Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals


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Is Online Display Advertising Dead?

Does Online Display Advertising Work?
Online display advertising regularly commands a high degree of concentration from online advertising professionals. It attracts a high proportion of many online advertising professionals time and in certain sectors, commands a high proportion of online advertising budgets.
As I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog, online is sometimes a victim of its own success. Because you can track almost anything, almost everything has to be completely accountable with no room for doubt or vagueness. Whilst this is powerful to help prove effectiveness, it is perhaps not the most effective way to manage integrated campaigns. After all, how long have advertisers spent millions on press and/or outdoor campaigns without being able to track effectiveness with any conviction.   For clarity, I am not saying these traditional channels don’t work, these can be effective but they need to be measured.
With the recession hanging over nearly the entire global economy, advertisers are evaluating all spend. If you are concentrating on purely ROI and not reach or frequency of message, online display often loses out.  There is often the argument that display is used to drive awareness or brand consideration, however how many advertisers actually measure this?  The other argument is that a different type of audience clicks on display ads, compared to other channels such as search or price comparisons. The latter is true, however as a recent study by Starcom, Tacoda and comScore illustrates that isn’t always a good thing.
The trio identified a group of individuals that they labelled “Natural Born Clickers”. Whilst this was a study in the US, it is more than likely similar here in the UK.
The study illustrates that these “Natural Born Clickers” represent c.6% of the online population. Disproportionally they account for 50% of all display ad clicks. This statistic alone illustrates that there is a small (yet not insignificant) proportion of the audience that skew display campaign results, this generally negates CTR and CPC as metrics. These audiences skew towards Internet users between the ages of 25-44 and households with a low to medium combined income. Heavy clickers behave very differently online than the typical Internet user, and while they spend four times more time online than non-clickers, their spending does not proportionately reflect this very heavy Internet usage. Whilst this audience also spends significantly more time online than the average user they are also more likely to visit auctions, gambling, and career sites.
The study obviously highlights that CTR (Click Through Rate) and CPC are not valid measurements for display advertising.  Whilst CPM is much maligned, because the impression does not necessarily mean the ad was seen, it is potentially more valid than CPC as a buying metric. In terms of brand building through display, if you are to buy on a CPM or CPC, I would suggest that you need to measure the impact on brand, awareness, consideration or actual shortlisting of your brand (dependent on your objectives).  If your primary focus is on sales at an efficient ROI, in most cases you should aim for CPA. This isn’t black and white as on a number of  occasions CPM can be more efficient than any other metric.  However, you should test different metrics on different channels.  To minimise risk, CPA is the best option.
Above all, remember anything is possible.  Don’t just think of display as banners or skyscrapers (although don’t ignore them).  Contextual, interactive ads are possible.  Sites like Facebook allow users to select or deselect the ads they show.  A site like MyDeco make the advertiser central to its contents and champions the advertiser.  You also have to be aware of some of the more interactive (intrusive) formats.  These often have high CTR, at times these are driven up by accidental clickers, sometimes trying to click off or close.  Cookies are often stored and your results are skewed to these formats if a sale is made on that PC.  I have always steered away from Pop-unders, subsites etc for this very reason.

MyDeco Example
The best lesson you can learn from this is, think differently.  Challenge your agency or the media partners you work with.  Above all, ensure you effectively de-dupe across all channels.  CPA can be fraught with issues on both post-impression and post-click sales, if you don’t de-dupe.  You won’t be able to evaluate if incremental sales were achieved as a consequence of your campaign.
Remember, I am not saying online display is dead.  To the contrary, just be careful with your metrics.  Ensure your tracking is robust and be think imaginatively with your placements and how you utilise the online opportunities.  Don’t just be another ME TOO.


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Recession Resistant?

Can online marketing escape the recession?

With any economic downturn/credit crunch/recession comes the usual questions at the board rooms of most organisations. 

How effective is our marketing? 

Could we do without our advertising?

Is our strategy a luxury?

It had been thought that in this current recession, online would escape the questions or criticisms.  However as a lot of organisations are facing tougher times, including several high profile victims, online is being asked to be even more accountable than ever.  Is that such a bad thing?

Well that depends.  If you have all the data to hand and have tried every potential opportunity for your brand, then it can only be a good thing.  You should be able to pin-point the exact levers to pull in order to produce the desired results.  Unfortunately, very few organisations have or are in that situation. 

So what is next? 

Well it makes sense if your organisation is able to invest in acquisitional activities it should do so.  And if possible increase that investment.  Channels that offer high levels of transparency, low costs or better still low risk (CPA or Hybrid deals).  Even with these options you still need to understand the customer journey and have an effective method of de-duping (I am amazed at how many organisations still don’t have that cracked).  Are these methods recession proof? I’m not entirely convinced.  Marketeers experienced in working with Google will have noticed bids and ROI change over the past 9-12 months.  Also, Google are experimenting with a number of tools or models to help maintain their revenue.  Including dropping their previous stance of no Gambling advertising.  It all depends on your sector, Finance in the main is seeing a dramatic fall-off – largely driven by sub-prime advertisers pulling back on their investment.  One thing is for sure, Google will probably be making more sales visits than they have in recent years.

What about display?

Display obviously pays a role in most campaign mixes or strategies.  However the traditional CPM model is a risky one, unless your brand can afford the luxury of brand advertising or if you aren’t responsible for a transactional website.  One point that is neglected or overlooked is the multiplier effect.  Most advertisers still look at last click wins.  This is why in a number of sectors display loses out.  Recent investigations by ComScore in the US indicates a genuine effect on search from display.  However is that enough?  The main benefit of display in my opinion is that it can not only drive awareness, it can also put more people in your sales funnel.  This is something search isn’t particularly good at.  Most people in search mode already have an intent, whether latent or active.  Would I start to invest millions of my budget in traditional display advertising?  In short – No.  However, with the market in its current state, new technologies are constantly evolving.  With the growing maturity of behavioural and re-targetting technology, an increasing number of media owners are willing to undertake activity on a CPA activity. 

 

Remember, although CPA presents far fewer risks, it sometimes can be more expensive than CPM or CPC and volumes are likely to be lower.