Online ads are brilliant

Now is the time for all brands to rethink the point and use of online display ads.

I’ve seen two opinion pieces recently about online display advertising, Jonathan Briggs’ piece asking whether online ads are outdated and James Erskine asking why brands persist with banners and MPUs. Both arguments are interesting but are based on clickthrough rates, failing to include data on brand metrics, engagement and offline, as well as online, sales.

Brand metrics, engagement and offline sales

Clickthrough is a useful stat, god knows how addicted I am to monitoring clicks. I love clicks. The problem with clickthrough though, is that it only tells a tiny, tiny part of the story. If I were a brand like Nestle or Cadbury running a campaign to sell chocolate bars and no one clicked on my online display ad – not a dickie bird – but I’d spent £200k on 60 million online display impressions, resulting in people knowing the bar was on sale, were x% more tempted to try it and a week later 2 million people did buy it, would I not be happy? I’d be over the bloody moon!

In fact, Cadbury have gone on record to say that they can make £3 for every £1 spent online. There are thousands of other case studies that prove online advertising’s effectiveness. Burberry is one that saw its revenue jump by 18% on the back of an online campaign.

Now is the time to rethink online display

It’s 2011 and online ads are a billion miles away from what they were in the past. They can carry high quality imagery, animation, video, interactivity like games and forms, and yes, you can click on them. What I would suggest, however, is that you approach them as if you are buying content space on another site.

I believe online ads’ biggest strength is in delivering a brand message. If you want purely direct response, perhaps email, search, affiliate and lead generation are some better options. However, online display ads are brilliant at delivering this too if you plan correctly. The best direct response ads I’ve seen online include all of the response mechanisms in the ad without the need to go to another site, like the O2 ad I showed on this blog a couple of years ago (on the right).

Please, please, please let’s all, as an industry, make this the year that we stop questioning online ads’ effectiveness based solely on clickthrough.

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    RE being over the moon. If only it were so easy to Isolate the contribution of impressions to sales!

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    I whole heartedly belive in online advertising, whether that be clever content rich solutions or a simple banner placed in front of the right audience.

    Whilst ctr’s in online might not be at their higest does that mean that banners an MPU’s don’t work? Last time I checked advertising was as much about impact and awareness as it was about driving response. The problem online has it that it is so much more trackable than other forms of media. At least online is prepared “be responsibile” for the media spend attributed to it, I dont think the same can be said for the likes of radio and TV.

    The fact is online media is continuing to grow and although video is one of the key contributors it still comands a fraction of the spend that brands and UK ad agencies will spend on display this year. According to the NMA (6/1/11 issue) display will overtake search in terms of ad spend growth this year proving that brand based display advertising, improved technologies, and innovative new ad formats are just as important for brands as being part of the editorial.

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    PS – apologies for not proof reading! Hoping you catch my drift….