CafePress has launched their own pseudo-contextual advertising program TopicAds today, where publishers specify keywords related to their content, and TopicAds will serve relevant products from their CafePress product inventory.
The ad units, which are not technically contextual ads since the program isn’t selecting ads based on content, but relying on publishers to specify keywords, are similar to what you would expect in a publisher ad unit, except that instead of text ads, you are seeing images.
Here are some sample ad units. This one is for keyword “espresso”.
And for fun, the keyword AdSense, just incase you ever wanted to wear a shirt with an ad unit across the chest 😉
I talked with Brad Meinert, the Director of Online Marketing at CafePress about their new TopicAds program, and asked a few questions about the program.
Is everyone who has a Cafe Press store included in this program? Or does each store owner need to sign up?
Shopkeepers must sign up for the affiliate program separately (basically sign the T&A etc. w/in their account area). Once they do, they can grab the code for a TopicAd and place it within their shops. What’s interesting is that shopkeepers are tagging their designs w/ their shop name, and then promoting their shops by getting others to run TopicAds using the shop name as the primary tag. This is an interim solution because eventually they’ll be able to filter the TopicAds by shops…
Are only t-shirts included? Or other products?
The ads shows designs – and when a user clicks on the design, they land on a page w/ a larger graphic of that design, and a few products w/ that design. What products are available is up to the shopkeeper. They determine what designs go on what products.
Are products screened for sensitive/off-color/sexual designs prior to being shown on publisher sites?
Ultimately, content is the responsibility of our Shopkeepers, but we do have content usage policy which outlines what is acceptable, and what is not. Images that show up in TopicAds are based on tags, and it is the responsibility of Shopkeepers to ensure that their images are tagged properly so inappropriate material does not show up where it doesn’t belong. In the future, we hope to provide additional filters – negative keywords, kid-friendly, specific shops, specific products, etc.
Can you release any conversion stats of what people are seeing so far (ie. how many impressions and/or clicks convert to a sale?)
I have some stats on CTRs, but probably not enough to be statistically significant. But currently, they are much better than static banner ads that we’re used to (0.1% CTR), and closer to contextual CTRs (for 336×280 definitely over 1%) and conv rates. Once I have some good stats I can pass them on. But it’s something I’m obviously tracking daily…
One of the most appealing things about TopicAds for publishers is that I have checked with the AdSense team, and these ads are fine to run alongside AdSense on the same page. So it could be a good compliment for publishers looking for a secondary program, or even something to run as an alternate ad.
The obvious drawback, however, is that this runs like a regular affiliate program… because publishers are NOT getting paid on a per click basis (such as with AdSense & YPN), but rather publishers are only paid a commission if one of the clicks converts into a sale.
When I went to grab screen shots for webmaster and SEO terms, the ad units were very much filled with logos for various search engine and optimization companies, so it gave the impression of fairly spammy ad units. But if you are a company who has logowear through CafePress, it would make sense to make sure your logos are enabled into TopicAds for free branding purposes. But unfortunately, this would definitely drop down the chance of conversions for publishers displaying the ads.
It will be interesting to watch this program grow, and see if they do get a following by publishers looking for programs to co-exists with AdSense & YPN. You can signup for TopicAds here or by logging into an existing CafePress account.