Critique My Gonzo Marketing Campaign?

Do you have a question? Post it now! No Registration Necessary.  Now with pictures!


I just launched an ad campaign inspired by Christopher Locke's excellent book
"Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices" ( /). He
is also one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto
( /).  I assert that both books are required reading for
anyone wanting their business to prosper in the age of the Internet.

I ask you to look over my materials and to tell me how to improve.  My budget
for March is VERY limited - I have already spent $90, with $210 remaining.  Not
that this month's money is to be spent just on testing the wording of my ads at
a single site, the online community Kuro5hin: I'm not
expecting to make money as a result of my campaign this month.

I will have a couple thousand to spend next month, but I will STILL be testing.
  In April, I'm going to roll out my best ads at Kuro5hin, but then start
testing at other sites.

I'm very interested to learn of other sites that offer self-service text ads,
especially sites that have narrowly-focussed userbases (to allow targeting).  I
want to pay by the impression, not by the click, so I need to know about sites
that are reputable enough to report the number of impressions honestly.  I'll be
willing to pay by the click after I've completed my testing, and have a better
idea how much a click is worth to me.

My objective is to get out of my present line of work, custom software
development, and commercialize the articles on software development and business
that I publish at GoingWare's Bag of Programming Tricks - /

(If you navigate around the different articles there, you will see several
different web page designs, many of them appearing really funky.  I'm revising
them all to use a new CSS-based design my wife Bonita created, but as all my
pages are hand-coded static files, it's taking a long time to redesign them all.)

I already make some money publishing Google AdSense ads, but AdSense was not
performing at all in most of my articles, so I am removing most of the AdSense
ads and replacing them with affiliate ads for books at Amazon and Powell's City
of Books ( /).  I thought that selling books would work
well because I often recommend specific books in my articles.

When you look over my materials, you're quite likely to think I've lost my mind.
  Keep in mind this is supposed to be GONZO Marketing.  I am selling my wares in
much the same way the the late, great founder of Gonzo Journalism Hunter S.
Thompson covered a motorcyle race in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

I am deliberately shooting from the hip, with the express intention of inflaming
controversy.  My wife, a fine art student, has told me repeatedly that one sure
recipe for success in the art world is to upset the public.  Possibly the best
way for an artist to move her work is to have one of her shows shut down by the

This lesson is not lost on me; lest you think my marketing materials are
inspired by delusion, please understand that I composed them in as cold and
calculating a manner as one can only achieve as a result of my desperation to
escape the misery of seven years spent software consulting.

When one does fixed-cost work as I usually do, and there is some intractable bug
in the code one is developing, well then one just doesn't get paid.  If I can't
fix a difficult bug, sometimes I can't buy food or heating oil - I live in
Canada - or make my car or mortgage payments.  I wouldn't wish a contract
programming career on my worst enemy, so I am QUITE motivated to succeed with my

Here is my press release:

   Noted Link Whore to Pay For Traffic
   - Renounces Errant Ways as Launches Ad Blitz

I attempted to publish my press release as a story at Kuro5hin.  It is a "member
moderated" site in which story submissions are voted on in a private
members-only area before they are openly published.  Even though many of my
previous articles and essays have been voted to front page there, my press
release was shot down with a vote of 23 to 3.  The moderators had such comments
as "i think you're a degenerate" and "Everything I've said about you and your
blatant f***ing whoring was true and you've laid it out for all to see."

Nevertheless, I am encouraged that of the three +1 votes, two of them voted to
feature my press release on the front page, and one member said:

    Believe it or not I will actually vote this up, but only because
    of it's subtle cleverness and the fact that it is extremely well written.

Undaunted, I posted my press release at the link above, and wrote the following
weblog, promising to resubmit my press release.  Note that it would be a major
coup to have my PR featured on Kuro5hin's front page: it would be read by about
ten thousand people, maybe more, in just a few days.  My weblog:

   Brilliance or Madness?  You Be the Judge.

(There is a poll in the weblog, where you can vote on whether you think I am
brilliant or mad.  However, you need to be a logged-in K5 member to vote.
Membership is free, and it's a great community to be part of.)

In that weblog, I said the following:

     It's all just a question of saying just the right thing in one's marketing
     communications. Discovering the right thing to say is my objective for this
     month's Kuro5hin advertising campaign.

You can see all the ads I have placed so far here:

The ads in the "Inactive Ads" section are from other advertising I've done in
the past.  As I write this, all the ads I've placed in this campaign are still

I am getting the best response on the smaller, shorter ads with the larger
fonts.  Kuro5hin calls them "Text Ads".  They appear on the top-left corner of
Kuro5hin's homepage at They cost $1.00 per thousand
impressions, with a minimum order of $10.00.  My top three performers result in
a Cost per Click of 6.8, 9.1 and 12.9 cents.  I think that's pretty good.  Is it?

The tall, narrow ads with lots of text and smaller fonts are called "Story Text
Ads" and appear in the bodies of K5 stories.  Even though they cost half as
much, they have all gotten such a poor response that I have decided not to place
any more.  I may try again next month, when I have more money to spend, if I can
come up with more compelling ad copy.  They cost $0.50 per thousand, again with
a minimum order of $10.00.  I'm getting a Cost per Click ranging from 63.1 to
37.4 cents for the Story Text Ads.

One can also place "Expanded Text Ads" that appear on the front page, that are
sized in-between.  They allow more text than the Text Ads, less than the Story
Text Ads, and have a medium font size.  I haven't tried them in this campaign
but expect I will at some point.  I HAVE tried them in the past, but decided it
was worth the effort to come up with ad copy compact enough to fit in the Text
Ads.  The Expanded Text Ads also cost $1.00 per thousand.

I've never been one to keep my marketing methods secret.  I'm planning on
writing a story for Kuro5hin detailing what I learn in this study.  I posted my
first impressions in my weblog here:

Day Three: Ad Blitz Progress Report

There is a poll there, asking the question "If you have advertised online in the
past, did you test first?"  There are only a few votes so far, but you might be
interested to look back again tomorrow.  I suspect a widespread failure to test
costly online ad campaigns before rolling them out contributed significantly to
the dot-com crash.

Now, what I really need to know is, which of my ads result in book sales?  How
much do I have to pay in advertising to earn a dollar back from Amazon or
Powells?  This is a much more difficult question.  Most people who read my
articles don't buy books, and I can tell from Amazon's report that most people
who click my affiliate ads don't follow through with a purchase.

I am not expecting to move many books this month, in part because I have only
placed affiliate ads in a few of my articles.  I will be satisfied if I can come
up with at least one ad for each of my articles, in which the Cost per Click is
inexpensive, at least comparable to my best performers so far.

I expect I'm going to have to spend a lot on advertising, before I see a
significant impact on traffic to my site.

Thank you for any insight you can give me.

Ever Faithful,

Michael D. Crawford
GoingWare Inc. - Expert Software Development and Consulting /

    Tilting at Windmills for a Better Tomorrow.

Site Timeline