Archive for the ‘Media Planning & Buying’ Category
Beware of ”Soft” costs; the cost of employee time and effort is often one of the most overlooked aspects of paid search marketing, and something I consistently bump up against.
I have often seen clients chasing the long tail in search, getting better yields, and throwing it all away in employee and agency costs. One client in particular showed me how they increased their efficiency by $200,000 a year. They were very proud Read the rest of this entry »
And yet they still cannot seem to get the performance out them they expect. That is because they do not understand what they are buying. They are missing what is the value. They think it is a new technology, and it is NOT the technology.
Yahoo buys InterClick for $280 Million
MAGY (AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google) keep buying Ad-Networks, and then the ad-network doesn’t pan out. And then they buy another one, and another. All of these ad-networks have some unique technology . And they keep scratching their heads how this ad-network that was making so much money, and so profitable just doesn’t seem to perform as well after they buy it. And they actually blame themselves; they didn’t “integrate” it properly.
And they all seem to miss what they are buying. And they continue to scratch their heads, and repeat this over and over.
Why? Because they are technology companies thinking that they are buying technology… and they are not.
They are buying a sales force, one that can sell. And then that sales force leaves because they just made “bank” and do not want to work for a bunch of also-rans in company X that bought them, under sales people who do not know how to sell, which is the reason they had to buy them in the first place.
And the star sales people leave, migrate to a new Ad Network which is “suddenly” the next great technology.
Quit thinking you are buying technology at ad networks, and do an end around and scoop up top sales staff instead. Give them a sick commission with golden handcuffs. It is a hell of a lot cheaper.
But alas, they are technology companies and seem to miss the obvious. It’s the people stupid.
ranty rant signing off…
We have been struggling in online advertising for more than a decade, and although this new medium provided unfettered access to information, the desire was to continue the tradition established by traditional media – essentially making access to information remain relatively free.
Unfortunately, while the prospect of more individualized metrics enabled by the internet did come to fruition, it didn’t translate into better advertising. Instead it reduced it to the “quantitative” in such a droll fashion that the majority of online advertising became reduced to “pinch the monkey,” “squeeze the baby,” “click here,” “learn more,” and “please click this fracking banner so I can justify my existence!”
For years, I have railed against banner ads online, I have illuminated the barriers to digital as an impactful medium for advertising, and I have chided our entire industry for being the uncreative lepers of advertising, slinging drivel at consumers. We are a medium that is neither immersive, experiential, nor adored by consumers.
The internet is not a medium – devices that connect to it are the medium. The medium had always Read the rest of this entry »
Your brand may not be built on nostalgia like McDonald’s, but you can still tap into a consumer’s fond recollections to create online buzz.
Ok, let’s face it: if you’re stuck on the digital side of the brand equation, you often feel like a sucker fish on the back of an offline shark. Sure, your digital budget is growing and your efforts carry more importance, but when it comes to “branding,” many of you suffer from the dichotomy that still exists in most companies. See if you’ve ever heard this mantra: “Offline is for branding, online is direct response.”
If you’ve heard that, there is only one person to blame — yourself. Why does that mantra exist? It exists because of the high degree of precision in online metrics. Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean you should measure it. This is the fundamental dilemma when it comes to online: measurability. The curse of data is what relegates our entire industry into the corner of the advertising landscape, and trust me, the offline media empires want to keep it that way.
How many people click on an outdoor billboard? Well, none really, unless you count the water balloons I launch at billboards I don’t like. You cannot track back to an individually measurable statistic, therefore you have to rely on gross drive and traffic data for billboards. Does that mean that the people in the car even looked at your billboard? Of course not. So what is so different about an ad banner online? Just because you can measure if someone clicks, and even if someone views it, does that mean that’s what the banner should be measured on? Of course not, but because the data exists, that is what a banner is measured on.
In fact, even more disturbing is when clients separate their online advertising banners into “brand” ads and “direct response” ads. Why do they do that? Well, you know why — there is no way you can justify the higher cost placements and rich media development costs if you measure them on direct response statistics. But what really separates brand ads from direct response ads? If I throw a “click here” on a brand ad, does that make it direct response? If there is no call to action on a direct response ad, does that make it a brand ad?
See where I am going?
You are all using artificial constructs for your online advertising. In essence, there is no such thing as a brand ad online, nor is there a direct response ad. They are both the same and something else simultaneously. In the end it all depends on what you are measuring ads by, and that’s what takes us back to the fundamental dilemma of online advertising. What we can measure is not what we should be measuring. Your supposed “direct response” ad may actually be driving your metrics better than your brand ad.
So how does this affect us? Well, the recent efforts by McDonald’s, Burger King and Klondike illustrate: all three brands recently brought back their best (and best-known) campaigns with a digital twist. What’s going on here? Are online advertising and user-generated content really more about riffing off established ideas than starting from scratch?
Until we solve the problem with measurability and educate everyone in our industry about the dynamics of intent when it comes to product branding and purchase, then the answer is a definitive yes!
So what do you do? How does your brand leverage those offline branding efforts more effectively? Well, if you are a big offline brand marketer, you do what McDonald’s is doing. Its meme assets run deep within consumers’ heads, and it has the advantage of products that impact the senses of taste and smell.
The smell of McDonald’s fries has to be one of the most powerful branding forces in the world because it evokes memories that were long dormant. The jingle for the Big Mac is something that anyone between 30 and 50 years old can probably recite by heart. It is just sitting there, dormant in the cortex, waiting to be remembered. With the jingle come all the past McDonald’s experiences saved in the memory, and when those synaptic pathways fire again, you think of McDonald’s as the happy, inviting and fun place from your youth. You cannot help but smile when you think of the jingle. Campaigns like this have been buried by brands for years, but if you start to dig, they are a branding goldmine to leverage.
So what do you do if you do not have large branding campaigns, or you are a very small advertiser with a niche market who is only using print and outdoor? Look, all of you have assets. You all have things your consumers know you for. It may not even be a campaign done by you, but instead a spoof of your product done by someone else. Leverage that. See what you can do to tap into the existing information about your brand that exists within consumers’ heads. Start smaller and more niche.
Most small advertisers have been using guerilla advertising for years because they do not have the huge budgets of the larger shops. I’ll let you in on a secret: they’re usually better strategic marketers than those at the big brands. Why? Because they have to be more efficient. They cannot afford to waste ad dollars. Take that expertise if you have it. It translates very well to UGC and social media campaigns.
Now all you have to do is kill the lawyers in your company who panic at those two forms of advertising. Like I say, “It’s always better to ask forgiveness than permission.” If you are not willing to take more risks, then you are going to be in for a world of hurt — and a new job — because these aspects of digital will explode over the next three years.
Look into your brand attic. Find what resonated at one point. Use those assets, that strategy, those insights and tap the dormant goldmine within your consumers to create a buzz online. Those assets will start a debate and stir memories and emotions. Debate translates into viral distribution, and all of it translates into efficient online branding. Yes, you may not be creating an entirely new brand identity, but you shouldn’t be, and if you tried, you would merely fall flat. The efficiency gains that come from tapping into the brand attic bring you much closer toward moving out of the direct response closet and into the light of branding.
But what if you are a startup? You probably launched that startup because you saw a need in the market. Either that or you’re an idiot who got funding for no sound reason. You’d be surprised how much that happens. Venture capitalists do not have a lock on what will be the next great thing. In fact, they are often some of the most delusional of the bunch. But they understand that only one in a few of their investments needs to hit. It’s a probability game — not an insight into technology or the marketplace — and the more they understand, the better their odds.
But for you, it’s one shot or nothing. If you were self-funded or funded on sound market analysis, then use that market analysis. What are your consumers craving? Your advertising should do what your site or product does. Tap into the need of the market you are going after. Your task, especially if you are entering a competitive marketplace, is to break the consumer’s addiction to the brand leaders. Find the chink in these brands’ armor that can be pried open, and leverage that as your ad insight. If a consumer can’t differentiate between you and another brand, then you stand for nothing. To achieve the type of branding that translates into success, consumers need that “thing” to insert into their grey matter when they compartmentalize your brand.
When it comes to utilizing online for branding and developing a long-term strategy to accomplish that, we’re all still cretins and luddites flinging crap at the screen. So after tapping into your brand attic, how do you get your brand on track for establishing a long term strategy to accomplish branding goals, while existing in a very data intensive direct response mindset? Next week I will introduce you to a dual formula approach to accomplish just that.
ranty rant signing off…
Can online ever pack the same emotional punch as television advertising? Here are six obstacles that stand in the way.
McDonalds recently brought back its Big Mac jingle as a MySpace UGC contest, while Klondike and Burger King made similar moves. Is Madison Avenue out of ideas, or is there a deeper, cultural force that marketers are trying to tap into? Are online advertising and user-generated content really more about riffing off established ideas rather than starting from scratch?
In this three-part X Factor, I tackle some fundamental problems with branding online and show why we may all be doomed as an advertising medium if we are not careful.
In part 1, I’ll discuss the major differences between digital and the most emotive of offline forces — television — and talk about why its ability to brand is far superior to anything we have devised digitally. In part 2, I will explain why McDonalds, Klondike and Burger King are poised to tap their brand history in ways other brands can’t, and which types of brands should be leveraging user-generated content to augment, rather than brand. In part 3, I will introduce a way to avoid being stuck in a direct response world online, and offer a relatively simple dual-formula approach you can use to get your programs on track, use the online medium effectively and start to break down the barriers consumers face in adopting your brand.
Television vs. online for branding
Ok, let’s establish one thing first. None of us know what we’re doing. The problem is not just Madison Avenue and the offline luddites who ignored digital for too long and now pitch their high-cost, low-impact, award-designed work to clients. Everyone in digital is the problem. Ok, I’ll be a little nicer to you all. None of you are the real problem. It’s our medium itself that is the problem; and the available advertising opportunities are the biggest barriers to creating the impact that every digital marketer envisions.
Problem 1: lean back vs. lean forward.
Television is a “lean back” medium. What I mean by that is you sit back and the content gets delivered to you. It is “passive consumption.” In a passive consumption medium, the user’s grey matter, that lump of flesh on top of your neck, is more receptive to advertising.
The internet, on the other hand, is a “lean forward” medium. The majority of consumption online is a quest to get to an end-goal — an informational tidbit. The internet is merely the conduit to it. The way you consume during that journey and your receptivity to advertising during that process determines the “annoyance factor” of online advertising. Online ads are roadblocks, speed bumps, mosquitoes buzzing in your ear that distract you on the journey to your end goal. We watch television to be entertained and have information “delivered” to us. We go online to seek out information and “fetch” it. A lean-back medium is one in which the cognitive brain takes a back seat to the emotional input. It is a slow absorption, and those emotions build up as the story unfolds. Because the context remains consistent during a television program, the interruption of a commercial has more of an impact. It jolts the mind. Online is a flit-flit-flit medium of constantly changing context and imagery. The context itself — the background noise to the advertising — is constantly in flux and thus often drowns out the advertising.
Problem 2: Long-form sensory immersion limbic impact vs. short-term cortex non-cognitive consumption.
This mumbo-jumbo means that, as a passive consumptive medium, television has the ability to stir highly powerful emotions in us. Highly emotional states secure an experience within the neural pathways in your brain, enabling you to recall that experience in a powerful way.
The user may not even be aware of the connection, but when a really powerful commercial hits us, be it “I want to be a yes man” from Monster, “Where’s the beef?” from Wendy’s, “I’d like to teach the world to sing” from Coke or even “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” that impact subconsciously makes us recall those jingles, songs and phrases. When you think of them in your brain, even silently, your hear them. “Where’s the beef?” is not said as a deadpan copy line; it’s “Where’s the Beef?” Those emotive, high impact phrases transcend the medium.
And it is not just positive emotional impact that makes connections. HeadOn’s “HeadOn, apply it directly to the forehead” produces annoyance and a jittery feeling throughout my body. I tense up and want to punch the television. But, for new product introductions, especially for a product that has a different application method, those emotions are powerful. Many marketers mistake hating an ad for hating a product. I may hate the ad and it may annoy every small fiber in my body, but anger and hate are powerful emotions. I hate the commercial, but the product? Eh, I know what it does, so when the need for it or another headache medicine arises, I may give it a try.
When ads reach this level of resonance they become memes and propagate throughout society like a virus, transcending the television medium via word-of-mouth transference. In other words, free advertising. When’s the last time you had an emotional reaction to an online ad? Online ads rarely impact the limbic system, but remain as cognitive cortex thoughts. You take in the information, which is good, but it lacks the emotional resonance. You can repeat back those tidbits of information as facts, but again, the emotional connection to the brand is missing. It is the difference between saying, “that online ad made me laugh,” (a cortex statement) and “that television ad gave me a warm feeling inside, and then made my body shiver,” (a limbic statement). Connecting advertising to the limbic feelings in the consumer’s body is more likely with media like television, which impacts the senses in an immersive fashion, thereby aiding recall.
Problem 3: Interruptive vs. peripheral
Television is an interruptive advertising medium. The content surrounds the commercial break, but does not intrude on it.
The majority of online is advertising is peripheral in nature — existing on the same page as the content being consumed.
The difference is that we are receptive to interruptive advertising in lean-back, passive consumption mediums, but not in lean-forward, active consumption ones.
A consumer’s annoyance with interruptive forms of advertising increases with the degree of active consumption, and it is this discrepancy that most marketers ignore at their own peril. Interruptive techniques can be used very effectively online, but be careful to acknowledge the consumer’s mindset when doing so. Orbitz is a prime example of this. Its use of pop-unders as an entertainment distraction helped it brand without cramming an informational message down consumers’ throats.
Problem 4: Content vs. entertainment
Television is primarily an entertainment medium, not an informational one. Granted, The Discovery Channel, TLC and other channels do a good job of expanding what we know about the planet and people on it, but their audiences are small compared to the dullards who watch “American Idol.” These people are being entertained, not educated. Well, unless they look deeper and see the educational value of… uh… ummm… uhhhh… crap, I’m trying, but there’s nothing deeper to learn there.
Entertainment media are passively consumed, while informational ones are actively consumed. This puts the most common forms of online advertising at a distinct disadvantage.
Problem 5: Shared vs. solo experiences
Get your mind out of the gutter. This is serious. The communal nature of television means it is often a shared experience, as opposed to the singular consumption model of the internet. You often watch TV in groups, but when is the last time you sat at a computer in a group to share the experience? You usually just fire off an email. The information is shared, but at disparate moments.
The shared aspect of television creates a communal bond with the viewers. Appointment television, like sporting events, create high emotional context and group-think imprinting, as opposed to individualistic consumption (due to the highly euphoric limbic nature of consumption). And even though the actual consumption of television can be singular (you may watch television alone at night) the shared aspects of key water-cooler programs (“Lost,” “American Idol,” etc.) heighten the emotional impact during consumption. Even though you are alone, the consumption is being shared with like-minded individuals. Texts, calls and IMs of “Did you just see that?!” happen in this medium, but are largely absent on the internet. The IM is the conduit of that message, not the emotional messenger.
Problem 6: The cost and the tipping point
I often hear the argument about the high cost of television advertising in comparison to online. I hear it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a valid statement or I agree with it for branding. It is a factual statement: “A television commercial costs more to produce than a banner.” Television is more expensive — vastly so — on the production end. However, it has some unique advantages over online.
Once a commercial is produced, it takes fewer resources to scale it for mass reach. It can be tested locally and, if it gains relevance, expanded nationally with increased money and media planning. The traffic requirements alone make online scaling an often arduous process, unless you are scaling within individual properties, which often limits the market and opportunity. Most brands cannot afford television, and those that can’t usually adapt their marketing process over the years with guerilla PR efforts and word of mouth. Those brands do the best job utilizing online and UGC practices for branding because they were never reliant on the emotional impact of television to begin with.
The problem for most companies that can afford TV advertising is that they often approach the two media the same way. How many 15-second TV spots just get adapted for pre- and mid-roll within video content? Why? Because it’s easy.
These brands also fail when they spend massive amounts on use banners, believing that if they invest the dollars, the cost advantages of online and the millions of impressions will be cumulative. Nothing could be further from the truth. The temporary nature of online advertising means it dissipates quickly, and so you are filling a bucket with a leaky bottom.
There is a point at which the combination of the impact made by the creative and the saturation of that advertising is either going to reach a tipping point or not. (I can’t believe I just used that phrase. Damn you Malcolm Gladwell!) In some cases, no amount of online advertising will achieve a tipping point, for it is transient in nature. In time, the closer the impression count, the more impact. It is a balancing act to find the impression over time that has the most impact. With all the previously mentioned issues, it is much harder to create an emotional resonance leading to positive brand recall by only using online, therefore making it more difficult to create buzz that breaks through.
What leads us all to the brands we use — that first brand touch — is often the powerful, emotionally-resonating force that keeps us with that brand, and that emotive force is often television. Television has an advantage when imprinting that first brand meme. For online advertising, including UGC, leveraging past assets of existing brand resonance with consumers is much more efficient and productive than trying to gain brand relevance around a new concept or idea. Brands not on TV have long found ways to get their product and message into consumers’ hands by using guerilla methods. How are you going to figure out how to use the branding your television has been imparting on consumers using online? And what if you don’t do any television? Can you still leverage stuff that has been sitting in your brand attic?
Next week I tackle what McDonalds, Klondike and Burger King are doing, and why they have an advantage.
ranty rant signing off…
Like most kings, the consumer can be greedy, selfish and out of touch with the world. So why are marketers still working with ad formats that offer our products for free?
We’ve all thought it on the publisher side, the agency side and the client side; and sometimes we have wanted to rant about it out loud. Who do consumers think they are? Seriously? Consumers are greedy, selfish, self-absorbed and don’t get it. They want everything for free. Do they understand that we are not here so they can steal from all of us? No. There’s a value exchange, but they don’t seem to think that they owe anything to that value exchange, and we tolerate it.
Why? Because the pace of technological adoption outstripped the pace of luddites controlling those companies to understand what was happening. Apple proved with iTunes that if you develop a good product and make it easy to use, consumers will gladly pay for the music, or the movie. It’s just not worth the hassle to steal it at a good enough price point. But the greedy execs wanted to put a stranglehold on content, and the consumer just didn’t want to play their game. And this is where we ended up. With a consumer that says, “Oh, I’ll pay for it if I like it, but I want it first.” You don’t want to pay for the new Jay-Z album? Ok, but get off your butt and go paint his living room, you selfish jerk. And while you are there, tell Beyonce that she shouldn’t get paid a few million to be in “Dreamgirls,” too. Maybe she’ll give you a few bucks to buy your popcorn the next time you go to the movies.
Why are we all trying to figure out ways to give our product away for free anyway? Aren’t we devaluing the content overall? When someone asked me at a streaming media conference what would happen when people were able to fast forward through a pre-roll, I asked him back, “Why would we ever let them do that? Didn’t we learn anything from TV and TiVo?” Better ad formats? Sure. But no ads? No way. But we need those better ad formats! It’s the type of ads we are giving them. We are annoying them. We are even annoying each other. It’s not that we have gotten complacent. It’s a combination of public company pressures on short-term goals, and senior level luddites not wanting to risk their fat cat salaries. It is a toxic formula that breeds an aversion to change.
As I have mentioned before, pre-roll, for lack of a better word, sucks. It is a holdover from lazy traditional thinking. Can we all just agree to adopt ScanScout’s technology and move on? In fact, all of our ad formats basically suck. It’s a problem with our technology and the way we consumerize it. Very few companies, MySpace being one of them, are bridging the gap of content and advertising, and how marketers support all of this. The subscription model is just fundamentally flawed online because the information, in vast quantities, is so available in other places that the consumer is just unwilling to pay for exclusive content. Yes, exclusive content is a value add, but most of it is just not enough of a value add that we are willing to foot the bill. In offline, consumers don’t really comprehend that the vast amount of content they get is repeated and reused, with just an added smidgeon of exclusivity. Online, this is readily apparent.
Very few companies understand that if we cannot solve the digital content consumption paradox, our industry will be in for a world of hurt. The reason? The more we go to support all of this with advertising, the more vulnerable we all in this industry are. Why?
When money gets tight, when companies are hurting, we all know the first place many of them go to solve their problem… slashing the ad budget. That is because in the corporate economy of publicly traded companies, being a slave to the quarterly stock price often takes precedence over long-term company goals. We are witnessing that right now. Fortunately, we have two things working in our favor this time. One, our industry is fundamentally measurable, and a bit more proven this downturn. And accountants love measurable; so hopefully the offline world will take the brunt of the hit. The other thing that may save us in 2008 is that it is an election year, and election money has an expiration date.
It’s not just limited to the internet world, it extends to all things digital. Look at what we’ve done with the cell carriers. They are all trying to lock people into exclusive value-add offerings that, guess what, no one is buying. Does any major call carrier have the balls to just open up its network and allow us to run the apps we want? GPS? RFID payment systems? Open API’s? Why in the most technologically advanced nation in the world — the one that created the internet economy — do we not have 3G phone access? Why can we not pay for vending machines, subway tickets or movie tickets with our cellphones via a simple text or a wave of the phone. Oh that’s right, now we’ve looped in our financial industry and the consortium of Visa, Mastercard and American Express. Maybe Visa’s now being public will start to break the mold, but American Express has been a public company for years. Why is it not partnering with a major cell-carrier or, even better, making an open standard for payment so that we can ALL use it?
Because when you get right down to it, it’s not about the consumer’s choice, or even all consumers. What companies care about is their consumer, and how to balance their satisfaction as it relates to profit. In fact, it is more a strategy of preventing attrition to other carriers, companies or sites than it is about true customer satisfaction.
Who do consumers think they are? They think that we’re all trying to take advantage of them, lock them in, control them and then maximize our profit from them while managing their discontent. And you know what? They’re right. No wonder they’re stealing from us.
The halo of an offline brand may extend to the brand property online, but it does not fully extend to the value of that property for advertising. Here’s why.
What is it with traditional offline brands that carry a delusional dream of their brand halo when it comes to selling advertising online? There may be some great business reasons that ESPN came up with for removing online ad networks from filling its online inventory. The quality of the advertisers diluted the company brand. It wanted to command higher CPM’s. There are lots of reasons. Granted, they are all the ramblings of n00bs, but they are reasons.
Regardless, ESPN may smile all the way to the bank on this one. The company will improve the quality of its advertisers, and if it can sell everything at premium pricing, good for ESPN. In fact, ESPN may even rally some other publishers to join its cadre to beat back the expansion of online ad networks. But why would this succeed? Not because ESPN’s ad placements are better. Not because it has found the secret of impacting consumers online. Not because the value to the buyer is more.
Why then? Because the marketers buying that inventory don’t understand online advertising.
Why shouldn’t they pay that higher premium? Because the halo of an offline brand may extend to the brand property online, but it does not fully extend to the value of that property for advertising. Here’s why…
On television, ESPN controls immersive content, great programming and shows. It captures a specific audience at a specific time. If you want to reach that audience, at that specific time, you have to buy from ESPN. And what you buy has emotional impact. You sit back… content… content… content… COMMERCIAL… content… content. That commercial takes over the experience, and you lean back and consume it. It has high-quality video and audio that can evoke emotional responses in the way that online advertising cannot. And those emotional experiences carry weight over online.
There is show loyalty, celebrity loyalty and an association that consumers make with that show host. It is an emotional connection for them, and that connection is difficult to break. If the show or personality moves to another network, often so does the viewer.
Offline is content. Online is information. In the lean-forward world of online, advertising exists amongst a bevy of other information on the screen. It is not interruptive as with television, but peripheral to that information — information you are there to retrieve, focus on. But the truth is that much of that information is available someplace else. Even worse, the better the content that’s on a site, the more the consumer is focusing on the content and less on getting your ad message.
Think about that. The “Tiffany” effect of brand association that works offline can actually have a negative corollary online. The emotional tie to the content and the property that they have online is not as strong. That is why many of the subscription models have failed for paid content online.
Many properties that were originally subscription-based have, or are in the process of, opening up their walled gardens because the content online was not compelling enough to sustain the subscription model. Now, if the content wasn’t compelling enough to sustain the subscription model, it’s not compelling enough to transfer the brand halo to premium pricing. They may be able to charge for it, but is it worth it? Luckily for them, many will think so. But many people do it because they know the property and have approvers above them who know the property. They are an agency that presents it because they know you’ll know the property, and your approvers may not understand the myriad nuances of online media.
All I am saying is to think about your media planning a lot more online. Because unlike offline, I can reach that exact consumer somewhere else. I have the ability to target not just that exact profile of consumer, but that exact consumer that has visited a competitor’s site. I can scoop them up across the web at fractions on the dollar.
This may be a great win for ESPN, and at least it has the chutzpah to take a stand, but I’m going to check out who buys that high-priced inventory and short that company’s stock.
ranty rant signing off…
The media paradox
Haven’t you heard? The traditional way of marketing and advertising is dead. It’s not about the 30-second television spot, print, or radio or even out-of-home. Ok, maybe it is still about out-of-home. It’s about reaching consumers with techniques that resonate and make an impact. The internet and digital devices are where those consumers are spending their time, and digital methods of reaching them are where the brand should be spending its budget.
Uh, yeah, right.
Welcome to the reality of the media paradox. It’s not that there is anything inherently fallible in that statement — over time…a loooong time — but why, then, have there been so few inroads in the way that brands reach people through digital? Why is the interactive agency still often an adjunct to the process?
Why, when 30 percent of media consumption is digital, is it only 5 percent of total ad spending? The interactive agency and the traditional agency offer a unique combination of services to serve the client’s business. If they could only coexist without trying to cannibalize each other’s business, maybe it would make all of our lives a little easier.
There are a number of ways to look at this, and there is no single answer on how to get more involved. However, there is one constant: the traditional agency. If you are not getting involved early enough in the process, you have no one to blame but yourself. If you seek to understand the client’s business and barriers to growth and structure your ideas around that instead of pitching what you think they should do, there is not an intelligent brand out there that will not listen.
Unfortunately, not all brands have the most intelligent people at their marketing helm. However, even the biggest brand marketing noob knows more about their brand than the agencies.
But how do the agencies themselves view the issue? And are we viewing the marketing landscape through an agency model that no longer exists?
No longer the traditional agency
Agencies on both sides are scrambling to reassemble the Great Schism of when traditional agencies ignored the internet and others swooped in to fill their place. The traditional agencies had rested on their laurels, and ignored it. Creatives didn’t want to sully themselves with what they viewed as little more than direct response; and new agencies — who were all things digital — swooped in. The traditional agency did not have the internet talent or technical understanding, and the interactive shops did not have the experience and understanding of brand marketing. But during that process over the last 10 years, something else changed: the way traditional agencies look at advertising.
Winston Binch, executive integrated producer at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, says, “For us, it’s not so much about including interactive early in the process but rather ensuring that the work is interactive in nature. After all, interactive is not just a digital idea. We strive to create popular culture conversations in and around the brands on all the work we do. That means taking a media agnostic approach and focusing on the ideas and overall engagement rather than thinking in terms of TV, print, radio and web as separate entities.”
“From an executional perspective, we develop experiences that encourage sharing. This is done by being relevant and in the right places, staying simple and focused, having a strong and clear narrative and allowing for personal interaction and expression. It’s not just an exercise in marketing. It’s a sociological study and an engagement with anthropology and pop culture.”
“And while not all media types are inherently interactive, if you tell a good story across platforms with multiple interactive touchpoints, you can successfully create a consumer interaction around the brand.”
There is no one traditional agency structure. So why do interactive shops approach their client relationships the same way for each of their clients? Each of them has a different traditional agency, with a different business process. Seek to understand the way the traditional shop does business, and how they view the interactive agency, then you can adapt their process so that you are more involved in the client’s actual strategy.
Once complete noobs in all things digital, the shift at traditional agencies and the creatives’ new attitudes toward the medium have them fighting back to reclaim the church. Having a good relationship with your client is one thing, having it with the other agency is just as important.
Operate as an island at your own peril.
Client education of media planners
The client is often unaware of the ever-expanding universe of media options. Merely helping to educate your client well enough for them to communicate up the internal ladder serves a vital purpose and helps cement your role as a necessary component of the brand.
Vince Quilici, group account director at Agency.com, views it this way: “The easiest way for us to discuss this with our clients is to talk about it on consumers’ terms. Consumers interact today with media in a non-linear fashion, through the use of podcasts, DVRs, on-demand cable and online, to name a few options. It used to be that marketers had a good chance of reaching a majority of consumers via relatively few media selections. Moreover, they could dictate how a media campaign progressed (e.g., from TV to print or from one campaign idea to another). Now that the media landscape is so fragmented, there is a good chance that consumers may see an ad only in one medium and maybe only once. Therefore, it makes sense to think of brand communication in holistic terms, which is why we believe interactive needs to be included in the early stages, especially since the brand idea may spring from online and translate well to other media.”
Often just telling clients what’s available does not get you invited to the table early enough. When educating the client, do not just seek to show them the options, but attempt to explain to them what it means for their current strategy. The traditional agency may have presented a plan that does not include you, with various GRP levels and touchpoints. What you need to do is layer in the actual frequency and impression levels and the emotional context of that impression.
The advantage that the interactive agency has is the level of data specificity and tracking. Use it.
Develop a strategic media matrix for the client with options that they have at their disposal. Include all media, not just digital ones, and place your and the traditional agency’s current programs in it. Find out what the client’s overarching strategies are on the barriers that their brand needs to overcome to break through. There are usually between three and eight strategies, like these for a soda brand: “Disrupt the heavy sleep drinkers (those who choose a competitor brand out of habit)” “Communicate points of difference (taste, health, etc…),” and others.
Every brand marketer should have them. If they don’t, then you have a lot more to worry about than being involved early on in their process because most likely they do not have a process other than repetition — doing what they have always done because it has predictable results. In 10 years, those are brand marketers who do not have 10 years experience; they have one year of experience 10 times. Unfortunately there are a number of brand marketers who fit into this category. And that is one of the reasons why the shift to alternative mediums is taking longer. Lazy, unintelligent, clients.
Another reason traditional media dominates is scalability. A single commercial needs to be produced once, yet it can run across any television or cable buy in the country. And if it’s driving the consumer’s business, it can be ramped up or scaled on spend and impact. No creative changes, no extra production, not even a thought to anyone but who is handling the media.
You need to construct something that demonstrates to the client that you are key to loop in early in the process, or at least that you need to be a fly on the wall during that process.
One way to do that is to develop the matrix of their options. What are the issues with each of the possible media that the client can choose? There are numerous things that will be specific to each client, but a good place to start is with the implications for any medium:
How well can the program be scaled if successful? What are the barriers to scaling? Will there be additional production or client resources?
What are the client resources needed to manage the program? (The client does not care how many of your resources it takes, only their own.)
If not scalable, can the program be run again with the same impact? Or can it be replicated with someone else?
What does success look like? What is the strategy that medium best tackles? And how well does it drive that strategy?
How should it be measured ? How will it be measured? (The difference between what you should and can measure as a proxy.)
Involve yourself at the strategic level with the client and you are involved early in the process. If you are a smaller agency that is one of many, then involve yourself with the agency that involves itself in the strategy of the client. Help that agency develop the matrix.
Do they even need the traditional agency… or you?
The role of agencies in the client relationship is changing so rapidly that you must adapt or die. But that is usually one of the hallmarks of the interactive shop; more so than the traditional agency. The measurability of media and impact to a client’s brand has massively expanded. Many of the media tools that have become staples online are now adapting themselves to the offline world. Instead of mall surveys, companies like ForeSee and others can not only compile the survey online but track the user’s behavior across your site to see if they did what they said they were going to do. Instead of conducting focus groups — proxies influenced by their participation — there are now tools to measure buzz like Cymphony or Nielsen BuzzMetrics to get at the undercurrent. Smaller clients now have tools like Spot Runner to completely remove the agency altogether, moving those smaller clients out of small print work and into television. Tools that were originally developed for search engine marketing have now expanded into radio, print and television.
Sanem Erucar, director of strategic planning for IAC writes, “I think it is less about ‘convincing’ them and more about creating tools that will enable them do their job better and more effectively. Google is currently doing this. They are taking offline spend and optimizing it online. In essence, they are a one-stop agency where one can say, ‘Here is $5M, tell them how I should allocate across radio, newspaper, TV, brand and search.’ If one can offer [the client] a holistic solution, one does not need to fight for fixing organizational processes in each business. The businesses will adjust for the optimal solution out there.”
The encroachment on traditional agencies has been happening for decades. Direct mail, event marketing, media buying and public relations all spawned entire industries of their own, independent from the agency. Those shifts, however, were not consumer shifts in media consumption, but just untapped expansions or efficiencies in the existing media landscape. Digital media is different.
Look at what your brand is doing with its budget for advertising, all of its budget for advertising. Bring in the tools that will help the client do their business, demonstrate value to the client and get involved early in the process.
What’s the Big Idea?
For the last 10 years, traditional agencies have tried to “do” interactive. Interactive agencies would laugh at them. The traditional shop was just filled with too many people who didn’t use the technology so it was almost impossible for them to come up with much that actually drove the clients’ business. They would get notoriety for one big thing that went viral, try and replicate it and usually fail.
But now the old guard of agency creative curmudgeons has left. The new creative staffs at many of these “traditional” shops are very familiar with the technology, the nuances, and the industry itself has become easier, with standards. The gap to drive the clients’ business goals is closing, if not already shut. While at one point in time the traditional agency was almost forbidden by the client to present interactive ideas, now many traditional shops go toe-to-toe with their interactive counterpart, and usually with a lot more agency resources behind them. They often do involve the interactive shop to produce the best work for the client, and many have realized that if the client wins, every agency wins.
It’s no longer about producing banners and getting clicks but producing measurable work that drives the overarching brand positioning and executing on the strategies to break down consumer adoption of your product and brand.
Michael Delauhousaye, director of business development for Tribal DDB, says, “In today’s market, above-the-line agencies are getting the interactive folks involved early on. (If they are not, they are now in the minority.) The challenge now is about attitude and knowledge. If the account planner/strategist and creative lead look at the interactive piece as something that will get ‘bolted’ on the campaign, then they are clearly not getting it.”
“As the team conceptualizes the ‘Big Idea,’ they have to really understand how interactive is part of the total direction. Technology understanding is so important by the entire team. Digital marketing needs to live in places way beyond a simple micro-site or banner in today’s marketing. Is the idea going to make it into communities and blogs, if not, why not? Can content be peeled out of the executions and live on people’s MySpace page or on a site like YouTube? Is the idea deep enough to collect email addresses and keep the relationship going with a segment or multiple segments for the audience? There are many more elements that have to be part of the concepting process to ensure that campaigns are really leveraging the web. It’s about taking the ‘Big Idea’ and giving it life beyond the glitzy spread or the intriguing billboard, and especially beyond the TV ad.”
In order to get involved with the client earlier on the process, you have to throw out your preconceived notions that the client cares which agency does what. They want to drive their business. They do not care with whom. So when you battle each other, do not coordinate presentations, do not update the other agency or involve them in your calls because the only person you are hurting is your client. Worry too much about your proprietary this, or trade secrets that, and you may find yourself without a client. Reach out to the traditional shop, involve yourself, be the bigger agency, and when it comes time for the client to make an agency change, they’ll remember that and often take you to the new relationship.
And that gets you involved really early in the process.
Be the bigger agency
The process isn’t linear. It never is. Never will be. It’s all perspective. So getting involved early doesn’t matter because there is never an “early” to get involved in. Everyone is working their tails off trying to get everything they can get done, done, and still have a semblance of a life. The client, the traditional agency, the interactive agency, etc. Just remember that for the client it doesn’t end there. There’s the PR agency, the event marketing company, their media agency, as well as several other shops.
So the next time you want to bitch about not being involved in the process early enough, ask yourself: Is my interaction with the client limited to presentations, boards and IOs? Am I working off a core strategy when I present ideas? Or am I just developing what I think would be awesome?
If so, you are neither servicing the client well, nor providing them with the input they need to achieve their goals.
Stop producing boards. Start producing strategies. Be the bigger agency.
Listen to the client, and for goodness sake, try and make the client’s job easier by providing them with the tools they need to make you a better agency. You are but one cog in the machine. Try not to mess up the works by having turf wars with the traditional agency.
ranty rant signing off…
How heavy are your cookies?
You’re driving and pass a billboard for that new phone. You probably should be concentrating on driving, but there it is: a beautiful woman and that phone. You don’t even notice that you nearly drove the car next to you into the guard rail. It’s OK, they didn’t notice either, because they were talking to someone on that phone. You park your car, and there she is again on that bus shelter with that phone. You get your mail and walk inside. Junk mail, bill, bill, junk mail, junk mail… hmmm… that phone. Pause. More junk mail, a letter from the IRS. Long pause. More junk mail. Trash. You’re left with four pieces of mail, one of which you are not opening. You go online to pay your bills, and bam, there’s a banner ad with that phone. Click.
What caused that conversion? Everything. You know that. So why don’t you view your online marketing efforts the same way?
You have eight different online campaigns running in addition to your SEM — a rich media banner, an interstitial, a video running on Google’s display network, a homepage takeover, an email campaign and four different flash banners.
Your consumer is reading their news online. He sees a banner. He gets a cookie. He goes to another site to check out baseball scores. He sees a rich media banner — cookie. He sees another banner — another cookie. He goes to his favorite site. Homepage takeover — cookie. He gets a link from a friend and checks it out. He sees another banner — another cookie. He finally types in your URL. Bingo! Site visit!
So, what caused that conversion? Again, you know that it’s the mass, and again, why is almost every online marketer looking at their online creative in isolation? It’s the cookies. Every cookie replaces every other cookie before it. The only cookie you see when someone lands at your site is from that banner execution you hate, so you sit in weekly meeting after weekly meeting with your agency going over the same mind-numbing creative performance matrix. And then? You report it up. The last cookie wins. Ugh.
In this “last cookie wins” environment, we all lose. As long as it exists, partially savvy marketers who optimize their campaigns based on cookie metrics will naturally gravitate to those elements that have the most impression weight against them, like that hateful banner. Smaller campaigns can get drowned out by larger ones. High volumes of impressions in one place can steal all the cookies from your smaller “test” campaigns, leaving them with paltry performance.
Shouldn’t a cookie for your homepage-takeover carry more significant weight than your lowly skyscraper? Shouldn’t video do the same? You know that the little online button has less influence than the homepage takeover, but if they both drop a cookie, they are viewed by your tracking system as the same — they have the same “weight.” Moreover, the weight of the cookie combined with the number of impressions against it acts like myriad cookie thieves. It is why when you run your homepage takeover or very immersive rich media creative, the performance of your lowly banners seems to improve. It’s not the creative or the placement that are improving; it’s just that they are stealing the good will of other online advertising.
Brand creative vs. direct response
Now that I’ve sufficiently disparaged the last cookie, let me pour more kerosene on the fire and say that there is no such thing as an online brand ad or an online direct response ad. Period. It does not make a difference. They are artificial constructs, hold-overs from traditional advertising.
“Huh?” you say. I know you want to skewer me for that one, but hear me out. There’s logic to my madness and a point to all this.
The common view is that direct response creative is designed to elicit a measurable response, and that brand ads are designed to change attitudes. But if you think about it for just a moment, if your brand ad doesn’t change attitudes that translate into eliciting a measurable response, it’s not doing your brand one bit of good. You know that. So stop differentiating, unless it’ll make you feel better knowing that everyone now has a positive view of your brand as you go out of business.
It’s not necessarily your fault. The hold-over comes from direct response in offline, where ads are designed for trackability and specificity — that offline direct mail piece with a special offer. A consumer gets it in the mail and responds. Bingo! It’s tracked back to the source ID of mailing, catalog or coupon book… of an individual. A television infomercial running spot ZIP codes in PRIZM clusters results in a consumer picking up the phone. There is a conversion cycle to direct response offline. When someone responds, you know who it is. You figure out your cost to produce the offer, count the orders or layer in the conversion rate, and voila. X in, Y out and a bunch of Zs who you can now remarket to because you have their contact info.
But the brand’s television commercial, radio or outdoor ad that just communicates “Phone. Sexy.” has no individually trackable conversion cycle because you never know when an individual is exposed. You only have group data. Econometric modeling indicates media weights that increase responses, sales, etc… but it is in the meta. You don’t know who it is.
That’s where the fallacy of classifying things the same way in online advertising emerges. Online, you can track brand ads: who saw them and who responded. An individual (OK, an IP, stop being picky). You can also track how their attitudes change with exposed and non-exposed groups with as much, or more accuracy, than you can track with many direct-response programs offline. When you plug into the internet, your cookies are you. It’s not the creative that defines whether something is a direct response ad or a brand ad. It is the medium and the trackability of individuals in that medium.
Do you see where I’m going with this yet? That is why attribution is crucial. Because you can track creative of various types, and impact, it is crucial that the combinations of exposures are better understood. So, the next time you hear someone say “It’s a brand ad,” when you ask about measurement, look at them calmly and say, “You’re an idiot. Now let me tell you why.”
The two-cookie conundrum
Online marketers have adopted offline methodologies and terminologies because it’s the only universally understood way to justify being able to produce something that is richer, more communicative, more immersive and capable of driving a shift in consumer attitude. They couch it under the auspices of “It’s a brand ad.” They separate their campaigns into direct response and brand advertising.
I understand the need to speak a universal language with the folks wielding offline dollars, but the problem is that online marketers are still judging performance on cookie data. As a result, brand advertising gets reported on with the same metrics as the rest, and when cost is layered in, online tanks in comparison.
Granted, some marketers use two different cookies for these purposes, but that’s akin to creating two admission lines at a club and separating pretty and ugly people into groups before they walk through the same door, but the pretty people pay four times as much for the privilege of getting in. In that environment, the last cookie in each group still wins, because consumers in the club still have just as much chance going home with an ugly person as a pretty one.
Artificial assignment is dangerous. The banner you view as your direct response ad may actually be your best brand ad. It may communicate most effectively what your brand actually is, not what you want your brand to be. Most brand marketers have a very different view of what their brand is than their consumers do. That is because clients operate on a day-to-day level with their brand. They know it. Live it. It’s a closed universe. But your brand is not what you think it is. It’s not what your agency — or even your CEO — thinks it is.
It’s what your consumers think it is.
There are other ways to tackle attribution than the myopic view of clicks and view-thru. What every business should do is define what would make the campaign a success, and then ask how they can measure that. Unfortunately many brands do this after the fact. They look at the available data that they can get from running a campaign online and what the system has measured and then decide whether the campaign is a success. I cannot stress enough that a more strategic approach is necessary.
You must go beyond the metrics that are easily provided by ad delivery systems. You have to develop a metric that gives you the data you need to be actionable about your business, instead of just lifting that report on the number of users that a campaign drove in views and clicks every week. The reported metric must be quickly actionable. Often, people seek to get at every little piece of data. They want to know everything. That is fine, but you will end up being mired in data atrophy. Does it take months for you to get an internal report through on the long-term value of your users? Then do not build it into your ongoing metric and actionable reporting. Measure that quarterly so you stay on track. But anything that you build as your optimization metric must be able to be pulled and reported, tracked and acted upon quickly. Enough data is enough.
Back to our phone example: Are you introducing a new phone brand that no one has ever heard of? You want consumers to get familiar with the features of the device and check out content on your site about it; and you want to tie the metric into priming them for purchase. In this case, PPTI (pages [of content viewed] per thousand impressions) could give you how much information a user who has seen an online ad, and been cookied, has absorbed on your site.
Think of it as a proxy for consumption of information — priming consumers for conversion later in the cycle. You can optimize against that metric by modifying your creative and shifting your media plan. The trick is to use actionable metrics or even create ones for your business that go beyond the norm that you can optimize against.
Are you an online brand? A service? Do visits to site-per-consumer translate into income? You can use you own site data to track retention and the frequency with which users go to your site who have seen an ad. Are they coming back? How often? Layer in the cookie data and you have an exposed and a non-exposed group to track the differences in your user base. New visitors will have different performance characteristics from returning visitors. You can adapt your media plan and set target goals for the number of new users you acquire. Find an optimal balance of exposure.
How many times were your targets exposed to your online creative? More importantly, what combination of online creative were they exposed to and what creative is actually driving conversion?
Yes, that brings us back to attribution. There are a number of tools at your disposal to tackle those questions. It all depends on what you are measuring and what you are trying to accomplish. Here are some of them:
Advanced analytics systems like Visual Sciences can start to get at attribution. This tool can slosh through the multiple exposures and both feed data back into your own systems and absorb data from them. Do you have user data on someone who has one of your services but not another? A customer has cable, but not high-speed internet or a phone line? Why should you be wasting money serving ad impressions to that person for cable? Visual Sciences can identify these types of customers and deliver ads for just the services they don’t have through your ad serving system. Even better, it can identify people who have combinations of services, or no services at all, and help serve customized offers to that audience.
Basically, this is a way to circumvent attribution through custom delivery. The problem is if you’re serving multiple pieces of creative you still cannot acurately determine what the weight of each piece was in the conversion decision, but you can get at the cumulative effect and at least eliminate negative weight on the campaign. It’s analytic nirvana, but, of course, it comes at a price.
Ad serving sequencing
Ad serving systems like Atlas are starting to tackle this issue of the multiple effects of various pieces to your campaign with sequencing. Sequencing can be very effective in circumventing attribution because it immediately acknowledges that it is a cumulative effect. Do you have someone who has not been exposed to your online ad before? You should speak to them differently than someone who already comes to your site. Naturally, online is a bit more advanced than Burma-Shave, famous for its highway sequential postings. Remember “Every shaver / now can snore / six more minutes / than before / by using / Burma-Shave”? That won’t work online. You have to acknowledge previous banners in an attempt to move the customer along a conversion path toward your brand.
Phone introduction banner >> Phone lifestyle banner >> Phone feature banner >> Phone purchase banner >> Phone survey banner (served to nonresponders of “Phone purchase” banner with quick click in banner [not interested now / will never be interested / interested but not now keep me updated]
use results to negative match and remove users from system who will never be interested, for more efficient follow-up) >> Phone discount banner (Delayed serving of discount when available specifically targeted to those users who were interested but not now, and non-responders)
Sequencing allows you to model the cumulative effect of your online advertising, guide people along a path and control how someone is exposed to your brand. Attribution is eliminated because it is the cumulative effect that is important. The problem? You are creating the path for someone to follow: your path.
Creative performance and targeting
Creative performance optimization can be used to automate attribution. Systems like [x+1] can use creative optimization technology to maximize what you put into the system, but that is just using their algorithm to creatively optimize the most likely respondents. In essence, the system is deciding attribution for you. It can’t create better creative for you, or get at what the impact of that creative is on changing people’s perceptions. It can, however, put the creative your consumer is most likely to respond to in front of them. You are not shifting who your consumer is, or their perceptions, but you are getting the best odds that the ads you have will resonate with the most likely responders to those ads.
Running on TACODA’s network can enable you to behaviorally target your online advertising. They can provide you a chart that shows categories of users who are currently responding to your creative. Just remember to ask yourself if the consumers who are most likely to respond are the targets you need for long-term growth. If they’re not, then by using behavioral targeting you may be taking a performance hit on your advertising.
This is a reflection of what the consumer already believes your brand to be. Shifting perceptions, and attributing those shifts, takes different methods.
Tracking attitudinal shifts and customer satisfaction
If you want to track how your online creative is affecting your brand perception and measure the attitudinal impact of your online advertising, you can use cookie data, but only as a tool in conjunction with research. When the average clickthrough rate for a banner is less than 1 in 400 and average viewthrough is less than 1 in 50, cumulative attitudinal (non-clickthrough) impact through survey-based systems helps circumvent the single source attribution of the last cookie.
This is essentially what the system sees when all you track is clicks. Every box is an online ad, but all your system sees is the last one from the click. One red box. One user. Do you run all that advertising for that one red box? Of course not. Do all of the other impressions have an effect? Of course they do. So why aren’t you measuring it?
It gets a little better if you cookie everyone who sees an online ad. Every box is an online ad — one cookie. The yellow boxes are viewthroughs, consumers who saw an online ad and then went to your site, at around 1 percent. The lone red box is still that one consumer who clicked. It gets obvious fairly quickly that this is still very pathetic.
When you look at your online campaigns together — with every slightly shaded box representing a different piece of creative that you are running — you start to measure the overall impact of the creative, not as isolated banners, but each strategic piece, their frequencies, the messaging. All those cookies are important.
It is the combination of all three of these that shows you the real impact of your online advertising. When you implement a more holistic view of your online programs, you can rise above the myopic maximization of one data point, be it clickthrough or viewthrough, and start to optimize on what the work is actually doing for you in the macro.
Every brand should be tracking KPI (key performance indicators.) KPIs deal with the macro — the four or five main indicators in brand perception that translate into increased product usage. They are often integrated and layer up from a bevy of survey questions and more granular data.
The key thing is to have your survey data all layer up into core strategies. I have four strategic pillars that guide all of the work we do. Every program, every banner, every project must layer up into one of those four pillars for us to produce it, sponsor it, buy it, run it. Cascading down from that and into those pillars are the segments we target, the media we use to reach those segments, the measures we use, the metrics we judge the programs on and the creative we run against it. In this way, the strategies guide your creative, not the metrics. The metrics tell you how well, or how efficient, you are being in communicating them.
The creative you produce online should layer up; breaking down the barriers. If it doesn’t, you are not a strategic marketer, but just a creative optimizer. The survey data layered in enables you to track that movement in brand perception that translates to higher product usage online. How?
InsightExpress’ AdInsights enables you to measure the attitudinal impact of online advertising initiatives, by enabling tracking of some key attitudinal dimensions including: unaided/aided brand awareness, purchase intent, persuasion, brand favorability and more. It does this by presenting a survey to users on a number of different websites who were exposed to your online ad. On the same set of websites an identical survey is presented to individuals who were not exposed to your ad. The difference between the responses from the exposed group and the unexposed group is the attitudinal impact of your campaign. Results are concise, simple and easy to communicate.
If you layer in performance cookie data on your own site, you get a more complete picture. Are you using an attack strategy against one of your competitors? Or do your ads speak to the differentiation of your product? This is where it will show up.
There are two key considerations. (1) You should not take snapshots, only running the survey once. It’s the movement that’s important. If you cannot afford monthly, do it at least quarterly or don’t do it all. Your money will be wasted as there are usually too many variables and seasonal issues that affect the movement. (2) You will find that pulling the lever on your optimization metrics often has cascading effects on the attitudinal results. Want more visits to your site? Just use subversion tactics in your online, but remember that the cascading effect will be an attitudinal shift and it may not be positive. Your goal is to always have one optimization shift result in a cascading positive effect on the attitudinal scale
Other systems like Dynamic Logic studies seek to demonstrate the overall effect of both offline and online, but they are expensive and thus are used by many brands to take snapshots. That’s fine if you need to justify up the management structure the value of online advertising, which is, unfortunately, still a common need. However, it’s the movement of what you are tracking over time that’s important, and that requires a scheduled series. If you cannot use them on an ongoing basis, it is better to go with something you can afford.
But it is not all about your online advertising. Your online may be brilliant, it may speak to your strategic objectives and communicate everything you need to move the barriers-to-growth for your business. You may have great media planners who know how to provide efficiency in your plans. You may be maximizing volume, targeting to bring in the right quality of user, and the consideration impact of your creative may shift measured perceptions. But eventually online, they have to land somewhere: your site.
Companies like ForeSee provide customer satisfaction research. Although accuracy depends on the number of respondents, the advantage is that you get competitor data as well. This is the type of study that layers up into your KPIs. ForeSee owns and applies the proven and predictive methodology of The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) to measurement of online customer satisfaction to help clients determine how to improve customer satisfaction and have the greatest impact on ROI.
Another measure is your Net Promoter Score. Would you recommend a site to a friend or colleague? That’s the simple question Net Promoter seeks to answer. It tracks promoters and detractors and produces a simple measure of an organization’s performance through its customers’ eyes.
A plea for a better system
These methods do not get at the attribution of an individual online ad, nor are they meant to, but they help provide the basis for looking at the impact of your online programs. With each, a combination metric of both cookie-based data and survey, or tracking, data can help paint the broader picture of the effect of your online efforts — the cumulative effect.
So how do you get at attribution of your online efforts without advanced analytics systems? You can start to get at the attitudinal shifts using some of the systems I outlined, and the results should appear in your non-cookie survey data of attitudinal impact, but that requires resources that many clients cannot afford.
If everyone is going to benefit, we need a better system for our day-to-day tracking; a system that accounts for the weight of each cookie and consideration impact of your brand — an additive cookie system.
What’s the consideration impact of a button? One? A skyscraper? Three? A leaderboard? Four? Rich media? Six? A homepage takeover? Ten? Much of it will have to do with the actual creative you are running, but the placements themselves carry weight. Incorporation of an additive weighted cookie system, each cookie modifying the previous, instead of replacing it, could provide marketers with tipping points where the influence breaks through in truly measurable ways. And it would benefit all online advertisers and publishers. They would both have an actual measure of the placements true value to the advertiser, not an arbitrary assignment of price based on demand.
Please, someone, anyone — help provide the industry with the tools we need, universal measuring tools, that can get at what we need as marketers to do our jobs, because the system we have, quite honestly, sucks.
In the end, it is up to you to strategically address what aspects, what strategies, what metrics will be measured and optimized against. Develop the metrics for your business and for your goals. Once you do, you will have a roadmap for moving your brand forward with online programs. What you are measuring is important. Do not cycle through the same old way of looking at online or you will never start to move your business, your whole business, forward.
You’re measuring the wrong thing. Worst of all? You know it.
ranty rant signing off…