Stanford University September-December, 2010
MS&E 239: Introduction to Computational Advertising
September 24-December 03, 2010 - Stanford University, California

Advertising Project

The project for this class will involve hands-on experience with real-world web advertising. Students may (and are encouraged to) work in teams of up to 3. A team of size 4 may be acceptable, but the expectation will be higher. Teams will use ad strategies learned in class to run the campaigns, track their performance and write a report describing what they did, what worked (or didn't) and their recommendations to the firm on its advertising strategy.

Project Details

The broad steps involved in the project are as follows:
  • Each team should pick a firm and run an ad campaign for the firm, outlining the goals and target of the ad campaign.
  • Each team will have an ad budget of $300-$500.
  • Each team should come up with an advertising strategy toward the goals outlined. This involves answering the following kinds of questions (this not a comprehensive list, just a small representative set):
    • What demographics and geography to target?
    • How to spend the ad budget across a number of advertising options: display ads, sponsored search ads (on Google, Yahoo, Bing), ads on social networks, word-of-mouth campaigns, self-service display advertising etc. Feel free to discuss with the teaching staff the advertising options you plan to pursue.
    • Whether to focus on driving traffic to the website or on driving leads (or both)?
    • What search terms and web properties to advertise on?
    • What should the banner ads and ad creatives look like (messaging)?
    • How to price each ad and determine the best landing page for each ad?
  • Note that the effectiveness of your advertising campaign (and therefore your project grade) can only be demonstrated using metrics, so it is important to define the metrics for success in each advertising channel and measure the performance of your campaign. The more metrics you collect the better your report will read: more metrics will give you more insight into what works and does not work, and (probably) why. It will help you craft more realistic, meaningful recommendations for the firm.
  • Execute on the strategy agreed upon above; run the campaign. The campaign should run for at least 6 weeks. The longer it runs, the more data you collect. We encourage you to do a mid-way analysis and tweak your strategy and/or your bids, creatives, etc. if required. It is better than letting the campaign run unsupervised for 6 weeks and to find out at the end that it had no impact.
  • Collect metrics and write up a report. Please state clearly the start and end date of your ad campaign in the report. The report should focus on the following:
    • What advertising strategy did you come up with and how that ties into the goals you outlined?
    • What mathematical models did you use to arrive at your allocations, bids, etc.? Why? (e.g. Multi-armed bandits, greedy strategies, etc.).
    • What metrics did you measure? How? Why?
    • What recommendations do you have for the firm based on your understanding of their business, the advertising campaign you ran and the metrics you measured?

The expected output and timeline for the project is as follows:
  • 10/14: Submit a team name, list of team members (via email to the staff mailing list).
  • 10/28: Submit a 2-3 page write up on your advertising strategy with some justification for it. Due in class. (25%)
  • 12/09: Project presentation (15 mins per team). (25%)
  • 12/10: Final project report (max. 12 single-spaced pages) due. (50%)

Here are a few links/docs/tutorials that you might find helpful: Here are a few project reports from previous years: