Having it All? Volumetric vs. Efficiency

We have all been over the debate time and again regarding just what it is that online media can accomplish better: branding or direct response. It is my feeling that this debate has, thankfully, been settled with a resounding “both.” To what degree online media does either depends on such a wide variety of factors that to talk about any one of them means an endless array of caveats in deference to the others.

Be that as it may, there is little dispute over the fact that a great deal of online advertising is still concerned with counting up responses. Be they clicks or visits or requests for information or subscriptions to newsletters or submissions of email addresses, most uses of online media amount to tabulating actions. That means that regardless of how the client may label their effort, it is still fundamentally a direct response campaign and is judged based on metrics borrowed from direct response.

One of the considerations that many marketers new to the uses of truly measurable media often times overlook is the balance between efficiency and volume.



When driving visitors to a web site for the purposes of engaging a particular product or service, there are two primary classifications of objective that need to be considered: efficiency or volumetric.

The first is a "cost-per" satisfaction of a call to action; the second is a number of responses (visits) I need to drive. If I can get a visitor, a.k.a. potential customer, at a $1 per, can I get enough of them to sustain me? How long would it take for me to get enough "leads" to have a sustainable business? The efficiency might be present, but the volume to make that yielded efficiency meaningful might not materialize.

For example, let’s say some advertiser’s effort was running both online display advertising as well as spots on television, with a spot running in the Super Bowl.

Assume I paid $2 million for the Super Bowl spot and drove 1 million visitors. Let’s assume that my entire online spend for one year is $500,000. Based on an average CPM of $5 – we can pretend there was a lot of overdelivery mixed with some good negotiating, plus some placements on premium properties -- that means 100 million impressions over the course of a year. Let’s also assume a generous average CTR of .5% (and please, before you start sending me irate notes about how misguided the CTR metric is, I’m already well aware of it). Over the year, I’ve driven 500,000 visitors from my online efforts.

Now, as the above starts to show, it is possible to drive traffic to a site or create encounters with a particular product or service using online rather than offline. Based on the above example, 1 million visitors from running a Super Bowl ad results in a $2 cost per visitor, but it only costs $1 per visitor from my web based efforts.

Could an advertiser have gotten 1 million visitors in one day just using online media and still yield the kinds of efficiencies being had from half a million visitors over the course of a year? I've got to believe that somewhere along the line from concept to execution, marketers and their agencies try to figure out how much response would be necessary to justify any given advertising expense.

I'm not saying that this particular effort met any goal, or that numeric objectives can’t be met more efficiently with online as a medium, but I am confident that a $2 million cost-per-click campaign would have taken me a very long time to realize the same results as a Super Bowl effort.

Marketers need to keep in mind that there has to be some intersect of both efficiency and volume if one is to keep a business going. Yielding customers at $.50 each is great, but if you only get 100 of them, unless you are selling very high-ticket items, you aren’t going to have much of a business going. Marketers and advertisers need to ask themselves both how much AND how many customers it takes to be in business.

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