The Right Way To Do Sponsored Content

We’ve all seen these ads before.  Typically they tell us that we can see celebrities that didn’t age well or pills that will turn us into yoked up genetic freaks.  They usually show up on the side nav or below an article and look like this:


Of the four above, the one I’m looking at is the HelloFresh ad, as it is an excellent example of the proper way to build out a Paid Content Ad.

The Image

You can’t make an effective Paid Content ad with a crappy image.  The HelloFresh image is a perfect example of the right type of image to use.  Beautiful, vibrant veggies packed with other items in a box sets the potential customer with an instant view of what they can expect with their first box.  It is an enticing image that goes perfectly with…

The Copy

Anyone who’s ever written an ad of this nature will tell you that writing something attention grabbing and eye catching with a clear call to action in about 50 characters is tough.  With HelloFresh, we have:

“Before You Join A Meal Delivery Service, Read This”

The product is clear, the user intent is clear and the call to action is clear.  When you click the ad, you know what you’re going to get.  Let’s take a look at what you get (it’s a very long page, so I’m breaking it down).

The Landing Page


The first thing the user sees is a beautiful bowl of food.  There are also two copy points of note in this section.

  • At the top of the screen, you get a “Congratulations, Your Discount Code Has Been Applied”, letting potential customers know that they’re already saving money and don’t need to go hunting for additional coupon codes.
  • In the middle of the screen you have “3 Reasons You’ll Love HelloFresh”.  This is a callback to the original ad copy that compels the user to scroll down to learn more.


Next we get the first reason “You’ll Cook Amazing Meals From Scratch”.  They provide copy for those that want to read along with images to break up the copy and to help customers who are visual learners.  This is the first step to delivering on the promise of their ad and they provide a call to action for people who are already convinced.

For those who want to keep learning, we scroll to get to Reason #2:


We are immediately told what to expect with this section by way of the title “We’ll Send You The Highest Quality Produce From Local Suppliers”.  Again, we have a clear point they’re trying to make with images and copy to support their statement.  Once again, they provide a call to action for those that don’t need further convincing.  For those that do, we scroll to Reason #3:


“We’ll Give You Your First Box At A Discount Plus Free Delivery”

This is a callback to the company’s promise at the top of the first screenshot where they let you know that they’ve applied a coupon.  The customer gets their discount, they get free shipping, they get more copy if they want to read and they get more compelling visuals.  Finally, at the bottom of the page they are presented with one last call to action.

The other thing you might notice about this landing page?  No Navigation.

When it comes to building landing pages, navigation is death from a conversion perspective.  When you remove the landing page, it removes distractions.  It gives people a binary decision – Convert or Leave.

When you are asking customers to take one specific action (in this case, sign up for HelloFresh), navigation reduces your chances of conversion. Keep them focused on the call to action and don’t distract them with anything that isn’t directly related to that call to action.

If you are going the Paid Content route, the key is focus.  Don’t try and jam lots of different calls to action and messages into a single page.  Make sure your ad and your landing page are harmonious and you’ll be rewarded with a strong ROAS and a manageable CPA.

Too many companies don’t use Paid Content because it seems hard and scary.  The concept and platform can be intimidating, especially given the potential costs associated with it (expect to be spending hundreds to thousands per day).

Don’t let it intimidate you and definitely don’t let people try and talk you out of this channel just because there are some sleazy advertisers using it.  Sleazy advertisers use Adwords, Email, Facebook Ads and every other form of online marketing under the sun, so if you’re skipping this channel because you’re intimidated or because someone in the office thinks “we shouldn’t be putting our brand on this sort of ad channel”, you’re doing a disservice to your company and your career.

Danger Zone

Today I received an email from OtterBox with an offer.  This by itself isn’t surprising given the fact that I have an OtterBox case for my Samsung Galaxy which I bought direct from the OtterBox website.  What was surprising was the subject line and contents of the email:


The subject line for this email is “Get A new case for your new iPhone”.  I find this extremely interesting since I don’t have an iPhone, have never owned an iPhone and certainly don’t have a new iPhone.

This is a perfect example of why segmentation is so important in email marketing.  Currently, Apple’s iPhone has about a 43% market share.  That means 57% of smartphone users are not using an iPhone.  As such, it means that 57% of the people who received this email likely found it completely useless.

Simply put, you cannot make assumptions that everyone on your list just went out and bought a new iPhone (which is what the subject line clearly states).

When customers give companies permission to send them email marketing, they do so with the understanding that the company will send them emails that are relevant to the customer’s individual needs.  In the case of this OtterBox email, the error is particularly glaring, as they likely have information on the vast majority of their customers with regards to mobile device preference.  The company knows that I have an Android phone, but rather than sending me an email about a new case for my Galaxy, they send me an email suggesting I buy something that doesn’t make any sense.

There is a real danger here from a marketing perspective.  When we as marketers assume we can abuse our email list by sending offers to lists where the offer isn’t relevant, it turns into higher unsubscribes, lower customer engagement and decreased loyalty.  As a result of this email, I have no choice but to assume that OtterBox either doesn’t know anything about me (despite the fact they have a purchase history) or they simply don’t respect me enough as a customer to send me materials that are relevant to my needs.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like OtterBox and feel that they make an excellent product (I wouldn’t be using it if I didn’t).  I’m just astonished that a brand as well known and popular as OtterBox would make such a basic error with their email marketing.