IAB Kicks Off New Study

The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s long-awaited and much-touted “Phase II” marketing mix study is finally off and running.

The study will be the largest research project to date on the role of online advertising in advertisers’ overall ad budgets.

Conducted in conjunction with the Advertising Research Foundation, Dynamic Logic, Forrester Research and researcher Rex Briggs’ Marketing Evolution group, the new research aims to pick up where earlier work on the subject left off.

The conclusions of the IAB-sponsored “Phase I” research, released in February and conducted on Microsoft’s MSN portal, suggested that increasing online media as a percentage of total spending improved ROI significantly — due in part to the relative inexpensiveness of online ad inventory. The six-month study, which relied on analysis from Briggs and tracking by Dynamic Logic, observed the results of a live campaign for a new Unilever brand.

Now, Phase II of the study will involve more publishers and more advertisers, and will last up to nine months. So far, Colgate Palmolive, General Mills, ING and McDonald’s have signed on, while five additional participating marketers have yet to be disclosed.

Twenty-two publishers will be involved in the effort. Those include AOL Time Warner , Walt Disney Internet Group, RealNetworks , MSN and Yahoo , and ad networks DoubleClick and 24/7 Real Media .

While little was said of the initial research prior to its release, the New York-based IAB is already expressing optimism about the new effort.

“The results of this research will be marked by the industry as the major turning point in the way in which brand marketers construct their media plans, and not just for online,” said IAB President and Chief Executive Greg Stuart. “This study will change forever the way in which marketers look at and use the interactive medium, as it has the potential to provide breakthrough insights regarding the effectiveness of using interactive to complement offline campaigns.”

The study comes as the latest effort by the IAB and other industry groups to lobby advertisers to increase online spending beyond the approximately 2 percent of media budgets that many believe it currently occupies. Chief in the IAB’s platform is the greater potential — and lower cost — for tracking brand impact inherent in online media.

“Now, for the first time ever, a marketer can really dissect what each medium contributes to sales and branding,” Stuart said.

The IAB also said that offline research methods for such an undertaking would be expected to total more than $2 million — though savings from the use of Internet-based surveys has dropped the project cost to “below six figures.”

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