Integrating Online and Offline Marketing

One of the weakest areas of modern tactical marketing is the integration of online with offline. The finest web site and the most carefully planned print or broadcast campaign are both significantly hobbled if they aren’t tightly interwoven.

To show you what I mean, I examined the May 29 issue of The Industry Standard. My conclusion: When it comes to integrating offline advertising with the web, a full 87 percent of the advertisements in that issue are either wasted or doing a fraction of the job for the advertiser that they could (and should) be doing.

Advertising Has Work to Do

Advertising communicates a message and drives action. If an ad can pull someone to a web site, the opportunity to communicate in a targeted fashion is enormous. But that means that your ad and your web site have to work together the ad must lure them in and the web site must present the information visitors came for.

Now, some people are going to tell you that advertising is a branding vehicle, and that you can’t judge its success by its pull. That’s pure nonsense.

Of the 129 ads I reviewed for this article, 112 of them contained explicit calls to action (visit, call, learn, contact, etc.). And of the 17 that did not, half were clearly implying that a visit to the web site was the logical action to take. Once a call to action appears, the ad’s effectiveness must be based on whether that action is taken. From that point on, the branding argument becomes the branding excuse for ads that fail.

Which takes us to the big question: “What if the ad actually works?” What happens if the visitor actually responds to the message and decides to take that highly qualifying act of typing in the URL you publish?

What should happen is that these visitors should be sent to a unique URL, where they are presented with graphical and verbal information that relates directly to the ad they responded to. It should mention the referring publication and reflect an understanding of that publication’s readership (a visitor from The Standard is a different animal than one from Information Week or Time). It should talk about the same specific topic the ad discussed (security, price, testimonials… whatever). And it should itself contain further calls to action (which may be nothing more than links to other equally focused content).

The Web Is Not a Dumping Ground

Truth is though, in most cases, visitors from the ads in review are unceremoniously dumped into the public pool of all visitors and left to swim for themselves. This occurs without any content visible that relates to the ad they’re responding to.

Judge for yourself.

  1. Sixty-six percent of the ads in our sample issue use the home page as the URL to link to. Why spend so much money to deliver a message, and then bring a visitor who responded to it to a page that has no specific relevance (either graphically or textually) to that message?

  2. Nine percent have no visible URL at all. (And that includes some pure plays like Real Media.) Why advertise in “the newsmagazine of the Internet economy” and not publish a web site address?
  3. Twelve percent have unique URLs, but they’re wasted since they’re established only to do hit counts to determine pull. (In fact, about half immediately redirect to the home page.) This is “ask for operator 15” mentality, and it’s most foolish.

There Are Some That Do This Right

That leaves 13 percent of the ads that are integrated (including multiple ads by the same company). Three advertisers stand out… And the names are going to be no surprise. Microsoft, IBM and Siebel together, and Hewlett Packard.

And of these top dogs, the pick of the litter is HP. The ad in question occupies a spread. I’ve put a scan of the left side of the spread here and a scan of the right side here.

The URLs to link to are http://www.hp.com/david or http://www.hp.com/goliath. Link to either to see what you’re presented with online.

There are a few execution problems (that floating window hides the real information for instance), but the payoff for the ad is exactly what I came to the site to find. It was presented in exactly the form I was expecting to see it, focused on who I am, and had additional links to the topic that brought me there. Integrated and targeted from tip to toe.

And this is inexpensive to do. Repurposing ad artwork, building a few static HTML pages, and applying some graphical links to content pages isn’t a blip in even small budgets. All it requires is a little extra effort and a little extra thought.

But it’s well worth it. At between US$ 16,000 and US$ 22,000 a pop, a display ad is a terrible thing to waste.

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