Commentary

A Case Study in Web Advertising (Mostly true.)

Product: Line extension of a well-known brand.

Demographic target: highly upscale, professional, managerial.

Market concentration: top 10.

Category: relatively new. Market size is small but growing.

Selling process: long and extremely complicated. Requires highly experienced sales force. Many contacts with potential customer.

Brand management team: highly experienced, though not specifically in this category. Cohesive and intelligent group, work well together. Excellent internal communications.

Advertising agency: small creative boutique, good background in category. Good mix of experience and youth. Very good working relationship with client.

Goal of advertising campaign: principally to generate leads sales. Also to generate brand awareness.

Media selection: print. Very upscale publications. Premium positions. Fractional ad pages are used.

Website: good but not great. Offers good information on the product in an undistinguished way.

First two months’ advertising results: a few hundred phone calls, a few thousand Website hits. Sales volume is low but encouraging.

Mid-course adjustment: someone notices that the number of Website responses outnumbers all other sources of customer reaction. Suggestion is made to add Web advertising to the media mix.

Web advertising: two highly targeted Web sites are chosen. Web campaign consists of several very straightforward banner ads. No promotion. By clicking on ads, consumer is taken to advertiser’s website.

Web advertising results: cost per lead is one eighth achieved from print advertising. No discernible difference in quality of respondents.

Marketing strategy: Web advertising budget is expanded to include six more sites. Print budget is cut back accordingly. An online promotion is developed in conjunction with two of the sites. A new creative technology is added to the creative mix.

Media strategy: A few full pages run in broad-reach publications for branding purposes. Web advertising is principal lead-generation medium. Web advertising budget triples. Several sites are added because of guaranteed no-risk cost per lead offers. Number of leads continues to grow, with little drop in quality.

Results: Lead flow exhausts sales team’s capacity to handle. Sales team is expanded significantly. Product quickly grows to number two in its category--with a bullet. Marketing director is hired away by category leader at a significant increase in compensation, plus stock options.

Deviation: someone on client marketing team suggests the brand is ready for television. Agency prepares two 30-second spots; commercial time is bought on Sunday morning news programs as well as on CNN and a few other select cable networks.

Results: leads from television prove to be especially difficult to track, but estimates show cost per lead is approximately 20 times higher than Web-generated leads. While research proves that brand recall is higher, overall sales results are flat. Television budget is eliminated.

Where product stands today: back to print for branding, and Web for leads. Sales force is happy. Agency is happy. Client is happy.

-- Michael Kubin is co-CEO of Evaliant, one of the web's leading sources for online ad data.

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