So the ThinkCash team tested a pretty unique ad on Google this week for our PayDay One site on the terms “payday loans” and “cash advance“. The results were bitter sweet. Paid search ads are a huge channel for any online advertiser. The problem is that you can’t get very “creative” when you’re ad is limited to a handful of characters of Tahoma-font-text.
We decided to test some ad creative using “ASCII Art” (see above) that we thought was pretty unique. The ad is in no way misleading, but rather a more interesting way to try and attract the attention of a consumer that has already indicated that they have an emergency cash need based on their search query.
So I said the results were bitter sweet. The sweet portion is that we saw a 50% higher CTR on this ad versus our control. The bitter part – Google yanked our ad and said that we weren’t complying with AdWords guidelines (they specifically cited the excessive use of punctuation and capitalization).
I know Google has a tough job and managing click fraud and deceptive search marketing practices is a huge challenge for them. However, I think the time has come for the simple-text search ad to evolve . . . I’m OK with baby steps forward, but let’s just keep moving forward.
So last week I wrote about why I work at ThinkCash and the positive impact we have on people’s lives. To follow-up on that thought, Mitch Duprey of the Motley Fool has a great article today that really explains why short-term loan or installment loan products are important for consumers. One line in particularly sums-it-up best,
The fact is, while we wish individuals would always be Foolish (smart) with their finances, life intrudes, and the ability to make it to the next payday requires a short bridge loan. Traditional financial institutions have abandoned customers with this need
So Michael (one of my co-workers at ThinkCash) and I just got back from NY where we attended AdTech. AdTech is the biggest conference in the online advertising business and has literally grown to ridiculous proportions over the years. One of the traditions of AdTech are companies (mostly run by young CEOs/Founders and flush with cash) throwing very extravagant parties. This isn’t a bad thing. I enjoy attending the parties and seeing old friends; however, it seems like every year they become more and more decadent/strange. This years winner for strangest party took place at Pacha (a very hip NY club). The party was hosted by no-less than 10 different companies and featured performances by Rob Base (of “It Takes Two” fame) and Turbo from the movie Breakin (an 80’s classic). But this wasn’t the strange part. The strange part were the people walking around the party in mascot outfits. There was a Chuck E. Cheese, a Paddington Bear, etc. It was a little surreal to see Paddington Bear dancing to Rob Bass.
The big news at the show was Facebook announcing it will offer new advertising options. The “social ads” will take several forms on the site, propelled by an ad system that, according to the company, “enables people to provide trusted referrals to their friends and helps businesses to spread information.” For example, Movie Clique is a new Blockbuster application built on the Facebook Platform that enables Facebook users to search thousands of movie titles and create lists of movies they want to see, movies they’ve already seen and all-time favorites — along with ratings and reviews — to share with their friends. Users who subscribe to Blockbuster’s online rental service can also rent movies directly from Blockbuster without leaving the Facebook website. I think this platform will work well for a handful of advertisers, but it just isn’t relevant for 90% of the products and services out there.
It was a productive conference because Michael and I got to visit with about 10 of our biggest partners, which is much easier and cheaper than flying all over the country to visit the same partners. However, my favorite part of the trip was on Monday night when I took Michael to my favorite pizza place in the world – Lombardi’s in Little Italy
Lombardi’s was the first pizzeria to open in the US (in 1905).
The pizza is Neapolitan-style, cooked in the original oven (over 100 years old), and is amazing. It used to only seat 25-30 (so there were often long waits) but they recently expanded so we had no problem getting a table. I requested that we be seated on the “old side” so Michael could get the full experience. So the waitress sat us at a table next to none other than John Mayer. It’s always fun to go to NY or LA and have a “star-sighting”.
So when I came to ThinkCash (then PayDay One) in January 2006 most of my friends/colleagues were surprised. Why would I leave Blockbuster Online and a very high-level, well-respected position in a fast-growing entertainment company to go work for a “payday loan company”. There were several factors. One was Kevin and the trust/respect I have for him. Another was the opportunity to truly change the paradigm in an industry. I know that’s kind of a “cheesy” buzzword/phrase, but it’s true. I was impressed with the ideas Ken (our CEO) and Kevin had for creating a company that helps consumers with their emergency cash needs, but does so in a fair and balanced way (unlike most traditional payday lenders).
I feel like we are really making progress towards that goal. One huge step was the launch of ThinkCash. We truly built ThinkCash from scratch (the name, logo, website, look/feel, product attributes, etc.) and customers are loving it. It truly is a better alternative for consumers and we literally help 1,000’s of people everyday with their very real financial problems and emergency cash needs. We get a lot of thank you emails from our customers and I try to read some every now and to remind myself of the positive difference we make in people’s lives. Below is an example of one such email:
“I have been threading water with my finances over the last 3 months. A series of unforeseen events really put me behind the eight ball September 2007. I was behind on a few bills and rent was due by the next day (5th). I was broke and would not get paid until the 7th. I am a proud and private person so borrowing from family and friends is not going to happen. My business is just that, mines. I have been banking with that popular national bank that has a logo which resembles the US flag for 7+ years. Guess what happened when I needed them most? 3-4 months of financial hardships outweighed 7 years of good credit standing. They would not approve me for a 500 loan citing my credit rating (I do admit being late on two cards). However, I am the perfect customer for 7 years; I take a stumble and its sorry can’t help you. I google for “loans” and thank God I clicked the link that later led to me getting 750 that I really had to have. I needed the money so bad. If you ever been in a tight situation you know the feeling of relief I am feeling right now. ThinkCash saved me. Thank you, C.”
We are in an industry that takes a lot of heat (much of it deservedly so based on the practices of our competitors), but we are doing what we can to help a huge segment of our the population that has been ignored by traditional financial institutions. It’s not just about making money, it’s also about helping people with problems and treating our customers right . . . otherwise I wouldn’t be here.