The Community Promotion Ads - 2013 question has recently appeared on meta. In a comment there, tohecz points out that the stats for the 2012 ads show that older ads get far fewer clicks than newer ones. This raises the question of how many ads to reuse, and more generally what makes a good ad. The main thread is for ads themselves, so I'm opening this question to discuss the wider area: what should be advertised, do the ads themselves need to change or just the graphics, etc.

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just a few thoughts -- is the declining click-through status of old ads the function of a relatively stable user population, who are already familiar with what's being advertised? if these "stable ads" are removed (since they're not news to the old users), what would that mean for new recruits to the site? maybe everyone here already knows about ctan and tex live, but it seems to me that these resources are essential to the tex community, so they shouldn't be ignored entirely; what this means re ads, i don't know. –  barbara beeton Dec 10 '12 at 20:19
    
@barbarabeeton That's broadly what I suspect too: many of the click-throughs on new ads may be from 'regulars'. –  Joseph Wright Dec 10 '12 at 20:27

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An ad should clearly convey what the product is that it advertises. What this means in details is highly dependent on the expertise of the beholder, but we should probably assume a user that doesn't know a lot.

Here's a tendency I noticed in many ads, which should be read as a hypothesis, not a factual statement: Creators of ads think: "How can I express what this complex product is in a concise way?", which leads to ads with the product's name and some sort of a logo; this makes it very clear to people who already know the product (who are not the target group), but very hard to grasp for potential new users. Instead, I propose, creators should think "Why is this product relevant to the user?", and create ads that feature one or very few strengths or samples of the product -- risking that the ad doesn't provide a well-balanced picture of the product as a whole. This risk is acceptable, since ads certainly don't aim to explain the pure nature of a product, but rather want to make the beholder curious about the product and want to try it. While the "represent the whole product" approach may be more objective and thus appear "fair"/"not like tricking the user into something", I think it lacks effectiveness and results in relatively uninteresting ads. The "evoke curiosity" approach is subjective and bears the risk of being misleading, but I think our community would catch misleading ads through voting and discussion. The latter approach might require more effort on the side of the ad creator, but in my experience, that's virtually always been the case when you want to put yourself in the situation of someone else and convey information to them in an accessible manner -- which, after all, is always the case in situations of communication.

(This is the most certainly imperfect result of my pseudo-marketing skills with a background in pedagogy, but I thought it would at least provide some interesting background for discussion.)

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looking at the postings so far in this light, i think the following are sufficiently self-explanatory: "help the community grow/twitter", meta and blog "visit", tex live, and the uk tex faq. ctan and tug, maybe not. tugboat probably not. comp.text.tex, almost certainly not (although i like it a lot). what can be done to upgrade the ones that are lacking? (maybe for tugboat, a caption "Journal of the international TeX Users Group"?) –  barbara beeton Dec 10 '12 at 22:09

I would like to modify some of the ads, this seems to be too long for a comment so I make it an answer. As well, I'm not a good in computer graphics so I cannot make the ads if they have to be nice.

The reasons why I think it should be renewed are numerous, one of them is that they have low impact, possibly because people don't know what they are. So my suggestions go to making the ads more explanatory by short texts.

  • TUG: Let's make "Do you know that TeX.StackExchange is a member of TUG" (I know that it's not 100% precise, but still ok) Possible link: Do we want Stack Exchange to become an institutional member of the TUG?

  • DANTE: I have nothing against DANTE but I believe that something like "Many countries have their user groups" pointing to (to-be-made) thread listing most of them. The ad could be colourful with either the coutnry flags or with some sensitive composition of the groups' logos.

  • TUGboat: I somehow second idea by barbara in comment to doncherry's answer, I would make the text something like: "TeX.SX members write to TUGboat" with a link to the issue containing the Stephan Kottwitz' article about TeX.SX.

  • CTAN: Add "Find your TeX package info on <CTAN logo>"

  • UK TeX FAQ, comp.text.tex: Again, I think that a summarizing thread is possible and we can add http://www.latex-community.org/ and maybe some others.

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On the TUG ad, I'd suggest less text, for example 'StackExchange supports ...' or similar –  Joseph Wright Dec 11 '12 at 17:45
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Something like a strong I want YOU in TUG ad? :) –  Paulo Cereda Dec 11 '12 at 18:33
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while some tex.sx members do write to tugboat, i think you mean "write for tugboat". or maybe "publish in tugboat" ("are published in tugboat" would be more precise, but it's too long). –  barbara beeton Dec 11 '12 at 18:40
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for the uk tex faq, comp.text.tex, et al., how about "other good places to find answers to your questions"? –  barbara beeton Dec 11 '12 at 18:42
    
re "tug", unless you're going to leave in the logo, should you really assume that everybody knows what "tug" is? –  barbara beeton Dec 11 '12 at 18:43
    
re dante and language-specific groups in general, the names of the groups often don't divulge the "host" country or language; in fact, the namers sometimes went to great lengths to be misleading -- dante = german; gutenberg = french; italic = an irish-based mail list. (having been present when some of these names were chosen, i assure you it was done intentionally and with great hilarity.) –  barbara beeton Dec 11 '12 at 18:50
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@barbarabeeton: My attempt on the TUGboat: i.stack.imgur.com/BsWqc.png –  Paulo Cereda Dec 11 '12 at 19:04
    
@barbarabeeton I take it that the founders of UK-TUG were lacking in imagination :-) –  Joseph Wright Dec 11 '12 at 19:05
    
@JosephWright: "The Royal TeX Society", where all members must use monocles and top hats. :) –  Paulo Cereda Dec 11 '12 at 19:07
    
@PauloCereda -- that works, and very nicely too. thanks. –  barbara beeton Dec 11 '12 at 19:10
    
@JosephWright -- or maybe they were influenced by an early member who had lived with the initials "spqr" all his life, and favored something not so showy. (i don't know if this was a factor, but i am very happy to be acquainted and have worked on tex projects with the personage cited.) –  barbara beeton Dec 11 '12 at 19:16
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@barbarabeeton I would leave there the logo, just a bit smaller. Now I think of a text: "TUG WANTS YOU!" + logo. –  yo' Dec 11 '12 at 20:49

In the online advertising world, a lot of advice exists on creating effective calls to action, e.g. How To Write A Killer Call To Action.

Out of the Community Promotion Ads - 2012, the one labeled "answer the unanswered questions" by @Paulo Cereda seems to best follow recommended principles, such as:

  • Use buttons: Buttons make it obvious that the user can click on them.
  • Use colour: Getting people to notice your request is half the battle.
  • Use action words and phrases: Use action words like “Click here to read more”.
  • This can be enhanced by the use of symbols that spur action like “>>” or the down arrow.
  • Incentivise your call to action: Use a free report or consultation to give your customers extra incentive to take the desired action. “Download free report” etc.
  • Create social proof through trusted sources.
  • Speak to your readers’ innermost desire.
  • Create a relevant offer.
  • Create a sense of urgency.
  • Align the CTA with a landing page.

As for the ads' placement on the page:

  • Respect its personal space: Do not bury it in noise. Leave lots of space around it so that it stands out.
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