The combination of a tsunami of bad economic news and financial gurus advising consumer shopping restraint is making advertisers nervous. But on the bright side, according to the Advertiser Optimism Report by Advertiser Perceptions, marketers continue to be positive about online media, albeit at a lower level compared to broadcast television, national newspapers, and magazines.
It’s not surprising that online advertising predictions are being revised downwards. EMarketer’s latest forecast projects annual growth of online advertising to be 11.3 percent this year, followed by annual growth of 8.9 percent in 2009. While these still represent healthy growth rates, they’re not the strong double-digit rates experienced in previous years. Accounting for roughly $1 in $5 spent online, display advertising is expected to grow only 6.6 percent from 2008 to 2009.
While marketers don’t expect customers to purchase products immediately after viewing a television commercial or reading a print ad, they do expect consumers to take action directly after seeing an online ad. Yet with the challenged economy, consumers may take longer researching and buying products. As a result, advertisers should look to latent brand-related activity post-viewing. Despite this, many marketers use only online banner CTRs (define) to track advertising impact. With an average CTR of less than 0.1 percent, it’s not a shock that advertisers may be disappointed.
Improved Branding Impact From Online Advertising
Cookie deletion and click-through understatement are challenges for those who sell banner advertising. When these issues are overcome, the true impact of online advertising exposure is significantly greater than just generating click-throughs, according to recent comScore research. In addition to improvement across a variety of brand-related metrics, such as top-of-mind unaided awareness, aided awareness, and favorability, this research measured three banner-ad-related behavioral metrics for a subset of the studies:
- Brand Web site. Visits to brand Web sites increased 46 percent during the four weeks following the first exposure to a display ad. Also known as view-throughs, these are visits to an advertiser’s site by a viewer who didn’t click on the ad. Based on DoubleClick’s “Touchpoints IV: How Digital Media Fit Into Consumer Purchase Decisions” from November 2006, over 60 percent of respondents noticed a Web ad and later visited the advertised Web site or checked the product in a physical store.
- Advertiser trademark searches. There was a 38 percent lift in searches involving the advertisers’ branded terms during the four weeks following the initial advertising exposure.
- Retail sales. After the initial banner exposure, both on- and offline sales were tracked for two weeks to three months. There was a 27 percent lift in online sales and a 17 percent lift in offline sales. Online advertising’s multichannel purchase impact seems reasonable in light of eMarketer’s “Multi-Channel Retailing” report, which states that “for every $1 of online sales the Internet influenced $3.45 of [physical retail] store sales.”
These results make sense, because advertisers have long used older media formats like television, radio, and print for their brand-impact value. A banner ad impression can have an impact on a reader, but the impact often isn’t an immediate one.
Five Ways to Support Display Advertising
Because of banner advertising’s delayed effect, marketers should consider the following when creating their advertising campaign:
- Ensure Web site consistency with advertising. Use the same branding standards for factors like colors and wording so prospects recognize you from your ads.
- Coordinate paid search campaigns to include brand terms and phrases related to your banner advertising, especially if these aren’t your standard branded terms.
- Provide means for immediate purchase and contact at every customer touch point to aid conversion. At a minimum, include phone, e-mail, and retail locations on your Web site and in e-mail.
- Add rich media and engagement tools to attract greater viewer attention and increase viewer interaction with your banner ads and brand.
- Use behavioral targeting to increase viewer relevance and advertising effectiveness of less-targeted media buys.
Schwab’s long-running “Talk to Chuck” campaign exemplifies this. Its branding is coherent across media, including search. The words “Talk to Chuck” are searchable and take prospects to a letter from Charles Schwab.
Metrics to Assess Improved Branding Impact
Branding measures to track to determine your banner ad campaign’s impact include:
- Branding impact. These attributes are most commonly tracked using surveys to determine improvement across a range of brand-related factors that influence purchase intent.
- Advertising cost. Monitor the full costs of banner advertising media, as well as ad creation and other campaign-associated expenses.
- Related paid search expense. Consider the cost of advertising unique related terms as part of the campaign cost.
With more constrained advertising budgets, it’s surprising that more marketers aren’t looking to online media to deliver results cost effectively. For some, it may be concern over the low metrics for immediate actions. ComScore’s recent research shows that the branding impact extends well beyond the click through and over a longer period.
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