That Online Ad Bubble Is Back

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bubbleboy.jpgADOTAS EXLUSIVE — Over the last 18 months, there has been a lot of talk about a bubble in online advertising. Fueled by (what was then) Google’s unstoppable growth in stock price, followed by the high valuations of social networking Web sites.

Now it’s official. There is a bubble in online advertising. But not in valuations or IPOs (what IPOs?). In the ability for news worthy press announcements to actual get news coverage.

In the last week, two press releases caught my attention. One announcing the new partnership between a website syndication solution and a major technology website which failed to secure more than a blurb hit, and another deal worth more than $100 million was only mentioned in blogs where the company pushed the announcement (linked to the wire service distribution of the press release).

Announcements that 18 months ago I would sent out to my entire A-list, I might give as an exclusive to one source, and that might not be enough. And I’m not talking about ‘There’s a new VP Finance’ press releases, which I never sent to reporters.

I have looked at the press coverage page of other players in online advertising, particularly ones where I know the monthly retainer is in the five figures, and believe me, the results aren’t better.

So what can be done to get around press release inflation? Here are a few ideas:

Work with publications on targeted pitches – Truth be told, I have always hated the product launch press release. I see its purpose, but then there is the pressure to secure X hits or else. And too often, the product isn’t mature enough yet, but sales want you to get the press release out the door anyhow to drum up leads for the pipeline.

One tactic that I am starting to employ is the use of targeted pitches to specific journalists at certain publications. Usually these are case study-like stories, which are far more effective than product announcement stories, anyhow.

Bylined articles – If there is something that I’m a huge believer in, it’s bylined articles. Though they do not have the lead generation ability of case studies, they are effective in branding the company and the person. They are also a great source of news between press releases.

Videos, videos, videos – In 2002, while working on the client side, a very smart PR agency (Boston-based Greenough Communications – might as well give them credit for it!) recommended that we record a video from our CEO. At the time, it seemed like ‘nice to have’ as opposed to ‘must have’. But today, video is cheaper and easier to produce in-house, and is definitely a ‘must have’.

But videos shouldn’t just be of your CEO giving the corporate pitch (though that’s OK, too, particularly if it’s TechCrunch we’re talking about). Create videos that tell compelling, interesting and funny stories that help get your message out. Even let prospects and the industry see your lighter side.

With the PR bubble we’re experiencing in the online advertising sector, it’s time for us to get creative. But isn’t that the reason we wanted to work in PR in the first place?

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