It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the shiny new toys of rich media, video ads, social media integration, behavioural targeting, etc.

These are all good tools to apply to a diverse multi-media mix. And surely a new digital targeting approach will emerge each week that we must learn, master, and present to our clients.

But, no matter how shiny the toy, if an advertiser can’t understand its value and won’t dive into the well-rounded and print-complimentary digital campaign you’ve been pitching for weeks, it’s time to try a simpler approach.

Getting your advertiser to dip his toes in the proverbial digital ad waters is the important first step. Often, it leads to increased discussion, as well as a level of initial ownership in the small digital presence he has staked out.

By way of example, I’ll share our recent experience at The Register-Guard with our annual Readers’ Choice awards.

Five years after we established our annual contest as a legitimate platform for local readers to nominate and vote for their favourite businesses, we created some simple, incremental revenue programmes.

And the results have been encouraging.

We offered the simplest text advertising there is: the paid advertiser’s business name linked to its Web site, adjacent to its business category on the nomination form (in the context of “Please vote for us.”).

We labeled these positions clearly as “paid advertisement” and further explained the ads in descriptive text on each page of the nomination form.

We charged a low, flat fee and went for volume. We held an old-fashioned sales blitz during the week before deadline, with contests for sales representatives that sold the most businesses.

We included some fun, competitive sales charts to map our success and encourage some internal ribbing.

The concept was simple, easy enough to explain with a helpful Web mock-up that could be e-mailed out and a phone conversation.

We sold more than 100 businesses (several of whom bought the up-sell after the voting had started, after seeing their competitors in the space), and generated more than US$11,000 in new ad revenue that we hadn’t budgeted.

Many of the advertisers who purchased the simple text link were new to online advertising (and many were from businesses we don’t usually get any money from at all).

We expanded the idea by also creating some small, simple up-sells to our digital results section to highlight additional information from the winners (Web link, map to address, click to call, business description, and coupon link).

We again offered low, flat-fee options and held a brief sales blitz (four-hour window, with lunch provided to the sales staff) and fun contest with a March Madness theme (in addition to cash prizes for top sales, we set up a Nerf basketball hoop and allowed each rep to take a shot for every sale they made, with candy as the spoils).

We placed both the voting phase content and the results on our responsive Web design template and have been heavily promoting the ability to access this data from your smartphone or tablet throughout the year – with the up-sold additional business information providing great extra readership value.

These applications provided us with not only additional revenue, but wonderful conversation-starting opportunities with a wide variety of businesses. We’ve been able to open dialogues about digital advertising and its potential to grow local commerce.

As with most things, quite often the best results come from the simplest of beginnings.