Stop Buying Online Ads Direct Right Now

This post originally appeared on Head over there for lots of great information for arts administrators.

So, when you want to run some online display ads, are you placing them through your local newspaper, TV news station, or magazine?


Placing ads direct on sites like these is the equivalent of ye olde “spray and pray” approach which is rarely successful with limited arts organization budgets.  You end up spending a lot of money for little to no results.

Success in online display advertising is all about targeting. You want to serve ad content to people who have a good chance of purchasing tickets.  These are people who may already like the opera/ballet/symphony/museum, or who like similar cultural events. These are also people who you feel are good prospects for whatever event you are promoting even if they don’t directly like your particular art form.

You can do this by placing ads through the Google Display Network (GDN).  GDN uses the power of behavior and interest targeting to show your ads to people not just on websites you think they might visit, but on the actual websites they go to no matter where they are on the internet.

Let’s take a look at a little case study from Palm Beach Opera.*

Like most of you, we placed our online ads direct each year with our local newspaper and TV new stations.  The number of impressions and clicks for each show was lackluster at best every single time.  Here is a screenshot of some of that data:


For this particular opera campaign, we got a total of just 77,724 impressions and 102 clicks.  We were spending $2,500 – $3,000 PER OPERA, PER WEBSITE for this kind of result.

I knew there had to be a better way.

We switched everything over to the Google Display Network (with the help of the fine folks over at Capacity Interactive) and stopped placing direct on local websites.  In our very first outing (for the opera Macbeth), we dramatically increased our impressions and clicks.


WHAAAAAAAAAAA!? We ended up with just under 900,000 (yes, that is the right amount of zeros) and 1,800 clicks. All for under $3,000, saving us thousands of dollars. Not to mention the fact that we installed Google’s tracking pixel on our website so that we could track conversions…

One of the biggest concerns we had was that our ads weren’t going to show up on any local websites.  That turned out not to be the case.  Here is a sample of where our ads were shown:


You can clearly see the national sites there but our local sites (WPTV, CBS12, WPBF, Gossip Extra) are still included.

You may be looking at this and thinking that this is all well and good, but your organization doesn’t have $3,000 per show to put towards advertising like this.

Let’s look at another, smaller organization that was working with a much smaller budget.

Earlier this year, I worked with the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival to promote their summer season.  We had a small budget of just $800 for online advertising.  Their result with that budget was this:


They ended up with just under 1.5 MILLION impressions and over 9,000 clicks which is incredibly significant for an organization of their size (or any size, really).

So, now that I’ve got you totally convinced to switch over your online advertising to GDN, here are some tips:

  • If you or a member of your team would like to try out running these ads in-house, Google offers some great tutorials on how to get things set up.   If you are not sure you want to attempt this on your own, reach out to a professional like Capacity Interactive or similar.
  • Always be sure to run multiple ad sizes and not just the standard 300 x 250 and 728 x 90.  Google gives some good guidance on which sizes tend to work the best.
  • Utilize remarketing campaigns in conjunction to your new acquisition campaigns.  This will show your ads again to people who clicked through on a previous ad.  If you are tracking conversions, this is most likely where you’ll see the highest ROI. (Google also has some instructions on how to set that up.)
  • Make sure that the landing page you are directing people to upon click through is optimized so that they can find out more about the event and then purchase a ticket quickly and easily. My colleague Marc van Bree wrote a great post on how to do this here on Arts Hacker.

One more piece of advice. If you have been placing online ads with your local newspaper ad rep, they may not react favorably when you tell them that you are not going to be doing that anymore.  They will most likely try to get you to place in their “ad network” or even on the Google Display Network through them. I can’t tell you what decision to make but, keep in mind that it is their job to sell you things and bring in revenue for the paper and not to help you create campaigns that bring in revenue for your organization.

NOTE: Google will not let you run your Google Grants and paid GDN campaigns from the same account.  If you are using Google Grants (which you absolutely should be), you will need to make a separate account to run your display advertising.

*Full disclosure mode: I was the Director of Communications at Palm Beach Opera until December 2015.

3 Things All Your Facebook Posts Should Have

This post originally appeared on Head over there for lots of great information for arts administrators.

We all do Facebook, right? Whether you do organic posts, paid posts, or a combination of the two, there are three things that your posts should have to make them more effective.

The goal with Facebook (or any social media, really) is engagement.  “Reach” doesn’t really matter if no one is engaging with your content.

It goes without saying that your post copy should be engaging and relevant.  I usually recommend no more than 3-4 lines of text in a post. You want it to be just enough to get people interested but not too much where they won’t read it and scroll right on by.

Going beyond the text, there are three more tactical items that your posts should have. Do your Facebook posts have these three key elements?

1. A photo or video

Every single one of your posts should include a natively uploaded photo or video.  Facebook likes content like this and will rank it higher. It also is much more engaging for the viewer. What do I mean by “natively uploaded,” you ask?  Don’t use the preview image that appears when you put in a link.  Actually upload the photo or video directly to Facebook using the little camera icon at the bottom of your post like this:


(Also, be sure that your image is the correct size.  I recommend two free tools for quickly and easily sizing images for social media: Canva and Landscape.)

2. Tags (when possible)

When you are writing a post, always be sure to tag people, organizations, and businesses when possible.  When you add a tag to your post, people who also follow that person/thing might see your post as well, upping your reach. Tagging is super simple to do so make sure you remember to do it whenever you can.


3. A link

What do you want people to do after seeing your post? Think about your messaging for a moment. Are you talking about an upcoming performance? An education program for children? A current fundraising campaign? Make sure you add a URL at the end of your post that links directly to additional pertinent information. A URL click is a great type of engagement on a post because you are getting people from Facebook over to your website.


Tip: If the URL of your landing page is rather long, shorten it by using a free service like Bitly.

3 Things All Your Facebook Posts Should Have