Brand Advertising on the Web: The Perennial Pipe Dream?

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Legitimacy for Real Time

"The idea is no longer about brands pushing content and trying to get conversations going; it's about real-time content," argues Lexie Kier, a New York City-based digital and social strategist.

When the lights went out at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans during Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013, Oreo seized the moment and made a big splash with its real-time reaction.

Oreo posted a simple ad that was retweeted more than 14,500 times on the social media site. It read: "Power Out? No Problem." and included a picture of a cookie with the line, "You can still dunk in the dark."

"A lot of people are talking about the Super Bowl as the moment, the debut of legitimacy for online, for real-time content," says Kier. "When the lights went out, Oreo put out a really fun Twitter ad."

Kier continues: "Really great ideas visually rendered and shared in social for immediate reactions is powerful stuff. And that's stuff that brands are putting out during awards shows, so there's real-time conversation from brands and from their fans."

These online conversations can lead to a halo effect, says Kier. "It creates a halo effect where you feel like you're watching something all together. That's a pretty good example of the value of that dollar when you compare it to the TV buys on the Super Bowl [which cost $3.8 million on average for a 30-second spot, according to USA TODAY]."

During the NFL championship game, Kier says: "The dollars that worked the hardest were the ones that went through social. That was really just about having a real-time content lab [like Oreo did with digital marketing agency 360i], being able to quickly respond to things and create images. So I don't think it's still about chasing the branding dollar-I think that dollar is secured. It's just about showing that there's flexibility there."

One method employed by Capreol and his company to further branding is the use of "integrated features," which are used online and on air.

"From a branding perspective online, one of the things we do for our clients is create integrated features on a sports game, for instance, a baseball game," says Capreol. "It's a feature on air, but we drive people online to participate. It could be some kind of game of chance or something like that that's promoted on air but also lives online-and we create a bigger branded perspective online. Those kinds of thing work."

Native advertising goes a long way for branding online, points out Gelles. He explains, "Publishers are now creating opportunities for advertisers to create brand marketing content. Sometimes it's video, sometimes text, but it's seamlessly integrated into the actual overall content experience on the site so it's not like a banner-it's actually part of the content on the page, which is why they call it native."

Native advertising is "becoming more and more scalable thanks to third-party technology vendors," continues Gelles. "And it is much more effective than banner ads. Some studies have come out that show native advertising is more effective."

TV Still Tops

Although more ad money is migrating online, the majority still goes to other forms of media, such as television. According to "2012 Ad Spend & Projections for 2013" from communications firm Media Plus+, 40.1% of the global ad spending will take place on television (40.2% in 2012). Internet ad spending, meanwhile, is expected to clock in at a distant second at 19.8% (up from 18% in 2012), just ahead of the 17.8% that is projected to be spent in newspapers.

"There are brands that are still not really comfortable [advertising online]. They don't know how to do it, and they'd rather spend millions of dollars on a TV spot than build the team that needs to do the real-time content management because they don't know how it needs to be done," says Kier.

By 2015, internet ad spending is expected to increase to 23.4%, but TV is predicted to hold steady at 40% of the global ad spend. What gives? According to Gelles, "Prime-time slots on national broadcast TV networks are very expensive compared to even the most premium digital real estate."

In terms of brand advertising, advertisers also may feel more comfortable going with a proven marketing method such as television. "We only have 16 years of data that proves that digital media works for branding while we have over 40 years of data that proves that previously existing media work for branding," adds Gelles.

In addition, the data that supports the case for digital media branding "often isn't all that spectacular," says Gelles. "[For example,] standard 468x60 banners work rather poorly for branding."

Gelles notes that branding online is harder from a media planning/scheduling perspective. "There are dozens of formats and thousands of channels, and both are constantly shifting and changing," he explains. "It's difficult to keep track of what's most effective now, what's no longer effective, and what will be effective in six months."

 Standardization also presents a challenge. "There is little standardization to the process of planning and buying digital media," he observes. "Native ads are bought one way, in-stream another, rich media yet another, premium another, secondary another (i.e., exchanges and so forth), mobile another, and so on and so forth. Comparatively buying radio, print, and TV is a simple process."

Gelles adds that companies "understand that digital will define the shape of all media in the very near future" and that "overcoming the obstacles now will put them in a more competitive position from a brand marketing perspective when the digital tipping point arrives."

Online offers instant advantages to advertisers that old media such as newspapers and TV simply can't provide.

"You can actually create content, put it out there for relatively little money and see whether or not it works," he says. "You can also, by listening, actually find insights for brand marketing, again relatively cheaply and quickly, that are much more difficult to do. With my audience online, I can just listen to what they're talking about ... I can use different tools to find out what they're interested in and build content around that."

By listening to the online conversations surrounding your brand, and reacting to that and other situations in real time, it's possible to push your brand beyond the benefits of conventional paid advertising and make a bigger impact than you ever could have imagined-and, of course, further your brand in the process.


Resources

Cronin and Co. 

GO-Gulf 

Media Plus+ 

The Nielsen Co. 

Toyota

Twitter

USA TODAY

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