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Marketing Effectiveness: A Framework For Thinking About Online Advertising

Logo - Millward Brown Online advertising has been with us for 12 years now. As the medium has evolved over time, people have tried to define it as one big idea — from Web sites, communities, display ads, and email, to search, blogs, video, and social networking. While the hot topics keep changing, marketers have struggled with the bigger picture, which is how they should understand and use the online channel and how they can assess the results.

While online advertising has grown significantly as an industry, to many marketers it is still relatively new. Some struggle to understand it in terms of an existing media frame of reference. Should online be viewed in a print paradigm since it employs small ads, mixed in with content, on a “page”? Or should a direct response model be applied to online because of its interactivity? Most recently, the burgeoning video capabilities of online have encouraged some advertisers to liken it to television.

Trying to force fit online advertising into a pre-existing, one-silo media model may sometimes be useful. For example, an advertiser planning to redeploy a print budget online might reasonably use print metrics for the purposes of comparison. But thinking about the online channel merely as an extension of print, and a way to reach people not hit by traditional media, obscures the larger opportunity that online represents.

Our existing advertising models (TV, print, outdoor, etc.) are predicated on a particular mode of message transportation and a send-receive approach. Traditionally, strategy and channel have gone hand-in-hand. A crude synopsis might be: Use TV and outdoor for reach and awareness, print for beauty shots and targeting, radio for deal-selling, and direct mail for a call to action. While a model could be cobbled together for online (print meets direct mail meets TV), the complexity would limit its usefulness.

Instead of a model, think of a metaphor: fishing from a boat on a digital ocean. You can’t put a net in only one place, but you can cover only so much ground. Marketers have to be flexible about the fluidity of the medium and work with the different underlying currents. At this stage, the best approach to online marketing is to jump in, try some things, and see what works.

The marketers who have been most successful so far are those who have embraced the power shift that is occurring. Consumers have more control now, over both what gets to them and how they interact with it. Because of this ongoing transfer of power, the approach that worked last year might not work this year. As the climate changes and the fish get smarter, new approaches are required. Rather than continuing to monitor “send-and-receive” and impressions, marketers now need to be measuring engagement and digital dialogue.

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Full report (pdf)
About the author

Nick Nyhan
CEO, Dynamic Logic

Millward Brown