Interactive Success Lies Beyond Traditional Ads, Metrics

NEW YORK – What’s the secret to success in new media? According to some experts, the answer is to move beyond traditional advertising metrics.

While interactive budgets are increasing, often taking some of the budget away from TV, there’s still just one line item for interactive — without regard for the various available interactive opportunities, all with separate goals, strengths and weaknesses, Greg Smith, EVP at Carat Fusion, told a crowd of 200 filling the Ad:Tech conference session boldly titled “Simple Principles for all New Media Marketing.”

“We paint in color, but they evaluate in black and white. A lot of what we can do doesn’t fit into the current evaluation model,” Smith said of today’s advertisers. “We really see the definition of media and marketing changing profoundly.”

Because agencies can’t put interactive advertising into terms that traditional advertisers are familiar with, it’s hard for interactive to get a fair shake at measuring up, Smith said. This was illustrated by Arthur Chan, senior VP at Palisades Interactive, a small agency catering mostly to entertainment industry clients.

“We’re running into the problem where interactive is seen as not being as efficient as spot TV or spot cable. Any time you give the client an opportunity to buy TV, they’ll do it,” Chan said.

The problem is that a comparison like that is part of the same old game, and in that game — of reach and frequency — interactive is never going to win against cheap old media, Smith said.

“We have to change the rules of the game. There’s work being done now in the industry to get rid of reach and frequency and replace it with reach and engagement. You have to go deeper than CPM,” he said.

Interactive ads don’t fit neatly into a single bucket the way print ads do, as far as how campaigns are planned, implemented, and measured, said Rick Bruner, director of research at DoubleClick.

“When you talk about interactive, you’re talking about so many different things, like search, banners, and affiliate networks. It’s complex — it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison to something like print. It’s more difficult for advertisers to get their arms around,” Bruner said.

Part of the problem may be a matter of the media buyer’s perspective. Leslie Laredo of the Laredo Group said about 40 percent of buyers enrolling in media buying courses with her company come from television agencies.

“These are small to mid-sized agencies that have clients who want to get into interactive,” she said. “The agency folks are going back and telling their clients that there is a much bigger picture there than they thought.”

Another challenge for agencies is not having the tools necessary to manage interactive marketing campaigns tactically, Smith said. Things like behavioral targeting and gaming hold great promise, but are hard to implement effectively, he said.

“We have measurements and models that are limited. Right now, part of the problem is that we’re trying to just do advertising. It’s when you get beyond advertising that it gets interesting,” Smith said.

Smith recommended that all agencies ask themselves a couple of questions to determine whether they are using interactive marketing to its fullest. For creatives, the question is “What would you do creatively if you couldn’t do advertising?” For media people, the question is “What would you do online if you couldn’t advertise online?”

“Once you give people permission to think that way, once you start talking in that kind of language, we’re at a whole new level,” Smith said.

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