Commentary

Directional Media Is Moving

  • by March 28, 2012

Yellow pages, search engines, and directories -- directional media -- have historically told people where to go to get something they already know they want. Now, they are getting into the business of influencing what people want.

The digital age has forced directional media into a new direction: upward. Up the customer conversion funnel sits brand awareness and consideration, the advertising area once dominated solely by content publishers, like newspapers, magazines, and broadcast used to selling display advertising.

In recent year, companies from Google to AT&T’s Yellow Pages have launched major display advertising initiatives in an effort to capture more of the ad spend from customers demanding an end to end solution to attracting customers. What has changed is the key innovations in technical capabilities available to these companies for ad creation, targeting and reporting.

The first problem in display advertising is what the ad will look like. Unlike simple phone book listings or search ads, display ads need more than the name of the business and something to direct the reader towards: a phone number or URL. A display ad needs a beautiful ad creative, which normally requires a great ad designer to spend a day or more making. The cost normally is hundreds or thousands of dollars.

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For small advertisers, the cost of the ad creative can be nearly the cost of the entire media buy. For the vast majority of directional media customers, the ad creation costs prohibit them from even considering this option. Now, the rise of dynamic ad creation technology makes the cost and production time near zero.

Media companies can offer beautiful custom ad creation to customers once only able to afford a few lines of text.

The second challenge solved is how to make targeting effective for small budgets. Real-time bidding has made it possible to only buy ad impressions that you value at affordable prices, especially as the supply of ad inventory has gone up.

Plus, directional media companies can now make use of re-targeting (also known as re-marketing) technology, which blurs the line between pure brand awareness and action/purchase by showing ads to customers that have already visited or searched for a business’s website.

In addition, behavioral data has become a commodity easily purchased or collected by directional media companies to enhance campaign performance. These innovations have radically improved the efficiency of display ad buys.

The last major problem in display advertising had been explaining the value delivered through reporting. Most online reporting focuses on simply amount of ad impressions, clicks, and click-through rates. Recently, screen shots of ads running live as well as fuller visualization of engagement and post-click actions have become possible. Small advertisers in particular demand more accountability and proof of ads running, which plagued publishers who couldn’t offer anything more than some numbers in a dashboard.

Directional media companies that make use of these innovations can offer advertisers new customers at any stage of the consideration process. The empirical data suggests display advertising does lift search performance for advertisers, which ultimately means more customers.

It shouldn’t be surprising then that anyone who started off at the bottom of the funnel is moving up in the advertising world and gaining awareness. Directional media companies are in the middle of a huge industry shift, but they are heading in the right direction.

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