Online advertising boosters are making laudable efforts to develop reach and frequency models for interactive media, but don't make the mistake of believing they'll solve all the industry's problems.
Meeting the needs of traditional advertisers has been priority number one for the online advertising industry ever since dot-com budgets dried up. Interactive advertising boosters have sounded a rallying cry in an effort to get an increased share of the traditional marketing budget, the majority of which is currently spent on broadcast and print. Important steps have been made, particularly in recognizing the irrelevance of click-through to most advertisers' objectives. But online advertising budgets still fall short of the industry's goals.
Now, the industry is mobilizing around creating standards for online reach and frequency, which would allow advertisers to use the same planning metrics they use offline for the Internet. The logic is that if advertisers can plan offline and online buys on the same spreadsheet, it will be easier to integrate online into the marketing mix, and, hence, Internet ad sellers will get more money.
Developing online reach and frequency is a worthy goal and promises to be useful for integrated campaigns. But developing valid reach and frequency models for the Internet is complex. It behooves the industry to consider some issues as it develops an online model:
The Web is different. Since ad servers (imperfectly) count the number of ads that reach a target, buys are based on ad impressions, not based on site traffic. Because of this, online reach and frequency data will always be inherently different and will come from a marriage of data solutions, such as ad server data, log files, and browser-based (cookie) information.
It's tempting to hope that finding an accepted online reach/frequency model will cure industry's woes. But it's foolish to think that it will open the floodgates for advertising spending. Online reach and frequency is a worthy goal, but it's not a panacea.
The major reason traditional advertisers don't spend more on the Web is not that their agencies can't plan online and offline on the same spreadsheet, it's that they don't believe that the Internet will meet their marketing objectives. Planning metrics aside, the industry still has plenty of work to do in showing the value of the Internet in building brands, winning customers, and moving product off the shelves.
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Jeffrey Graham is vice president of client development at Dynamic Logic, a company he joined in January of 2001. Dynamic Logic specializes in measuring the branding effectiveness of online marketing. Jeffrey has served as research director at two online advertising agencies, Blue Marble and NOVO, and has worked with clients such as General Motors, Procter & Gamble, and Continental Airlines. He has taught Internet Research at New York University and has a Masters degree in the subject.
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