We did a first-ever public demo of the Canned Banners API at SF New Tech last week. This particular SF New Tech event was centered around e-commerce, and it was a pleasure sharing the stage with e-commerce innovators like Shopify (with whom we partner), Lexity (with whom we hope to partner), and Stripe (which we use to process credit card payments).
Turning XML lead into display ad gold
Watch the demo and see how we grab raw product XML (product names, images, prices, etc) using Best Buy’s BBYOpen API, and then use the Canned Banners API to turn that XML into display ads.
I don’t have an online store. Can I still use the Canned Banners API?
You bet! The Canned Banners API can work with virtually any data or content source within any industry. The demo video above just happens to focus on e-commerce using the BBYOpen API as a sample data source. Other data sources could include:
Real estate data (ex: property listing data)
Travel data (ex: real-time ticket prices & availability)
Here are two of the ads they made (the 728×90 has been scaled down to fit our blog…sorry if the images appear a little distorted):
We were curious as to exactly what “element-level display advertising” meant, and Simpli.fi was kind enough to give us a quick run-down. We thought the concept was worth sharing.
In case you’ve forgotten why targeting is important…
Canned Banners handles display ad creative, but targeting is extremely important as well. Even with the best ads ever made, a poorly-targeted campaign will fall flat, and good targeting can help inform the creative process so that successive iterations of display ads do a better and better job of connecting with prospects.
Consider a few basic questions and how the answers might affect the design of your ads: is a given viewer young or old? Rich or poor? Male or female? Between those 6 ultra-basic attributes, there are already 8 separate “archetypes” you need to think about when creating and testing ads. Now imagine that you’re a company like Procter & Gamble, with thousands of products and tens (hundreds?) of millions of customers. How do you stay on top of the targeting challenge?
Simpli.fi specializes in “element-level” targeting, which basically treats every member of your audience as a unique prospect with unique attributes. This might seem like an obvious approach, but it’s not the way most ad campaigns are run.
Consider a hypothetical search retargeting campaign for a major retailer. The retailer might easily target 100,000+ keywords across various product categories and brands. To manage this much data, advertisers often create audience segments like this one for Prada handbags:
Obviously this approach has value. The campaign manager will have insight into the behavior of Prada handbag buyers as a group, as well as the ability to fine-tune the performance of the Prada handbag segment against other segments such as “prada shoes,” or “skinny jeans.”
Simpli.fi, however, takes this a step further with element-level targeting. In this case, an “element” would be a keyword. And when you gain insight into specific keyword performance, you get a clearer picture of what’s really going on in the audience segment:
In this case, you could further optimize the campaign by targeting the three higher-performing keywords more aggressively, while dialing back the investment in the under-performing keywords.
You can read more about Simpli.fi’s pitch on their website. They offer element-level targeting across several different marketing channels, not just search retargeting. And of course, when you need 100,000 ads to target 100,000 “elements,” you’ll know who to come to.
Today’s ad was created by NOTHING TO WEAR, based out of Australia. They sell party dresses, skirts, short shorts, skimpy tops…generally any kind of ladies’ outfits that can’t be worn but two or three days out of the year here in San Francisco (except perhaps by misguided Australian tourists who packed this outfit and then spend their entire vacation in a state of mild hypothermia).
Great photo in this banner. (I assume that) when ladies are buying cocktail dresses, they want to look like this model. I mean, you don’t even notice that it looks like she’s sitting in a furniture shop. And even when you do, it looks like the kind of furniture shop I’d like to hang out and have a drink in.
“Really liked using your service – it’s so simple & easy to use!”
—NOTHING TO WEAR
There are a few more design subtleties worth pointing out:
The color palette used in the ad matches the striking color palette of the NOTHING TO WEAR website: black background/white text, plus lots of highly saturated pinks, blues, and yellows (a color palette that basically screams “party”)
Note how the accent colors in the logo (pink, blue, burnt yellow) match the colors in the photo (pink dress, burnt yellow chairs). This kind of color coordination really tightens up the overall design without the viewer even consciously realizing it.
When a person clicks on any banner ad, they’re being taken from some random web page into your website. This is a jarring experience, and most customers will abandon your website very quickly. So you want to make this transition (external website > banner ad click > your website) as smooth as possible. So it helps if the ad looks like your website. It makes the transition go smoother and should help keep customers on your website a little longer.
The fact that the text stripe is sitting over the center of the ad creates some nice visual tension.
CS-Cart sells standalone software for any size of online store. It’s not a subscription-based service, meaning you pay for the software once and it’s yours forever. They even have a free edition!
Seriously, there are a lot of features to check out—too many to list in one blog post. So if you’re thinking of setting up an online store (or even an online marketplace with multiple independent stores), we recommend checking out CS-Cart.
And if you’re a CS-Cart shop owner and you want to make some Flash banners for online advertising, check out CS-Cart’s partners page to get a special discount code.
Mademoiselle M is an online store that sells hand-fabricated jewelry, made from gold, silver, pearls, and other precious materials.
They recently made a set of banner ads using Canned Banners, and we wanted to feature them because:
They’ve got great-looking product photos. Professional product photography is key if you’re selling online. If you own an online store and you already have professional product photos, it’s easy to use those photos when designing banner ads with Canned Banners.
The overall color scheme is consistent. The jewelry photos were taken against a white background, and the color scheme for the banners matches this, resulting in a clean, elegant look.
The font choice of Tallys matches the banners’ overall elegant, sophisticated style.
The banners follow the important Final Frame Rule, meaning that you can tell what the ad is trying to say by looking only at the very last frame.
Note that the 728×90 has been scaled down to fit the 600px page width of our blog.
“Etailers within Shopify’s platform have one more option when it comes to advertising: flash banner ads. This week, Canned Banners rolled out a new banner creation platform, which is self-serve, for the site.” Visit BizReport.com to read more.
How does this magical app work? Well, it turns out Shopify has a right dandy API. When a Shopify client is making a banner, our app uses Shopify’s API to automatically load the images from their online store, so they don’t have to go looking for them. In the future, we’ll be able to grab info like store name, product name, and price, meaning that our app will literally be able to create a banner ad instantly.
In conclusion: if you’re a Shopify customer, use our app to make some banner ads. If you’re not a customer, go ahead and make some banner ads with “Classic” Canned Banners. Then go check out Shopify. They offer a 30-day free trial, so if you’ve been itching to try your hand at e-commerce, you’ve got nothing standing in your way.
Loja do Arco, in the heart of the historic center of Sintra, Portugal, is dedicated to disseminating Portuguese culture in the areas of literature, music, and traditional crafts. They created a very nice banner ad yesterday using Canned Banners:
Not only is this a handsome banner ad, but it’s the first one that’s ever been done in Portugese using Canned Banners. Anybody want to tell us what it says?
UPDATE: Loja do Arco sent us the translated English: “You never had better reasons to buy national; 3 of the big names in portuguese music; Click here to buy online”
A few things to note about Loja do Arco’s banner:
The logo is in transparent PNG format, so the black background is still visible behind the white logo (and a very nice logo at that)
They kept the text (whatever it says) brief
They chose a banner template that suited the small thumbnail images they wanted to use