Today's column is written by Pam Horan, President of the Online Publishers Association, a not-for-profit trade organization that represents online publishers
In the Chinese zodiac, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, a fitting animal characterized by being driven, unafraid of challenges and willing to take risks. This year, akin to the ancient tradition, will offer many opportunities for marketers to make a strong brand impact online, based on strategically capitalizing on industry advancements that will enhance their ability to tell a brand's story and make meaningful connections while more effectively measuring their results.
For some marketers, 2011 was the year of racing to gather the most Facebook Fans or "Likes." However, as the year came to a close, the savvy marketer is realizing that the value of the "Like" is illusive and unless they can measure the true value, investing in these activities may not be the best way to drive their branding goals in 2012.
For the marketer focused on making a meaningful brand impact this year, there are a few critical advertising elements that should be top of mind as they work to finalize their campaigns.
- Touch Points – Connected with Consumers Across All Devices: Consumers have demonstrated that they value content across devices and one of the great opportunities for marketers is to ensure that they are surrounding the consumer with a consistent experience across platforms, leveraging online, mobile, print and television -- a concept that research has consistently demonstrated has a multiplier effect. Google and Neilson recently teamed up for a study at CBS' Television City media lab and found that when study participants were exposed to ads on multi-screens as opposed to TV only, awareness increased from 50% to 74% and engagement increased from 22% to 29%. Each experience should be unified to reinforce the brand story but tailored to the medium to make the most of the channel's strengths. For instance, online should be experiential and television should be emotive.
Implementing many touch points with a consistent brand experience will reinforce the story, as was recently experienced by Nissan. The company embarked on a cross-platform campaign to engage College Football fans during the 2010-2011 season on ESPN TV, ESPN.com and ESPN Mobile platforms. As a result, the automobile maker found that multiplatform exposure helped to drive faster results in terms of recall, favorability and consideration.
- Creative Renaissance – Delivering Online Brand Experiences: Online is a terrific place for marketers to deliver strong brand experiences rather than simply leveraging the platform for direct marketing. In Advertiser Perceptions' "2011 Advertiser Intelligence Report; Digital Landscape; Spring, Wave 15," advertisers predicted that 55 percent of purchased advertising online would be for branding in the next 12 months as opposed to 45 percent for performance. In 2012, a priority for marketers should be to develop great creative that delivers their brand experiences directly on the pages of rich content sites rather than employing direct tactics to have the consumer click away. For example, in a "Brought to you by" experience, McDonald's Happy Meal provided viewers with a highly-engaging experience through a colorful, eye-catching OPA Pushdown Unit which appeared on nick.com. The ad, which began as a narrow strip and expanded, featured one of the network's most loved characters, iCarly, and a "Wheel of Fun," in which the target audience could powerfully engage with the brand through a series of videos and games, made specifically for the campaign. As McDonalds did, more marketers will take advantage of the impactful techniques online that can move key brand metrics.
- Branding in Motion – Online Video Becomes a Major Player: Online video provides a great way to emotionally connect with consumers whether it is streaming in a high impact unit like an OPA XXL Ad Unit, OPA Pushdown or via pre, mid or postroll. In 2011, online video became one of the greatest areas of growth as it offers an unmatched opportunity to reach an engaged audience. comScore found that in September 2011, 182 million U.S. Internet users watched online video content, for an average of 19.5 hours per viewer and eMarketer expects online video ad spending to reach $2.2 billion by year's end, up 52.1% from 2010. Video allows brands to tell engaging stories and the real opportunity is for the marketer to think about their video strategy holistically rather than by platform – TV vs. PC vs. mobile. Old Spice, for instance, utilized online video as one of the primary components of its integrated campaign aimed at reenergizing the brand. In addition to wildly-buzzed about television spots that reached a broad audience, the brand also reached a younger audience through a video ad embedded in an OPA Pushdown Ad Unit with the same message on people.com.
- Who's Counting – Measurement Comes of Age: Previously thought of as the golden child of online measurement and campaign success, clicks are now better understood as an appropriate metric for direct marketing goals but not for branding. More and more marketers are finding ways to effectively measure their online brand initiatives to understand the impact on awareness, consideration and ultimately purchase. Our research over the years better captures the true impact as demonstrated through our work with comScore. In a study called the "The Silent Click: Building Brands Online," we found there are many facets to consumer engagement, including their search activities associated with that brand, their visitation to the advertisers' site and finally their e-commerce and retail spending activities.
For marketers, the Year of the Dragon will provide an opportunity to capitalize on integrated channels that can offer a way to tell a brand story and continue to build a relationship with consumers. As with every other year, we all need to focus on the initiatives that can truly move the needle rather than getting distracted by a shiny new object.