Ben Humphry, managing director, UK, nugg.ad
When marketers first ventured onto the internet it quickly became clear that their ability to track and measure clicks and conversions gave it a significant USP over traditional media.
Incredibly quickly, an industry has developed around optimising and increasing these clicks and conversions, enabling us to create funnels of consumer traffic that help drive purchases as well as measure and attribute ROIs.
But while this may be the underlying and popularly touted case for the online ad industry, the reality is that the power of this model is expiring and what is required is a reimagination of digital advertising.
In 2011, the biggest spenders on advertising in the UK included P&G, Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser and Nestlé. But despite the widely publicised increases in online advertising budgets throughout 2012, little of it comes from these big spenders. So how is it that such leading industry brands have overlooked this online click and conversion phenomenon?
Of course, the truth is that they haven’t. Rather, in an industry driven by innovation, the lack of take-up of PPC advertising by these leading brands demonstrates the limitations and stagnation of the offering. Advertising for these brands is not about immediate conversion, but deeper brand engagement and it is this sentiment that underlies their advertising activity both on and offline.
The branding potential of online is a topic that has been regularly and vigorously debated. Its lack of measurability and immediate conversion has always brought it into question when positioned alongside the PPC model.
But despite it being written about often in the past, ongoing investment from leading brands in branded content evidences the underlying value that exists in this area. While branded content is key, it does not achieve this significant growth in uptake alone.
What defines the activity these brands are undertaking as standout above the rest is their ability to combine engaging branded content with state-of-the-art targeting, increased audience reach, and campaign management that doesn’t just implement branding, but measures the impact this activity has on consumers.
Nike’s recent launch of its extremely successful ‘Find your greatness’ campaign across YouTube demonstrates just this. At a time when the world’s eyes are on the Olympics, Nike has done what most other brands could only dream of - diverting attention away from the events sponsors and toward their inspirational online videos.
But unlike internet advertising of old, this campaign does not drive immediate and measurable conversion. Rather, what it achieves is a deeper, stronger and longer living consumer engagement in the brand rather than a product, something that was previously entirely left to offline ads.
Although this particular campaign shows the ever-blurring line between online advertising and marketing, it clearly demonstrates the evolving and growing branding capacity of the digital medium. Changes in consumer media consumption patterns require brand advertisers to rethink new platforms to replace the shifting levels of TV and print media engagement.
Alongside this platform reassessment, it is equally important that the brands constantly ask themselves how they can ensure their content can continue to be more personalised and targeted to each individual consumer’s interests. Similarly, rather than continuing to try and convince brands that clicks or visible impressions count as ‘engagement’, online advertisers and media owners need to adapt their proposition to meet this growing demand.
The capacity to identify, monitor and measure the impact online branding campaigns have on consumers is one of the most compelling developments in the online advertising sector.
Whereas understanding this impact was previously a guessing game, it is now possible to determine a consumer’s existing relationship with a brand and define the optimum exposure levels for driving positive customer response. These developments have redefined both what is possible with online advertising and how we measure and assess the outcomes of campaigns, but it is still a potential that is being realised by only a few.
Online advertising needs to focus less on conversion and more on understanding each individual consumer and establishing, or building upon, a resonating relationship with them.
It is this type of thinking that will drive and evolve the online advertising offering put in place by media providers as well as how effectively this is capitalised on by advertisers, but this won’t emerge on its own. To achieve this, there needs to be a concerted industry effort to think beyond the justifications of PPC and realise the true potential, power, and returns that a reimagining of digital advertising offers.
It is these aspects that sets online apart from offline mediums, and the truth is that it holds more power than most brands and marketers are aware of.