Brand marketers looking for alternative strategies to connect with consumers have begun to focus attention on display advertising, a medium historically known to elicit a direct response.
Most planning to buy media in display look toward clicks, impressions and conversions to measure performance. But the more important metrics often point to return on ad spend, online searches for brand names, product recall, and sales.
There is evidence through recent campaigns from brands like Sealy and Animal Planet, along with research from Collective, that online display advertising continues to shift from a direct-response form of advertising to branding media.
"The Digital Advertising 2011: A Portrait of Conflict" study released by Collective finds that 57% of agencies believe the majority of their display objectives are to build the brand, yet only 11% cite ad creative as critical to the campaign's success.
Still, 60% of agencies cite brand recall and intent to purchase as the most important measures of online success. However, clicks and conversions remain the key criteria agencies say they use to evaluate media, according to the Collective study.
As for Sealy, the mattress company wanted to go from a household name to a lifestyle brand, according to Dan Taylor, head of sales for the Google Display Network. "The mattress category is sort of a snooze fest," he said. "Sealy felt there's not a huge differentiation in brands in the minds of consumers."
Sealy set out to reinvent its brand using YouTube promoted videos and in-stream video ads, driving 46% of its Web site traffic during the first week of the campaign. It rolled out supported by the tagline "Whatever you do in bed Sealy supports it," reaching a younger audience. The YouTube videos garnered more than 500,000 views, a number more familiar to entertainment, not mattress companies.
The campaign debuted around the Super Bowl. YouTube content contributed about 21% of Sealy's Web site referral traffic during February. A mobile campaign through AdMob highlighted the "In Bed" app. The application lets users take a photograph of anything with a camera phone and insert an "In Bed" tag in the photo before posting it or sending it off to a friend.
New technologies and ad formats enable interactive messages, moving display beyond simple text and graphs. Brand advertisers also have begun to see budgets shift from TV, although it's a bit premature to quantify the amount, Taylor said.
Animal Planet's River Monster interactive ad campaign attracted 1.6 million viewers to the season premier, putting it in the No. 1 spot among its younger, target audience, males ages 18 to 49. Google supported the video and rich media campaign across the Google Display Network, AdMob, and YouTube.
Google serves more than 110 million impressions during the display campaign. YouTube visitors to the brand channel page hung out with the river monsters for about 3:45 minutes on average watching show content.