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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Integration Vs Imitation

One of the biggest areas of discussion between client-side traditional advertising professionals and their digital counterparts is campaign integration.

Brand police are obviously very sensitive and protective towards their brands.  They want to ensure consistency and maintain control.  Admiral qualities.

However, quite often their digital counterparts are passed on assets and told to make them work.  The digital teams are fully aware of their channels and generally understand what works and what doesn’t via the internet.

This isn’t a new debate.  Its just the mediums have changed.  The same discussions have and still happen on how to integrate TV with PoS and press.  However as those channels are more established the rules of engagement are generally well understood by marketeers and advertisers.

This isn’t the case with digital.  Traditional advertisers still need to be educated.  However the same discussion applies.  We are talking campaign ‘integration not imitation’.  Whilst millions may have been spent on TV ads or on sponsorship properties, there is no reason why you shouldn’t tweak the messages slightly for the channel.  You need to recognise the difference in mindset of the recipients of the message within each channel.

For arguments sake, a TV ad can be a very broadcast tool as you are trying to hit as many people as possible in a ‘sit-back’ medium.  However, text on an e-mail to your customer base may get the message across in a consistent way (follow same tone of voice, promote the same message, potentially use the same font) – however you know these people are engaged with your brand and you can talk with them on a more personal note.  This rule can be exaggerated again by using social networking as an example.  The text in your corporate brochure or on your press ad is very important and make take a serious tone – however you wouldn’t want to copy that on your Facebook page.

For me you have to ensure consistency is in place, campaign integration.  The look and feel need to be similar, the emotional output is similar and overall the message is the same.  However it doesn’t need to be identical, campaign imitation.  It doesn’t matter if the words are slightly different.  It doesn’t matter if the image is different due to the context as long as the overall brand isn’t effected.

Traditional advertisers need to step up and learn digital.  Digital advertisers need to push back on this and explain their rationale, but also explain the benefits this approach can have on the brand, rather than being precious about the channel.