Does Integration Set Us Up to Fail?

I’ve got good news and not-so-good news.

First, the good news. Things are turning around. We’re seeing increasing interest in interactive marketing in general and in interactive advertising specifically. Even better (compared to the last time interest in online advertising grew), interactive groups have had time to deliver results and earn the trust of their traditional media counterparts. That’s good.

Now, the not-so-good news. Often, because the more traditional media teams spent years earning the client’s trust, the client asks the traditional media team for advice. And when the client asks, the traditional folks often offer simplistic recommendations to demystify the interactive advertising realm. That’s bad.

My advice: When presented with an opportunity to conduct an interactive advertising test, don’t be overzealous and deliver something that won’t work as well as it could.

Ideal test scenarios require the following:

  • Multiple sites

  • Multiple creative executions
  • Measurement of direct response and branding impact
  • An adequate number of impressions
  • Time to get the job done

Of course, ideal scenarios are usually the exception rather than the rule.

How often has this happened to you? The client and the traditional media group conclude there’s not enough budget for traditional media to conduct an effective test. They say, “Let’s see what online can do.” This can be both good and bad.

It’s always good to rise to the occasion and show your traditional counterparts what you’re capable of. Make sure you feel good about your approach to the test. Don’t let a limited budget prevent you from doing great work or demonstrating interactive media’s strength.

Rules to ensure you deliver the best results possible:

  • Test budgets:

    • Test local markets. Often, the budgets you’re asked to work with don’t permit a national test. Test local sites. Pick key markets, identify strong partners, and negotiate partnerships. Often, this results in a greater presence and more impressions for the money.

    • Shorten the test. Ideally, you get a hearty budget and a few months to make an impression with interactive. When constricted with a smaller budget, consider compressing the time the test runs for. Instead of doing a 90-day test, do a 30-day with the same budget. You’ll probably get closer to the impression weight levels per week you need to grab the audience’s attention.

  • Creative:

    • Do your own creative. In an effort to save money, traditional folks may suggest the traditional creative team adapt an outdoor or print execution and “make a banner.” If you have interactive creative people, let them do what they do best. Creative is an important factor in a media test’s outcome.

    • Do great creative. Just because the production budget is small doesn’t mean you should deliver inferior creative. We must often justify interactive production budgets. With a media test, production really becomes an issue. Sometimes, the production budget is more than the media budget. Don’t be tempted to offer less-effective (sometimes known as less-expensive) creative options. Great creative needn’t cost a lot. Just don’t get in the habit of offering 468 x 60 GIFs because the rich media option costs more.

  • Metrics: Tracking response metrics, whether direct response or branding, costs money. Don’t be tempted to shortchange the test by failing to track these in an effort to reduce costs. I can hear the justification now, “What if we just plan it, place it, and let it run? It’s part of an integrated plan. We’re not concerned about how the interactive performs specifically.”

    These things are important. They represent the medium’s strengths. If you sacrifice tracking and the client says, “I’m not sure the interactive really did anything for us,” there’s nothing to back you up.

If you want to do interactive well, invest time and resources. If you want the test to succeed, give it every chance. You probably know when something will or won’t work. Don’t put yourself in a position from which you have to explain why something didn’t work.

Do things right from the beginning, and set everyone’s expectations (the traditional team’s and the client’s).

Ultimately, integration doesn’t set us up to fail. It gives us the chance to prove the medium’s worth. As one of my mentors used to joke, “Good luck. We’re all depending on you.”

Let me know how you’ve overcome the hurdles of integration.

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