For all the things that have changed in B2B electronics PR and marketing in the last few years, some things have stayed the same.  20 years ago, the lead-generating success of an advertisement or piece of editorial coverage was measured in terms of ‘bingo cards’ enquiries. For those of you too young to remember, it mostly worked like this – with a few subtle variations. Each magazine had a card stitched into it. The card was printed with a series of numbered boxes, one for each advertisement and editorial piece. Readers ticked the boxes related to items of interest, filled in their details and posted the card back to the publisher. The publisher then sent ‘leads’ to the advertiser, or the editorial contributor, in the form of address labels.

The simple text ads always generate higher click-through rates than banners

The simple text ads always generate higher click-through rates than banners

So here’s the thing. Editorial, or advertisements that were disguised as editorial, always pulled many times more bingo card enquiries than advertisements. One electronics publisher told me that, on detailed analysis, product editorial produced 9 times the number of enquiries, compared with an advertisement of similar size. The data also confirmed that fractional page advertisements, typically a quarter page or less, delivered the lowest cost-per-enquiry.

Fast forward to today. At first glance this e-newsletter from pan-European digital publisher, Electronic Specifier, could be a printed magazine page from the past. And guess what? Readers respond in exactly the same way as they did 20 years ago. All that’s changed is that they expect, and get, a much more immediate response to the interest they express.

The dominant brand on the page is Agilent. It has clear call-to-action and will generate click-throughs. However, the ‘sponsored text ads’ underneath, one from Altera and one from Panasonic, neither of which even mention the name of the component manufacturer, will have generated an order of magnitude more clicks. This is not just because more people are interested in components than relatively high cost test equipment. Every time we test responses to different formats, the text ads come out on top – but a large margin.

The offer could not be clearer, and there's a bit of branding thrown in too

The offer could not be clearer, and there’s a bit of branding thrown in too

Supply Frame uses a similar format for its clients’ advertising. Supply Frame is an online search tool used by engineers to find electronic components and data sheets.

Every advertisement follows the same basic format – and it delivers web site click-throughs very effectively, with a little bit of branding built in because you include a logo.

Multiple buttons boost CTR

Multiple buttons boost CTR


Average response rates to single and multiple button advertisements on Supply Frame

Incidentally, Supply Frame recently published a chart showing that if you include 2 calls-to-action in advertisements, as in the Atmel ad below, you get a higher click through rate for both – except in the case of white papers – which is a bit strange.

As the B2B electronics publishing business accelerates its migration from print to digital, and marketing experts continue to bombard us with the message that everything has changed and we need to keep up, let’s not forget the basics.

Simple ads with a very clear call-to-action still deliver the highest levels of immediately measurable response. And if they don’t look ads at all, but carefully selected editorial stories, they’ll usually do even better.

One closing thought. Do highest click through rates equate to the most effective advertisements? More in this in my next post.