Posts Tagged: display advertising

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seen two opinion pieces recently about online display advertising, Jonathan Briggs’ piece asking whether online ads are outdated and James Erskine asking why brands persist with banners and MPUs.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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10 Things Brands Should Already Be Doing Online

Changes to online advertising over the last 12 months have forever altered how marketers should use the internet. Improved tools, better metrics, greater understanding and new businesses have created a number of new opportunities for brands. Below I’ve listed ten of them…

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Diversity of advertiser solutions means online offers something for everyone

Online advertising in the UK continues to grow, this time to just under £2 billion for the first half of 2010. Exciting, but this growth isn’t the real story. The most interesting thing is that the latest IAB / PwC figures show that digital advertising offers the advertiser a really broad range of advertising solutions – meaning that it can accommodate the needs and objectives of any marketing campaign – from direct response to brand building.

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Online ads: bigger can be better

There has been much discussion behind-the-scenes of the marketing industry about new larger online display adverts – is bigger better? Not if it jeopardises user experience to SHOUT AT consumers, but yes when they are being used correctly. The Half-page Ad, the newest and largest UK standard, is around the size of two MPU ads stacked on top of each other and is slightly wider than its predecessor the skyscraper. I have a theory that it is the best online display format available today and I’ll explain why.

To me, display advertising should be treated as visual content – it should be relevant and interesting to the person viewing it. Above all it should be beautiful. If we assume that a display ad is actually just paid for visual content, then I want that content to be displayed in the best way possible. The Half-page Ad is better proportioned than most online ads. It’s wider, so you can fit better imagery into it at a size that can do the image justice. There’s a reason why Burberry have been using it to showcase their latest collections. The Half-page Ad represents a fabulously delicious new opportunity for advertisers to display their wares.

In the above Mercedes example the ad is almost exactly the same size as the image at the top of the content. If users expect images of this size in content – which they do these days because the internet is now a far more visual place – then an ad should be able to match it. Here the ad is clean, uses great photography and animation that wouldn’t be possible on a smaller ad. You can even include vertical video in the Half-page Ad with extra messaging around it in exactly the same way as outdoor digital (e.g. the displays on escalators) where both have no audio and both only have a small window of opportunity for people to see it. It would be bad practice to show someone a smaller image with squashed messaging. Out in the real world, agencies I’ve spoken to that have used the ad tell me they show strong uplift for brand campaigns.

So, why do some people have an issue with larger display formats? I don’t know, but my guess is that people still view online display ads as a direct response format like search ads. Online display is not search. Display ads are not always direct response. If you want direct response, it’s true, smaller ads can work – but the greatest use of display advertising is for delivering a brand message without the need for people to click through. I’m never going to click to buy a Mercedes online from seeing an ad, nor would I personally click to view the website immediately. In the same way I wouldn’t rush down to my local dealer from seeing a bus stop poster. The Mercedes ad certainly left an impression on me however by showing the car’s vertical flip doors in action. It is a cool car and something I may consider when I purchase a car one day – and that’s something I would never have seen properly in a smaller ad.

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We’ve no standards these days

Imagine Mrs Kellogg’s.She’s totally loaded, but remains dedicated to selling her cereals to the people of the world. To do this, she makes cardboard boxes with designs on them to stand out on shop shelves. Now imagine ifMrs Kellogg’s went to Miss Tesco, Ms J Sainsbury and Dame Marks & Spencer asking them to stock her latest cereal on their shelves. Miss Tesco would love to stock her new cereal, but only if the box is 2cm shorter. Ms J Sainsbury and Dame Marks & Spencer will also gladly take the cereal, but they also request different sizes of box because they all think their size is the best.

It’s certainly possible for Mrs Kellogg’s to do this, but she is rather busy and, quite frankly, has better things to be doing with her time than worrying about the shape of boxes. Particularly as each market across Europe has similar requests and she then has to think about different ways to transport the different size boxes. If she were to produce every different box it would lead to packaging her one cereal in at least 40 or more different boxes – and she has over thirty different types of cereal! Mrs Kellogg’s is exasperated.

She thinks about choosing just one shop, but to maximise reach her cereal has to be on the shelves of all of them. In a bid to make her life a lot easier, Mrs Kellogg’s hosts an afternoon tea party for all of the ladies and after much discussion, they agree on one size of box for all shops. Mrs Kellogg’s is now extremely happy because she can display her new cereal in front of as many people as possible. Miss Tesco, Ms J Sainsbury and Dame Marks & Spencer are particularly happy because they receive money for every box of Mrs Kellogg’s popular cereal sold in their store. What a rip roaring success!

Internet advertising in its many forms is exactly the same. There are thousands of different websites that sell advertising on their pages. The most successful websites for online advertising are search engines. They’re successful because: 1) search ads work 2) almost everyone uses search so advertisers can target every audience 3) there is only one ad format, so it’s incredibly easy and time efficient to use. Likewise, online display advertising works and everyone accesses websites with ads on, but I think it is suffering on ease and efficiency because of a lack of advertising standards.

Of course, search has it easy, there are only a tiny handful of search engines. For online display and video advertising there are hundreds of thousands of websites on offer and the types of adverts on each varies enormously. In the US, the market works together to establish standards to make it easier for the Mrs Kellogg’s of the world to use the same advert across all of these sites without modifying the box size. The UK does the same, but there doesn’t seem to be the same appetite to develop new standards.

In particular, I believe that online video advertising and new online display formats are being held back significantly by a lack of standards across publishers. I’m ready and willing to help and, indeed, there are some knights in shining armour in the industry who are already helping to fix this problem. However, this is a problem that everyone in the industry needs to understand and help solve. If we can all get this right, we can continue to grow online display advertising and make it better for everyone.

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Finally, Celebrities in Online Ads

If you read this blog you’ll know that I’ve written a number of times about the lack of celebrity use in online ads. After many years of waiting, lo and behold in the last two weeks I’ve spotted two. They are both good extensions of cross-media campaigns that are running outdoor, on TV, in print and online. Both online ads use clear imagery, high quality bespoke video and interactivity. Personally I’m going to give a quiet round of applause to the brands and agencies involved. These aren’t the first examples, but they do prove that marketers now fully understand the need for an integrated campaign with online planned at the same time as traditional media to get the most out of the entire mix.

Heston Blumenthal (and Delia Smith) in Waitrose’s latest campaign by MCBD

Kevin Spacey in American Airlines’ latest campaign

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Let’s all av a laff!

There are two things I’d love to see more of in online display adverts. The first is celebrities, which I’ve written about before, and the other is comedy. To reference Steve Henry’s recent and excellent post, I’d like online display to do a bit more to get people talking.

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Is display advertising the new pub coaster?

OK, I promised my colleague Amy I wouldn’t do this, but you know what, I’m going to! Yesterday we attended a Social Media roundtable hosted by MTM London and a right old chin-wag it was too. Instead of the usual “I can talk about social media more than you therefore I am an expert”, this was a good, intelligible and honest conversation with great participants from Microsoft, Diageo, Starcom, i-level, Mindshare, Facebook and Channel 4.

I was pleased that the conversation matched my own thoughts about social media; my head was vigorously nodding throughout. As we know social media is nothing new, it’s simply those thousands of conversations that always took place, say down the pub (see where I’m going), except now you can see them, monitor them and perhaps take part in them. Also, social media isn’t ‘owned’ by PR, marketing, editorial or any one part of an organisation either. Instead a collaborative cross-departmental/organisation approach is needed.

Anyway, display advertising has always taken a real bashing in social media but I’ve always thought it one of the perfect, non-intrusive partners. So, afterwards when I was talking about display advertising I began to extend the above conversation in a pub analogy (some would say I extended it too far). When you’re down the pub, if a marketer wandered into a conversation to talk to you about their latest service or product it would be plain weird, and it’s the same online. This is nothing new, we all know it.

However, when you’re in the pub you don’t mind seeing ads on drinks coasters or the odd poster on the walls do you? I don’t. So, if social media is likened to a conversation in a pub, online display ads around these conversations are fulfilling the same role as the advert-coasters. And wouldn’t it be amazing if these coasters and posters changed depending on what was being talked about? E.g. if you were talking about football and a related sports ad appeared. This made more sense last night, but bear with me.

This is actually doing a massive disservice to online display advertising which is targeted and far more impactful than a coaster (plus at least 80% of social network use is sober* – true fact) and to be honest, I feel like I’ve really dragged out a throw away comment. My point though is that while we’re involved in trying to generate and be involved in consumer conversations online, it’s also OK not to take part and to include brand messaging on the side lines in places where these conversations happen.

* This is not a true fact

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