March 30, 2008

Recently. I was asked to speak at a Digital Summit conducted by a major brand marketer for the benefit of its brand teams -- eager to learn more about how to use broadband video. Never reluctant to help educate and grow the category, I eagerly took the advertiser up on its invite.

What was astounding to me, as I stared out into the audience of glassy-eyed brand managers, marketing managers, associate and assistant brand managers fresh off their latest TV campaign, sales promotion or packaging refresh, was the very baseline level of digital aptitude they had about interactive advertising overall. Few knew the difference between spending on their brand site and actually leveraging the channel to drive sales leads, sampling/trialing and e-couponing, not to mention leveraging the channel to tell deeper, richer stories than print through both short-form and long-form online video.

Do you think our brand should be on YouTube, they asked?

I couldn't help but wonder why, after years of giving these presentations, brand marketers are still woefully behind at understanding the role of the online channel in their marketing mix, their media mix, and in listening to the consumer conversations happening about and around their brand(s). Is it because they're too busy getting the TV campaign done? The print ad approved? The packaging refreshed? Or the POS end cap designed? The answer is "yes" to all of the above -- but there's also something more. Something we as a digital industry have failed to do.

Provide the "how-to."

In the back of their minds, brand managers know they SHOULD be doing more digitally -- we just haven't consistently told them "HOW." As an industry, we sell them brand sites and microsites that are great for educating and informing their consumers on the product, its functional attributes and even "send to a friend" viral potential. We capture registrations, provide promotional offers, and generally tell a deeper, richer story than TV or print can. But here's one place where we really fall down. Often, for the sake of short-term revenue, we let our online media buyers and sellers suck what little budgets our brand marketers are devoting to digital into the same old banner-based, impression-based effective frequency models that, whether someone clicks through above 1% or not, purportedly work to drive the same positive brand health measures and purchase intent that commercials do in television-only online.

Now, I'm no media guy, but this supposed apples-to-apples impression-based mindset that we've sold leaves us with spending mix that looks something like this: a majority of digital dollars going to search (now that's creative); a few to keep the Web site up to date; and to round out the mix, some display ad dollars to bolster the awareness mix driven by television and print. As for all those broadband video dollars, those are now just parked up alongside the TV budget as they're simply cut down from :30 TVCs to :15s instead of contextually created :10s for the "digital" spend. So, if you're a member of a brand team eager to learn more about "how to" activate digital video, you're told that online video is actually part of the "all things video/TV" buy.

In these recession-facing times, if we're going to convince the enlightened brand marketers to lean-in to digital instead of simply defaulting to their upfront TV fix while preserving their search dollars, we need to get busy demonstrating how we can truly activate more trial and sampling, e-couponing and sales results through online programs. That means we'd better get busy getting off our impression bandwagon at one end and our boring, self-measuring-lead-generation-algorithmic-creative search optimization at the other end , and start demonstrating how to use the online channel to move off awareness to activating trial, purchase, loyalty, brand immersion/engagement and results fast.

From this creative's perspective, it's not about the media math (forgive my sophomoric attempt at understanding the spots and dots between online video inventory sold at crazy CPMs and on-air spots that sell for less in "Law & Order"). After all, when we're selling the benefit of a $90 CPM pre-roll as exclusivity in the pod, then who's zooming who?

Whether you're in online media or online creative, the fact is we're forgetting that the opportunity here is to allow brands to "interact" with people - not simply make a flash impression. To demonstrate that at the brand team level, without emarketer interference or gate-keeping, means we'd better move from riding the "what" wave, to demonstrating the "how" now. Or it's going to be a long slow summer waiting for the online awareness cash cow to kick back in.

by Alan Schulman
Alan Schulman is Senior Vice President/Executive Creative Director of imc2. An industry leader in the development of ad units for new and emerging platforms, Alan currently stewards digital campaigns for such global brand marketers as Procter & Gamble, The Coca-Cola Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Nestle and Johnson & Johnson.
Courtesy of http://www.mediapost.com

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