The Online Branding Hub

For the foreseeable future, TV budgets will dwarf online ad spending. Many efforts are underway to address this imbalance. But in many ways, how much of the media mix should be spent online is not as interesting as how that money should be spent.

Increasingly, brand advertisers are learning the Internet can act as a catalyst within well-planned, cross-media marketing campaigns. More and more, the Internet is woven into campaigns’ strategic goals, leveraging the medium’s strengths.

Although media synergy has lost some of its luster on Wall Street, it remains a crucial goal for both advertisers and publishers designing coherent, effective, integrated marketing programs. The most successful efforts leverage the Internet’s strengths, using it as a marketing centerpiece to build a relationship with a brand’s most valuable customers and prospects.

The Internet still can’t achieve the national reach or emotional appeal of a television commercial. But its unique characteristics give it some key advantages:

  • Relevance. The Web can be a highly efficient way of reaching people who are part of a community of interest. Sure, an ad on “Friends” might reach millions of people at once; but an ad on a site such as Carpoint is more efficient in reaching people in the market for a vehicle. Using the Web to target consumers in the lower part of the purchase funnel (those already considering a purchase) is a smart way to use the online component of a marketing plan.
  • Interactivity. Because of its interactive nature, the Internet can serve as the hub of a brand’s communications. Integrating a cross-media campaign through targeted online promotions is an effective, and increasingly popular, tactic.

    Take Miller Lite’s sponsorship of ESPN’s online NFL section. Users register for games and promotions, including a neat weekly contest where fans pick NFL football game winners. The brand utilizes the unique interactive aspect of the Web to build top-of-mind awareness among hard-core football fans (who drink a lot of beer).

  • Advertorial. Some Web properties effectively blend sponsorships with editorial, breaking down ad/editorial walls that are just starting to erode in broadcast media. Sites leverage the relationship they have with their users to bridge their needs with the marketing objectives of advertisers.

    iVillage does a good job of providing advertisers with access to its predominantly female audience that seeks information on specific issues. iVillage has created some of the best examples of advertorial content, providing value to users while serving the objectives of advertisers.

Even if the Web doesn’t account for the bulk of a marketing budget, it’s effective in playing a central, strategic role — when used correctly.

Understanding how to use the Web is a necessary step in addressing the how-much imbalance.

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