Ads with prancing cowboys may annoy, but they sure do work

Not all online marketers can make this claim, but if you peered into my soul (or some would say analyze my circuitry), you’d see a direct marketer. I’m proud of it. And I feel vindicated when I read articles like today’s in the Advertising section of the NY Times. It’s about and how they’ve annoyed millions with their silly online ads. And made a fortune. Here’s an excerpt:

The company, one of the Internet’s biggest advertisers, routinely festoons Web sites large and small with its ads, spending $74.6 million on them in the first 11 months of 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence. The surprising success of the ads led LowerMyBills to a significant payday: the credit agency Experian bought the eight-year-old company for $400 million in 2005.

Example from the NT Times  article of a LowerMyBills adBut on the path to prosperity, LowerMyBills has run into a lot of people who say the undulating characters in the ads are highly distracting and have so little to do with low-interest loans that they border on the surreal.

The most memorable LowerMyBills banners feature silhouetted dancers like the prancing cowboys, or the couple doing a jig on their roof under a full moon.

As a direct marketer, I know that the only way you can tell if an ad is working is by testing. And there is little logic to what works and what doesn’t.

My background as a direct marketer makes me passionate about the opportunity that the web provides to test many creative concepts and refocus spending on the best of those, in a matter of hours instead of weeks (as is the case with direct mail). This same background makes me quite boring. When I client says, “Should we do it?” — whatever it is — nine times out of ten I have to tell them, “Let’s test!”

Congratulations, by the way, to James Gardner, whose online “hobby,”, got him some ink in the article. He’s a great guy and deserves all of the attention this article is sending his way.


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