Online banner ads prove a cost-effective way to sell new subscriptions

Erik Gensler, Capacity Interactive blog, 8/29/12

As any arts marketer knows, traditionally subscriptions are sold using direct mail. But what about applying the principals of direct mail to [online] banner advertising? With our clients at New York City Center, we wanted to test if we could be successful using 100% digital targeting to acquire new subscribers. The answer appears to be yes. After a season of using retargeting technology to sell single tickets [to City Center's Encores! concert series], we had a pixel pool of Encores! single ticket buyers [a database of buyers' computer IP addresses]. Given they'd purchased Encores! single tickets, these buyers were the best target for subscriptions. We served banner ads to these users, plus any users who'd visited the Encores! subscription pages [they were tagged with a tracking pixel when they visited City Center's website]. Plus we served ads to the social connections of the Encores! STBs, because we know theater fans usually have friends who are also theater fans. No other efforts were made except one email. We kept it in a vacuum to test if digital ad media alone could move new subscriptions. The results? We sold subscriptions to more than 230 new households during the campaign period. We saw an ROI of 846% based on the combined media cost of these two efforts. If direct mail was included, it may have eroded this ROI since it is so expensive to execute. City Center was certainly brave to test this and it paid off. Hopefully this can serve as a useful case study to other organizations.


RELATED: Austin Auclair at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington D.C. commented on this blog post: "We've also seen great success with a subscriptions retargeting campaign that uses our single ticket pools once those shows have come and gone. The conversion costs have been incredibly low and we've gotten a fantastic return. With this campaign we definitely saw firsthand the power of A/B testing. Our initial banner ads were performing terribly and we had the kneejerk reaction that this subscription retargeting idea wasn't going to work. But after loading a new set of creative, the clicks and conversions took off. So be sure to try different stuff!"


Marketers capitalize on rising popularity & artsy cachet of new app

Mark Walsh, Online Media Daily, 8/29/12

The appetite for apps focused on new ways to share, augment or combine photos and video seems almost endless. Among the latest to draw a rapidly growing following is Cinemagram, whose iPhone app has attracted more than 2 million users since launching six months ago. Users create Cinemagrams by taking a short video, selecting a still image from the clip, and then defining a specific area of the image to animate. The content is saved as a GIF file that can be shared like a photo, but appears to be animated when viewed in the app or online. Cinemagram also offers Instagram-like vintage filters, sharing on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, a search function, a "popular" page and other features. The hybrid photo-video format essentially simplifies the process of creating "cinemagraphs" -- photos in which a minor animated movement happens over and over -- that emerged from the New York fashion photography world. Cinemagram now aims to be the platform for all activity around these creations it calls cines (pronounced "cinnies.") Already, marketers are looking to capitalize on the rising popularity and artsy cachet of Cinemagram as they have with other visually oriented apps, like Instagram, SocialCam and Pinterest. Last week, the company launched a "Remix" feature in beta that allows users to access video clips that they can edit to create their cines. The initial group of brands supplying the clips includes Sony Pictures, [and the music acts] Linkin Park, Neon Trees and Pink. "Companies want more exposure for their video content. For example, an upcoming movie release, official music video launch, live concerts, sports, etc. We view cines as tweets for videos and therefore, potentially a unique opportunity for Cinemagram to achieve their goals," stated a Cinemagram blog post about the brand-focused remixes.


Popular social network Reddit introduces a fundraising platform

Joann Pan,, 8/30/12

The amazing altruism of Redditors is clear through the laundry list of good deeds that have stemmed from the network. "The Front Page of the Internet" is a town hall of sorts, where concerned citizens can discuss problems, rally support and provide solutions. Recognizing the platform's power, payment startups Dwolla and Stripe have teamed up to help amplify moments of good on the Internet. The tech duo launched Reddit Donate this week, after working on it as a "side passion project." Reddit Donate is a free fundraising platform created to promote social good. The system guarantees more safety and lower costs in regards to online donations. Similarly with most Internet payment systems, getting money from point A to point B costs a fee. With Reddit Donate, donations under $10 will be free and go straight to the cause. Donations more than $10 will cost 25 cents per transaction to complete. "We took a good honest look at what we could actually do to as a solution to help some of these subreddits to funnel some of their good will and energy," Dwolla's Director of Communications Jordan Lampe [said]. Reddit is very much like a switchboard connecting members and directing charitable action. Instead of using third-party fundraising platform, moderators of subreddits can offer users a safe, direct channel to donate money. Users will know exactly where their money is going. All subreddit moderators and non-profits are analyzed and approved by the system. This lessens the probability of fraud or money going to false causes, Lampe says. Moderators, after being approved, will receive a manual code from Reddit Donate to embed into a sub-channel. "Subreddits can take that entrepreneurial approach ... and not have to worry about whether they're leading their community into bad donations," Lampe says. By safeguarding donors against possible scams, Dwolla and Stripe's development teams hope to instill confidence in Reddit's do-gooders.

"Every dollar does count, but when you start thinking about what we can do with those dollars, pennies aren't just fractions of a dollar anymore. They are multipliers of change," Lampe says.


Want to coordinate volunteers efficiently? There's a website and app for that.

Kate Freeman,, 8/29/12

Mom Karen Bantuveris was trying to balance her job, PTA meetings and Girl Scouts, but the communication between volunteers was cluttered. "I saw many people drop out of volunteering, not because they didn't want to help, but because the communication process was too frustrating," she [says]. Bantuveris created VolunteerSpot, a site offering free tools to anyone organizing a volunteer project. There's no software to install, or approvals to wait for. Organizers can reach out to their community or groups and ask for volunteers. Willing volunteers can immediately sign up. And now, with the release of their free iPad app, Clipboard by VolunteerSpot [iTunes link], busy volunteers can organize events on-the-go with this virtual sign-up sheet. The site has 1.7 million "mostly active, influential moms." Organizers can put out a call for volunteers in one of three ways: by pasting a link to your page in a mass email; by entering email addresses in the site's planning wizard; or by putting a "sign up" button on their website. The site makes your job easier by directing everyone who's interested in helping your cause to one website, where the details of who is doing what are neatly laid out. Volunteers can select their own assignments, which entire groups working on the project can view, keeping everyone organized and informed. And forget phone trees. VolunteerSpot sends automated messages to your volunteers prior to their commitments. The basic services -- including unlimited online sign up sheets and calendars, the planning wizard, automated email reminders, smartphone sign up and electronic calendar sync for volunteers and the ability to export activity data, plus more -- are free. Premium service offers volunteer hours tracking, assistant organizers and extra reporting, which is often desired by people planning large events like festivals and races. 

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