Do We Need More Proof That It's The Media?

Last week, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Nielsen//Netratings released research showing a definitive lift in brand awareness stemming from search results. Flying in the face of industry convention that text ads do pretty much bupkus for brands, the research study showed that people exposed to search ads were 27 percent more likely than a control group to name the brand listed in the top search spot when asked to name a leading brand within a tested category.

Do we all remember when advertisers shunned text ads like the plague? I do, too. But that was before text ads became the standard for paid search advertising.

And the text ads advertisers shunned at the time were the type commonly given away as added value to banner buys these days - page placements that didn't have the contextual relevance that paid search advertising does.

One of my biggest frustrations about this industry is that agencies and advertisers tend to look at the online advertising landscape through a creative-centric lens. "Which works better, an Eyeblaster or a Unicast Superstitial?" is many times one of the first questions a new client will ask me before launching a campaign. Rarely do I get asked "Which works better - behavioral targeting or contextual targeting?" Yet, the media-centric questions are the ones that should be asked more often.



After all, we've seen what the contextual relevance of paid search can do to lowly text ads, which rarely get more than a tenth of a percent response rate when they're run on content sites. The same ad might click through at 10 to 30 times that rate when contextually targeted, which is what paid search allows us to do.

I'm not saying that the creative doesn't count. What I am saying is that you'll be able to boost your ad campaign's effectiveness more by looking at media placement than you will by looking at creative factors.

While the IAB's research deals with brand awareness rather than response, it adds to the argument that placement plays a huge role in online advertising. To achieve maximum online ad effectiveness, we need to look at the online media landscape in ways that focus our attention on the media placement.

One of my favorite ways to visualize an online campaign is as a series of concentric circles. The bulls-eye in the middle represents the mindset of prospects that are looking for products or services in an advertiser's particular category. They are the low-hanging fruit and must be addressed before prospects residing in any of the other circles. The first concentric circle outside the bulls-eye consists of prospects that want your product or service, but aren't actively searching for it at this exact second. Those folks can be addressed through behavioral targeting or through content-specific placements other than search. Each circle represents a different mindset on the part of the consumer. As you work your way out, you move further and further away from the low-hanging fruit, but you improve your chances of moving prospects toward the bulls-eye.

This is just one way of looking at an online media campaign from a placement-centric viewpoint. I'm sure there are many others. But if your campaign strategy uses solely creative-centric models, I'd suggest you move toward a more media-centric approach.

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