Cross-Media: Traditional Advertisers Taking Baby Steps Online
Meanwhile, sister company Pepsi-Cola was engaging in a bifurcated TV and online strategy, once again—just as it did before last year’s Oscars—airing commercial clips featuring the inimitable Britney Spears on the Yahoo site, and letting online voters decide which of Ms. Spears’ new looks should grace the second quarter of the game. In the four days people were given to do so, 415,000 of them voted, according to Pepsi. The 2001 Oscar come-on, in which Pepsi drinkers were lured to pepsi.yahoo.com to see the spot before, during, and after the show (and see Britney outtakes), garnered 1.1 million views during the ten days that it ran. “We want to make Pepsi a fun, entertaining brand, and this is one of the ways to do that,” says Pepsi spokesperson David DeCecco.
The Numbers Crunch By broadcast standards, those aren’t large numbers, but to anyone who has been crunching data demonstrating clear increases in Internet usage, the timeliness of a shift to more Internet marketing by traditional advertisers might seem obvious. Would that it were so. In the current climate, the seemingly no-brainer statement from Frito-Lay’s kids and teens guru, Cammie Dunaway, that “if you’re going to be a teen icon brand, you’d better be pretty serious about the Internet,” is much more radical than it seems.
Yup, the news from Doritos and Pepsi is good, but the floodgates haven’t yet opened. According to the ravenously ad-revenue-hungry people at Microsoft, Internet usage now makes up 15 percent of the average American’s media consumption day, but a mere 2 percent of domestic ad spending ends up online. Even the fashion-forward people at Doritos and Pepsi aren’t devoting all that much to a medium they seem to be embracing. According to Competitive Media Reporting, Doritos spent a little more than $250,000 in online media in 2001, meaning that a tripled online budget in 2002 would amount to less than half of the cost of a 2002 Super Bowl spot, which went for around $2 million. For the first nine months of 2001 (full-year figures aren’t yet in), Doritos spent almost $21 million in traditional media.
The Pepsi stable of brands spent $137 million in traditional media during the first nine months of last year and $930,000 online during the same period. In fact, only one of a list of prominent traditional advertisers who use the Internet, Toyota, for which CMR provided data to MEDIA, had a robust online spending number. The Japanese automaker, which did an extensive cross-platform deal with AOL Time Warner (and another with MSN) to launch its new Camry, spent $13.3 million online last year. That campaign is a glimpse into what marketers can do when they choose to leverage cross-media deals with media conglomerates. In addition to de rigueur special areas within the AOL service, the buy also included sponsorship of Time’s special “world music” issue and the October TNT concert broadcast Come Together: A Night for John Lennon.
But with rare exception, the vast disconnect between online consumption and online ad spending continues. Thus, the movement of most traditional advertisers into online media these days still represents a tug-of-war rather than a slow, steady pull. And that’s why, people familiar with the market say, a large part of getting traditional advertisers to come online in the near-term will consist of stating online media’s case, and doing it with language and metrics borrowed from traditional media. The days of expecting traditional advertisers to simply “get” online media are over. “I really think the onus is on the Big Three [America Online, Microsoft Network, and Yahoo] to do more studies,” says Roni Jenkins, partner and media director of JWT Worldwide’s digital@jwt unit. Studying Up Fortunately, at least one of them, MSN, has just stepped to the plate, unveiling a study last month that puts online media in this new context. The study speaks to what could be called the online advertising industry’s new positioning statement: that the Internet is a medium just like any other. Endorsed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and, more importantly for street cred, the Advertising Research Federation, it featured a campaign for the Unilever brand Dove Nutrium, which put online media side by side with print and TV.
Using such traditional yardsticks as unaided brand awareness and purchase intent, the study makes a strong case that online media, rather than being treated as some exotic experiment, should play on the same field as other media. “If you apply the logic of why frequency works in television…that same logic may apply to online,” says Rex Briggs, principal of Marketing Evolution, the firm that conducted the study on behalf of MSN.
To keep that field relatively level, the study polled almost 13,000 women on whether they’d seen the creative components of the campaign in each medium as it started to run early in the fourth quarter. “We wanted to work within a real-world campaign,” explains Frederick Savoye, director of partner marketing at MSN. (Each piece of creative focuses on a pink-and-white-striped bar of the high-end soap, but the campaign isn’t flashy—the online component was a simple skyscraper ad.) The study wasn’t trying to prove that online is better; it was simply trying to make the point that if advertisers are going to use TV and print to get in front of potential customers, online should be there too. Steven Marrs, president and COO of DDB Worldwide’s Tribal DDB unit asks, “How does the Internet get its share of the overall marketing pie?”
Here’s how the study was conducted: Among the demographic of women 29-45, the original campaign aimed at getting 85 percent reach on TV, 50 percent in magazines and 10 percent online over a six-week period last fall. In terms of frequency, the campaign would deliver an average of six impressions in TV, 2.6 impressions in print, and 1.7 in online over the same period. The study found the most potent combination of media was clearly the troika of print, TV, and online. Offline media delivered a score of 119 in branding metrics. Add that to online, which you could argue Unilever did in only counting on it to deliver 10 percent reach, and that number goes to 129.
Ten points might not be enough to bump up online ad budgets, but perhaps the survey’s most salient point in these tight-fisted times is in stating not what online does but how cheaply it can do it. Briggs and MSN took the research one step further, looking at how to best optimize the campaign in the most cost-efficient (read: cheapest) way. If Unilever spent the same amount of money across all three media but increased online reach to 60 percent and frequency to 3.1 impressions, the campaign would boost its overall branding metrics by 8 percent. Even though Unilever and MSN wouldn’t share the campaign’s budget, anyone who has shopped in the dimestore that is online advertising these days should be able to figure out that online is the most cost-efficient way of delivering reach and frequency. As it stands, Unilever spent approximately $300,000 online in the fourth quarter supporting Dove brands, according to CMR, and $29 million in the first three months of last year.
Out of Reach At first blush, the thought of marrying the strong accountability of online media to such wishy-washy measures as reach and frequency probably offends longtime Internet aficionados enamored of its unparalleled data collecting capabilities. Those who’ve tried to attract more advertising dollars to the medium have another view: Get over it.
“In order to get the traditional world to embrace the Internet, we have to build the bridge,” explains Tom Sperry, president of Avenue A’s Atlas DMT unit, which launched a new planning product in December that allows advertisers to plan online media using the Gross Ratings Points metric used in traditional media. He continues, “Once they get over to the promised land, we can show them how to go deeper and quantify things better.”
Maybe this is why, when it comes to traditional advertisers crossing over into online, the result so often falls back not only on TV metrics, but on commercials themselves. Even the cross-platform Toyota campaign, which stuck fairly closely to the specialties each medium can provide, had its incidence of using the Internet as a TV delivery device. Fifteen-second spots featuring the Camry ran before the content at MSN’s windowsmedia.com.
Of course, one of the most well-known examples is the BMWfilms.com campaign of last year. The carmaker used its TV campaign to point to the Internet, where viewers could get a far more sophisticated look at the car that starred in a series of short films. Aiming for an elite demographic with heavy broadband access—which was also being pursued by car brands aching for BMW’s cachet—the campaign drew 856,000 visitors in June, one of the peak months of the campaign, per Jupiter Media Metrix. And those visitors spent an average of 16 minutes on the site, the rough equivalent of seeing 32 BMW TV commercials during the course of the month. Talk about frequency. And efficiency. Besides the production costs of the films themselves, BMW spent $400,000 in online media during the first nine months of this year, as compared with $60 million in traditional media during the same period.
But rather than being a create-your-own-plot exercise in interactivity, the BMWfilms.com campaign is a sterling example of video-on-demand. The Internet was a delivery mechanism, rather than primarily a way to collect information on every person who stopped into the online theater.
Not that traditional advertisers are totally running away from the notion of getting data from their Internet traffic. The most popular place on the Doritos.com site, according to Ms. Dunaway, is the link to “Play the Game” to win an Xbox—but the easiest route to playing is to buy a specially marked bag of Doritos, look inside for its so-called eXtreme code, enter the code at the site, and begin playing—a heavily trackable way of figuring out who is stopping in. “They’re pretty responsive to opening that dialogue,” she says.
But the early verdict on the Doritos site—at this writing, it’s been up for only a few weeks—is that the advertiser’s experiment in using the site as a delivery mechanism for the TV campaign has its payoff too. In addition to being able to click on “Play the Game,” visitors are also invited to “Watch the TV.” People can choose from among six brand commercials, and the strange thing is that visitors seem unable to watch just one. Executives at Frito-Lay and Atmosphere, the online arm of the brand’s traditional agency, BBDO, have noticed that people who click on one commercial tend to click on all of them, and that’s creating a feedback loop in which the website is helping to determine the TV plan.
One offbeat spot that hasn’t yet appeared on TV, featuring a Doritos lover wearing a coat of live minks (well, sort of), has had such positive response that it’s now planned for TV rotation. In addition, visitors can send commercial links to friends and sign up for emails alerting them to preview new spots, another subtle data-collection mechanism. Dunaway sounds shocked when it’s pointed out that many advertisers find measurement one of the web’s most vexing obstacles. “Well, actually, I think that our ability to measure what’s going on is really quite good,” she says.
For the skeptics out there who wonder whether it’s smart to TV-ize the web, here’s an interesting fact. During the week ended Feb. 9, the number-one search term on Lycos.com wasn’t “New England Patriots” (#40) or “Osama bin Laden” (#50), but “Super Bowl Commercials.” Skyscraper ads will probably be with us for years, but can pinpoint online targeting of TV campaigns be all that far off?
Catharine P. Taylor has written extensively about online advertising for ADWEEK, Advertising Age, and other publications. This is her first article for MEDIA Magazine.