6 persistent digital advertising myths (10 years later)

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ClickI used to do a presentation back in 2004-06 titled “10 Digital Advertising Myths” and wondered how much had really changed.

#1 The Clickthrough is a measure of success

Let’s get this one straight. The clickthrough is nothing more than a ratio, a percentage. It is the result of a math equation. Total clicks over total impressions.

Why is the “Clickthrough” not a measure of success? It’s because you can easily manipulate its outcome. With frequency capping you can limit the frequency of ad exposure which directly and positively affects the number of impressions to clicks ratio, increasing your clickthrough for any given creative, placement, ad format or budget. It literally is what you want it to be as you have control over it.

#2 Clicks matter

This one falls in the “it depends” category. If your campaign objective is direct response and you are running your campaign through search ads, classifieds, directories and publisher newsletters, then yes, clicks DO matter. It is the first measure of response to your marketing message.

However, if you are using display, native, social media ads, or video advertising for your direct response, clicks do not mean what you think it does. This is regardless whether your objective is direct response one, or a branding one. Clicks through these ad vehicles represent instantaneous, spontaneous and immediate reactions to seeing an ad = pure impulsiveness. Several comScore studies since 2009 have demonstrated that heavy clickers (less than 4% of all internet users) generate at least 66% of ALL clicks and they are nothing more than online window shoppers. They’re just browsing anything and everything. Light clickers however (who click once or twice a month) are strategic clickers in that they’ve already decided to buy something and are waiting for the deal. The deal is what your ad might present the user, the deal they’ve been waiting for and so they click on the first or second impression.

Further explanation, this is why you have so few clicks beyond the 3rd impression.

#3 Impressions matter

Impressions do not mean reach. The impression number only means how many opportunities to possibly be seen. Why impressions as such DO NOT MATTER really is because of the growing viewability and fraud problems display advertising are experiencing.

Viewability has been defined as 50% of the ad’s surface being in the viewable screen for a minimum of 1 second. While not very long, it’s enough to state that the ad had a real chance to be seen or noticed.  Any ad that was delivered to the page, but not in any viewed screen (whether the user scrolled or not) are thus not viewable and have NO VALUE for the advertiser.

Beyond viewability, there is the issue of display ad fraud which has been all over the news in the last year. There are many different methods through which display ads are fraudulently delivered or counted and in some instances deemed viewable (because fraudsters can trick some viewability tools’ methods). Fraud is estimated to represent anywhere between 30% and 50% of all display ad impression – that’s a lot! It in effect diminishes the value of all ad impressions.

#4 The Internet is not a branding platform

No of course not.        — just kidding.

In 2011 the IAB in the US held a contest to have agencies and publishers create new “branding focused” digital ad formats which became known at display rising stars. Since then, video rising star formats and mobile rising star formats have seen the day.

The problem was never about the Internet’s ability to deliver on branding, but the fact that the 2 basic metrics that get reported are impressions and clicks which point to a direct response, thus we have a direct response medium. Branding is trickier to measure but is very much measurable.

Besides phone or online surveys to determine brand awareness, appreciation and intent to buy, branding can be measured through voluntary time spent with an ad, engagement or interaction with an ad. It can be measured in the actions taken after having been exposed to an ad.

To use the internet as a branding platform, one must select branding ad formats (larger, including video), purchase ad inventory on a branding pricing model (not performance based) and present a compelling message that’s properly targeted and presented in the right environment, on the right screen.

#5 Television is still more efficient than digital

Television does have more immediate impact than does digital. This is because of the way it is consumed. People tune in, in groups of varying sizes, to a particular live program or televised event which generates tremendous immediate reach. This is significant despite the 33% of people who skip, mute or just don’t pay attention to ads. You can very rapidly and effectively reach tens of thousands, if not millions, of people in a particular target segment. How rapidly? Within 30 or 60 seconds is very quick. You can build mass reach, and frequency, in as little as a week.

However the “more efficient” part of the statement is debatable as this always depends on your objective, target audience and means. One should also include all costs which for television includes much more expensive ad production than does digital.

It is often the case when digital is more efficient strictly from a budgetary point of view. If you don’t have enough to produce a few good TV spots and buy the media to have them seen, you might well still have enough budget for extraordinary digital creative (non-video because that would cost the same as television).

Digital media pricing is also much cheaper than television is.

#6 We already have a website

We already have a website… we don’t need to advertise it…

or its variants: we already run paid search, we don’t need display ads; we have a Facebook page, we don’t need to advertise it…

You can imagine other such stupid statements.

Simply having a website or Facebook page is not enough. People don’t happen to visit your website by chance. It is always by design. That design can be prompted by a very real need, if that individual knows you exist. Otherwise it can be prompted by branding ads which can spark awareness and desire in people who didn’t know you existed, or didn’t know they could use something like what you offer. Branding drives people to have awareness of your brand. It informs consumers on what you do, how you do it and how to compare to others. It places you on a consumer’s consideration list. If you get to that point, then and only then will you be shopped if and when the consumer actually is willing to put money against this desire.

For the sake of fun, here are other myths we’ve long since dispelled.

#1 Internet is not a reach medium

Google reaches across its full spectrum of properties and ad network 99% of internet users, that is to say 79% of the full Canadian population online through desktop and 50% of Canadians through web-enabled smartphones.

Facebook reaches online alone 64% of ALL Canadians aged 2 and over, whether they have a computer or not, whether they have internet access or not. Add to that its massive mobile reach…

Many online portals achieve similar levels of reach, which is slightly below any one conventional television station, but way above any one radio station or printed newspaper. That’s real reach.

#2 Our target audience isn’t really online

Really? My arguments from 10 years ago still hold true. Unless your target audience is 75+, in which case ok, you’re right, there are NO segments of the total population you’d want to target which isn’t online.

#  The Internet doesn’t generate offline sales

Ah, duh! Really? We Canadians, contrary to Americans, do not have a catalogue culture. We need to see and touch things before we buy them. We shop online and buy offline primarily.

#3 Franchisees won’t let us advertise online / it’s not recognized for COOP dollars

That might still be the case here and there – not everyone actually lives here with us in 2015, some actually think we’re still in the pre-2000s…

If your franchisees don’t consider the web as a viable advertising medium, maybe they’re not in the business of growing their business… Find other partners.

#4 We don’t know how to compare it to other media

Really? On straight visibility, all media can be measured on a cost per thousand ad impressions (CPM) which is very simple to calculate for the web. You can compare that really simply.

You can also compare the web with other media on the # of sales it generates, on time spent consumers are willing to spend with your messaging or your online site versus your actual brick & mortar stores.

#5 The client doesn’t understand digital

Find another client. The client doesn’t need to understand digital – it would be nice if they did, but it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they should know that it’s important and trust someone (internal or external) to handle it for him.

The “client” may not even understand how his widgets are fabricated, but it doesn’t matter, so long as they sell and generate revenue. Same goes for digital.

One Response

  1. 6 Modern digital marketing myths - Titan Interactive

    […] week I revived 6 myths from 10 years ago and proceeded to further demolish those that persist to this day while laughing at those we now […]

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