There have been a flurry of great blog posts lately about how broken brand advertising is online, mostly because we are trying to measure it the wrong way. My own contribution to this effort notes that click through rates are the “hammer” of online advertising, and when all you have is a hammer, well, you know the rest.
Major brand advertisers are starting to take online very, very seriously; just look at the announcement earlier this week that General Motors plans to shift 50% of its ad spend online within three years. Just look at all of the pioneering online ad work done recently by big offline brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Snapple and P&G. These brands are now making online a big part of their overall marketing programs, and they are not just focused on direct-marketing objectives. No, while performance objectives will always be a big part of the online ad ecosystem, more and more marketers are looking to online ads to help drive consumer perception objectives. Yes, they are using online to drive brand-oriented objectives like awareness, favorability and purchase intent.
He then says “the portals and major online ad platforms are probably not going to be the ones selling it [ad space]“, but that vertical networks will fill the void.
Do we sell inventory to the highest bidder via algorithms, automated processes, and platforms? Or do partner with marketers and creators of media to build brands – both media brands, and consumer marketing brands?
He then goes on to assert that the obsession with chasing Google has led the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL to ignore their strength in brand building.
Cory Treffiletti wrote a good one, too, asking when we are going to stop using clicks as a primary measure? He has a good description of the difference between direct response and brand advertising:
Fundamentally all advertising exists to do one thing: increase sales and/or market share. If the goal is to generate an immediate response, meaning the acquisition of information or a customer in a single session generated via a click, then we can consider that to be a direct response effort. If the goal is to drive an increase in sales, market share or customers over a longer period of time (basically anything beyond that initial single session) we should likely consider that to be a branding campaign, or what is most typically now referred to as a brand response effort.
He then goes on to detail why click-through rates are not necessarily a good proxy for brand campaign success.
We’ve been obsessed with our own ability to measure performance (regardless of the metric) since day one online. Our obsession with efficiency and scale all but eliminates the quality of the message from the consideration set, largely because quality is much more difficult to measure and formulize. We can tinker all we want with metrics and formats, but as long as we remain fixated on efficiency and scale as the keys to the kingdom, performance will continue to decline.
I couldn’t agree more. Reminds me of trying to use standardized testing to measure everything kids are supposed to learn in elementary school. Sure, it’s okay for basic math and reading, but our kids aren’t learning how to learn, because we only “teach to the test”. Brand advertising (and teaching) still requires a generous helping of creativity and talent.
UPDATE: Another great blog post by David Koretz asks if increasing CTR can actually hurt your brand:
If an advertiser’s goal is truly branding, then driving clicks by annoying the user is a horrible approach. Not only will it detract from the user experience, but it will also damage the very brand it was intending to build.
Well worth reading.