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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Ten Years On in Online Media: A Ten-Point Plan to Move Forward [DCLK]


Ten Years On in Online Media: A Ten-Point Plan to Move Forward

The advent of Advertising Week in New York is an appropriate time to take stock of how far we, the scouts and footsoldiers of online media, have come in the nearly 10 years since it all began.

At a total of three percent of all ad spend, it's hard to be exultant. But it's also not enough to just bang our usage drums (yes, 19% of all media time is now spent online and the numbers flare up with key younger demos — AC Nielsen HomeScan, May 2004 ); we've got to make some key changes in our own behavior as media planners, buyers, sellers and marketers to advance to the frontlines. This past year we crossed the Maginot line in establishing online as a viable ad medium, but while we've won the battle of "take us seriously," we've yet to truly maximize the potential of the medium.

Here's a ten-point plan of attack:



Focus on online's similarities to other media, rather than its differences. Yes, online has the capabilities of brand interaction, instant commerce, superior trackability, workplace reach, direct response, high and distinct demos — but it also mimics the power of so many other media. While its appeal is in its differences, online's power is that it has the combined capabilities of so many other media: the contextual power and targeted reach of print, the reach of television, the immediacy of radio. TVs and PCs are getting closer with time and when the day of interactive TV comes — and it may be closer than we think with content on demand offers of the cable companies — concepts from online and offline media will enrich ALL media.


Embrace concepts that connect rather than divide. Brand exposure through traditional media channels has always depended on reach and frequency planning metrics (click here for a primer on how reach & frequency works in the traditional media world).

Why should online be different? The sooner all media can speak the same language in terms of reach and frequency, the sooner we can show the value of online in the media mix, particularly in the planning process for integrated branding campaigns. The ability to track delivered reach and frequency against unique visitors (via third party ad serving) in the online world and optimize media accordingly is a huge benefit to marketers. We expect media planners to develop more sophisticated ways to apply these metrics in the coming years to maximize online media performance, and prove its accountability.


Push for better media research tools. We still have some work to do to adapt reach and frequency tools for online usage. Any discussion of the reach & frequency issue inevitably leads to arguments about the inaccuracy of panel based data vs. server data. While panel data is criticized for unreliability of workplace measurement and discrepancies between measurement companies, server data, which is cookie-based, is criticized for overcounting consumers who use more than one computer. Neither panel data nor audience data is fully reliable at this time, and the "truth" is somewhere in-between both audience and panel/server data.

We need to push for greater reliability of panel data and increased work samples, and support the project spearheaded by the IAB to create a universal site nomenclature system, so that both of the major audience ratings companies are reporting on the same site sections.

Expect major DoubleClick developments in the connection between panel and server data through pilot projects conducted with major agencies and marketers using comScore Media Metrix, Nielsen//NetRatings and IMS that will be released in early 2005.


Talk about audiences, not media placements. With such an infinite amount of content online, many marketers have often limited their buys to contextual placement: they deliver both an expected audience and a purchasing mindset. With context in various areas in short supply (try to get the inventory you need on an auto site these days) it may make sense to extend that buy through behavioral targeting. The idea is simple: you advertise to people whom you know have been on specific site sections when they access other areas. Sites like Yahoo! enable this through their ad serving. DoubleClick's keyword/keyvalue tagging system can also be used to set up buckets of content through which you can behavioral target on a site.

Of course, once you remove that advertising from a contextual placement, you may lower the likeliness of direct response but as American Airlines found out, you can increase branding impact. According to James Hering, SVP and Director of Interactive Marketing, t:m interactive, which created, planned and bought the media for an American Airlines test with Revenue Science on the Wall Street Journal: "Our testing of behavioral targeting indicates that we can create an opportunity to target more of our core customers through a more specific demo and psychographic focus." According to Hering, "Early brand impact metrics show we're able to move the needle against high-frequency customers. If we can secure similar behavioral targeting criteria with each site in a buy, it will streamline the use of this tactic as we could quickly execute against comparable audience slices."

Look for the usage of more advanced targeting tactics to increase in next few years as testing progresses and tools get more sophisticated.


Break through the clutter. DoubleClick's ad serving data shows that over the past two years ad sizes have gotten larger and the usage of those little buttons and rectangles that used to clutter pages has gone down dramatically. (Click here for the 2004 Q2 Ad Serving Trend Report.) But still, there is great concern in all media about managing clutter. Network television has a stable number of commercial minutes per half hour and magazines report their ad to edit ratios, but there really are no guidelines for web publishers in terms of ad to edit ratios to help keep user experience balanced. While the dynamic nature of the Web makes this difficult, shouldn't we be putting the customer experience first?

Through the use of frequency caps, a publisher can limit the number of ads or ad types (ie. floating ad) a unique user sees in a session. Frequency caps can also perform another valuable service: they can help the site deliver both heavy and light online users. Too often sites over-deliver heavy users, or those who visit the site often; a frequency cap can be employed to limit the number of times a unique user sees an ad and increase the likeliness of effective frequency among light users.

Sites could also start employing "share of voice" metrics which could be derived from their ad server data: what % of all impressions or site section impressions served in a given month are they delivering to a given advertiser? Beyond an impression delivery figure, share of voice can help an advertiser understand the potential impact of those ads on that audience.

All of these tactics can help publishers and planners manage clutter while optimizing reach and frequency, for an overall better customer experience.


Embrace the concept of a holistic online media mix. As search and top-tier content site ad prices rise and inventory becomes scarcer, marketers will have to do a better job at rationalizing overall online spend. Advertisers need to incorporate search into the online media mix, not just see it as a pure direct response component of a campaign. Search can have branding impact (see the new IAB/Nielsen study) and a smart part of any search buy should be brand protection words. Now that search buys will be able to be trafficked, measured, and bid managed through DFA and other ad serving platforms along with standard buys, we should see a more streamlined approach to online planning and optimization.

Advertisers also need to see rich media not as a separate entity, but as any other sort of advertising: does its increased cost translate into higher conversion rates and branding impact? How does that compare with standard banner performance? These are questions we need to be thinking about for every campaign, but with so many different creative platforms on the market, it is often difficult to measure rich media as part of the holistic mix. DART Motif, which integrates with DFA and enables advertisers to better understand the impact of rich media, will give unprecedented insight into the questions around how rich media performs relative to other creative. Hopefully this insight will begin to lay the foundation for more investment, higher usage and new forms of rich media.


Utilize sophisticated cross-media measurement techniques such as modeling to assess media effectiveness as it relates to sales. Packaged goods companies and other sophisticated marketers have led the charge for assessing the effectiveness of their planning by developing econometric models of all ad spend and then relating them to actual sales data (see IRI, MMA, and Insight Partners). Why not apply the concept of modeling to cross-media measurement more broadly? DoubleClick successfully demonstrated how this could be done with a pharmaceutical product in our report called DoubleClick Media Mix Modeling Case Study: Pharmaceutical.

The science of econometric modeling has progressed over the last few years and has gotten to the stage of reliable prediction of future sales. The AC Nielsen HomeScan panel and their Consumer Direct projects with Yahoo! are also leading in this direction. Let's make sure we embrace the best research techniques for proving the value of online in the media mix, and take our rightful place at the table.


Make sure creative concepts match up to technical capabilities. In online, we spend so much time talking about technical issues, that we often overlook the creative appeal of advertising: the brand experience. Rich media has indeed brought online advertising into a new era and there are finally water cooler discussions about online creative (such as last year's Kill Bill promotion). Technical breakthroughs (video, data-capture, multi-tab ad units, 3D, sound, dynamic messaging, etc.) have surely advanced over the years, and larger ad unit sizes (leaderboards, half-page ads, interstitials, etc.) have brought with them new opportunities for advertisers to reach consumers in more impactful ways. Check out some of the DART Motif examples on our website.

Online advertising may never have the drama of TV creative, but it has the ability to provide more intensive information and brand interaction. Let's work to turn the focus of online advertising from technology to creative and to foster more imaginative and interactive advertising from the advertising industry overall.


Measure appropriately; optimization applies to everything we do. Since online advertising can meet so many different objectives, why are we still typically optimizing performance on clicks? This may work for direct response pure plays, but for the majority of online campaigns that have multiple objectives, optimization strategies must be well-designed and customized to meet the goals of each campaign. Conversions, Sales, Registration, In-direct Response, Brand Awareness, Unique Reach, Frequency to Conversion, and (Rich Media) Interaction Metrics are some of the other metrics that can be important when assessing the success of a campaign. Advertisers using DFA can set up advanced reports like Frequency to Conversion and Cross Site Duplication to ensure that their ads are achieving their online reach and conversion goals. Auto Creative Optimization (see Digitas Case Study) and In-direct Response analysis (see Continental Airlines Study) can also be utilized to improve the results and analysis of campaigns.

As marketer demands for more accountability get more stringent in the next few years, a well-rounded measurement and optimization strategy that takes advantage of custom reporting and analysis, and automated processing, will be crucial to the advancement of the online medium in proving ROI.


There is no "silver bullet" for online, just a collection of varying marketing tactics that fit different marketing objectives. Every year in the early years of online marketing there was one thing that was going to revolutionize the industry: Wireless! Broadband! Rich Media! Search! E-Commerce! Even Chat! was in the original set and now the buzz is around Blogging!! The key is knowing your audience, what appeals to them and how to reach them best, rather than jumping on the latest bandwagon. All of these things are important for online marketing to greater and lesser degrees, but they are part of a mix that will shift with each product and each consumer target group.

How do you win the battle for hearts, minds and wallets? Focus on understanding your customers and adding value rather than pushing messages through trendy channels. As we move forward, let's not forget the tried and true advertising lesson of the past: know thy customer.

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