Digital media: Exposure or response?

It’s a debate entered into daily and depending on who you speak to you will get different opinions. Is the benefit of digital media about the exposure (commonly reverted back to a branding benefit) or the click (ie the immediate reaction)

I was sent the Comscore ‘wither the click’ study twice this week (thanks Cam Curtis and Matt Connell) and it’s an interesting read but covers similar ground to many previously.

“Are low click rates evidence that an ad has not had any impact on consumer behavior? Or, does online display advertising work in a similar manner to traditional offline advertising with multiple exposures over time being needed to effect a change in consumer behavior?”

Basically, it argues that online display advertising does indeed work in a similar manner to ‘traditional’ advertiising. The below is lifted from the study.

It’s clear that display advertising, despite a lack of clicks, can have a significant positive impact on:
– Visitation to the advertiser’s Web site (lift of at least 46% over a four week period)
– The likelihood of consumers conducting a search query using the advertiser’s branded terms (a lift of at least 38% over a four week period)
– Consumers’ likelihood of buying the advertised brand online (an average 27% lift in online sales)
– Consumers’ likelihood of buying at the advertiser’s retail store (an average lift of 17%)

Okay, okay … most of us realise that. So – online is about exposure?

Well … it could be said it’s really about both exposure and response depending on a load of variables (environment, unit, advertisers, message). We could argue all day really.

If it’s about response, pricing sort of sorts itself out. Google is about response – so the price is generally dictated by supply and demand and what each advertiser is willing to pay for an action. Performance advertising is similar – it’s an exchange

If it’s about exposure we might have some problems …

Digital might be quite significantly overpriced when compared with other media. Particularly broadcast media that is about volume – which is generally the way most larger internet players sell themselves – on audience numbers not context (well some have some fluffy trusted yada yada consumer brand spin but generally it’s about reach).

So – if we compare like for like impact across  a 30 second TVC, full page mag placement, 30 second radio spot, metro press etc – how does it stack up dollar for dollar?

Remember, the two variables are reach as well as impact … not just reach. Lets stop fooling ourselves that our humble leaderboards and medium rectangles have a comparative impact to a TVC. A 30 second TVC eyeball for eyeball will cut through more than a medium rectangle below the fold surrounded by 600 words of content and 5 competing banners/spots/dots all flashing and competing for attention.

And that’s something I think requires a lot of additional thought. My feeling is digital needs to stop trying to compete as a broadcast medium and focus on niches – areas which has a clear point of difference and competitive advantage in terms of engagement and volume and relevancy for advertisers.

Just like there’s a challenge for creative agencies to create relevant messages, and media agencies to plan communications around relevant contexts, the challenge for publishers is to complete the cycle and create relevant impact.

The majority of display advertising in AU is broken. The pricing is generally without rationale. The ad units are after-thoughts and the majority of players aren’t seriously open to interesting, truly impactful executions. If we want to keep whining that we represent x% of media consumption and only y% of spend then we need to open ourselves up to similar executions that other media channels provide and stop sprouting the old ‘user experience’ comment that if a publisher runs an interstitial its userbase will revolt and go elsewhere.

I think digital attribution, or misattribution has worked relatively well up until now but I’m not sure how much longer post view conversions and SEM conversions can be 100% attributed to digital so we can keep saying how amazingly ‘accountable’ it is.

I guess my challenge in my day job is to try and help solve this problem. What do the rest of you think? I guess we’re all in it together.


5 responses to “Digital media: Exposure or response?

  1. Hey Ben,

    I totally feel your pain on this issue. I am trying to resolve these issues daily. Justifying brand dollars in digital is very complex. The like for like challenge between channels is almost too much to overcome. If you look at what it costs to get someone to sit thru 30 secs of video in digital vs 30 sec of video on TV its a bit scary. I dont think TVCs are right online, but if we keep trying to sell it to marketing directors this way then we are going to have to justify it based on a like for like cost. Not pretty.

    Dont agree that all display is broken. Just think it costs too much and we need to be cleverer about what we put in the ads!!


  2. Can we use the power of ad-serving technologies to segment audiences on previous user behavior and buy RON? Then we can all keep the playing field even and enjoy the luxury of $1 CPMs!

    If you want to run a TVC then utilise rich media and make it user initiated by using the same targeting variables, you’re cost per view will be cheaper than a TV spot if you’re still working off the $1CPM AND you know how many people watched it AND for how long…..

    Adserving = Massively under-rated in building efficiencies via targeting capabilities, especially if your clients have websites that generate large traffic or have e-commerce functionality.

    My 2 cents.

  3. Hey Ben,

    You have raised some key issues over the last month or so that all effect online’s ability to be worthy of brand $ –

    – Publishers not address ad clutter online (as in you M Rec e.g. above)

    – Online pulishers dont seem to have much insight into their audience (beyond demos etc)

    And another that i have noted –

    – Online Publishers do not report on brand metrics in post campaign reports

    Working on the digital side of a traditional media owner, we predominantly sell online as a complimentary plaform for brand campaigns.

    We offer clients contextually relevant & integrated oppotunities online that step well beyond tradional ad units.

    Also, we aim to keep online clutter to a minimum so consistency of branding messages is protected.

    And lastly audience insight is plentiful & forms the basis of our brief responses…

    Such an environment in our view is worthy of clients investing brand dollars.

    This however, is an exception to the norm & we are not a dominant force in the ‘online only’ stuff. And agree 100% that publishers can work harder…

    To look at this issue differently, do you think with most agencies supporitng cross media solutions from media owners… online will gradually start playing a role within brand campaigns?

  4. I’m not convinced it’s as black and white as an either/or scenario.

    Online can be used for both response & branding, however, clients or agencies that try to compare TV and online are missing the point.

    Online cannot be compared to traditional media because it’s not really a media channel, it’s an entirely new, entirely unique opportunity to engage with consumers in an entirely new and entirely unique way is it not?

    You can try all you like to try and argue the point around the branding impact of TV versus online in regards to eyeballs and the 30 second TVC but in reality TV is a push message and always will be as it doesn’t invite any opportunity for true interactivity (bar the red button which in my opinion is basic at best) as are display banner ads..

    What the online platform offers is a PULL message where you can invite people to talk, engage & have fun with your brands and this, in my view, is the true essence of brand building which can subsequently drive both brand affinity & direct response. You can’t compare like for like and that’s the basic underlying truth so we may aswell just stop trying now.

    To revert to bullshit bingo it’s about conversation and you can’t start a conversation with a push message because you don’t allow for response.

    p.s. – if we as ‘brand managers’ still think we can dictate how our brands are percieved via ATL media or banner ads then we’re truly kidding ourselves….the consumers build our brands these days and we can only sit back and watch – unless you’ve got you’re finger on the pulse and try ‘social influence marketing’…

  5. talkingdigital

    hey zoe – i agree with you on most points.

    absolutely – it’s not a black or white issue … it can be both and more.

    We talk a lot about ‘pull’ advertising but who is really delivering it? I would argue not many of us are … 90% of online display advertising is push if not more.

    in that case i think we can compare it with other forms of push advertising to try and get pricing parity.

    in a utopian world, i think publishers are selling a connection with a consumer … in reality this isn’t the case right now. yes digital has interactive elements – but when 1 in 2000 people generally interact you could argue that interactivity is a very minor element of what is currently being done.

    i think we’re absolutely on the same page – my point is just i need to think about ways i can alter some of my processes to get closer to true interaction/pull advertising and do so in a way that meets clients immediate objectives too.

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