For the last three years I've been on a mission to bury the microsite. The whole idea of building these little Potemkin marketing villages, bolting them onto our domains and then coaxing and cajoling consumers to visit them would be quaint if it weren't so destructive. For more than a decade I've watched as publishers have spent big money building custom microsites and then driven themselves to distraction supporting them with traffic. All this hand waving usually results in a one-time deal that frustrates everyone, burns through precious resources and leaves no footprints in the sands of brand building. Enough!
In just about every workshop I conduct I urge -- plead with! -- sellers to end the madness. "There's no reason to do these anymore," says I. "Take the visual assets of your media brand, fold in some creative and product messaging from the sponsor, dump it all into a Flash ad unit and distribute it!" The rollover ad unit can give the willing consumer virtually all the functionality that she'd find in a microsite. And then you can bring the ads to the people instead of bringing the people to the ads.
I know: We'll call it "Microsite in a Box!" Or....
PointRoll just announced the release of The Dig@torial which "...allow(s) advertising content to live inside a banner directly adjacent to editorial content pulled from the publisher's site. The effect is to bring the idea of a branded microsite directly to a publisher's homepage."
Uh, yeah. What that guy said.
I'm not saying that the packaging and release of this or any single ad unit is a tipping point (25 cents to Malcolm Gladwell), but it's darn helpful to see this idea popping up elsewhere. What will really make a difference is what publishers and agencies do (and don't do) now.
- Just say no to Microsites. Stop asking, stop offering. There's no right way to do the wrong thing.
- Start looking at the banner box as a co-distribution platform. "Let's put a little bit of our environment alongside your brand message and take it for a spin." And let's not stop at our site's borders, but rather...
- Let's start using lookalikes and audience re-targeting (bad word; need a new one) to extend our creative ideas onto the greater web.
- Sellers: Be the broker. What if that creative idea you generate can sustain a number of different sponsors? If you haven't got a good working relationship with PointRoll, Eyewonder and other rich media providers, you need one. And while you're at it, get to know some smart creative people as well. You'll find yourself at the center of a network like this sooner than you know.