. Subservient Chicken, launched in 2004, still gets a healthy 10-20K monthly uniques (the graph above) who can't be all advertising types. SimpsonizeMe, developed two years ago, attracted 30K visits last month.

Which brings us to the argument about cost. For the sites that don't need daily babysitting and are not based on a third-party technology that requires ongoing license fees, the recurring costs are domain registration, hosting and bandwidth. Here, the reasoning should be fairly straightforward: does the site generate enough traffic at a certain benchmark CPM to pay for itself in impressions? In other words, if your benchmark is $10CPM and your hosting/traffic tier costs $100 a month, the site needs 10,000 pageviews to break even. (The actual formula I use also includes time spent on site). This kind of planning for the microsite's afterlife could be done before the project even launches; it can then guide designers to include features intented specifically to generate postmortem impressions.

For decades, we've been working with media that because of their nature made advertising transient and, like paper plates, sometimes useful but ultimately disposable. With the web, we can create ads that accumulate viewership over time in a way that pre-YouTube TV spots never could, and yet we are squandering the opportunity. Thinking of microsites as an investment that pays off over time instead of an expense line in a three-months campaign budget could be the first step.

- GSI is the hosting service for Subservient Chicken and Simpsonize Me.
- When visiting, enter "Crispin"