Monday, December 10, 2007

AdReady, Another Low-Cost Display Ad Shop Opens

by Gavin O'Malley

CHAMPIONING THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF DISPLAY advertising, a startup named AdReady has launched a service for small- and really small-sized marketers to get in on the act.

Rather than hiring an ad agency, which typically costs thousands of dollars upfront for creative design, AdReady allows advertisers to pick and customize remarkably professional-looking ads for free.

The AdReady application, which has been in beta since January, then allows marketers to manage and track the progress of their ads across Google's AdSense ad network, Yahoo's RightMedia exchange, and AOL's Advertising.com network.

"This puts pressure on agencies who are focused on ad execution," said Arthur Anderson, a principal at Morgan Anderson Consulting. "And it places more of a premium on the big idea and strategy."

Industrywide, Google's purchase of DoubleClick and Yahoo's SmartAds initiative both signal the broad commoditization of display advertising. Meanwhile, a number of services have emerged to help the little guys look their best online.

In January, Yahoo's Flickr photo-sharing site launched an Ad Generator service for the cheap creation of ads. Also, the customizable "ready-to-air" online video space is filling up fast with companies like SpotRunner, Spotzer, Pick-N-Click Ads, and CheapTV Spots.

AdReady, however, is aiming to open the world of online branded ads to an even larger segment of marketers. With its new application, advertisers that previously limited their ad spend to search marketing can now plan and execute a display ad campaign for as little as $100, according to Rob Ransom, vice president of marketing and products at AdReady.

"A lot of marketers have felt that display was just not an option for them," said Ransom. "They're spending on search, but are tapped on volume for relevant keywords. We're showing them there's a lot more inventory in display."

Unless a marketer chooses to experiment manually, the AdReady application will automatically split an allotted budget between the big three ad networks, based on an ad's category and geography. Marketers can then track an ad's progress and performance using a standard dashboard.

In addition, AdReady shares best practices for ad design and execution with marketers, many of whom have no prior experience in the field.

"We know from tests that ads using the word 'I' perform 10% to 12% better than ads using the word 'you'," Ransom explained. "An ad for one dating site increased its click-through rate by 100% just by changing its background color from blue to black ... This is the type of information we share with marketers."

Advertisers that want AdReady to handle the planning and execution are charged an account management fee of about 20% of their ad budget.

Rather than a cold shoulder, Ransom says ad agencies are actually expressing interest in using AdReady's tool for some of their clients. The company is also considering co-branded applications for Web publishers that could then offer self-serve display advertising to small marketers.

AdReady, added Ransom, is presently working on new ad models, and already offers several interactive formats.

Gavin O'Malley can be reached at gavin@mediapost.com