Interpublic separates the forest from the trees.

July 15, 2009 § Leave a comment

After sounding off in this space recently about the myriad descriptions we have for online advertising (“What the heck is display advertising anyway? And who cares?”) it’s good to note that Interpublic’s Magna business unit is trying to bucket things along more sensible lines. Per the story in Media Post, Interpublic is proposing we regard online advertsing as follows:

1. Total Direct Response-based advertising, which includes search, lead generation and yellow pages.

2. National Digital/Online advertising, which includes rich media, online video, classifieds, emails, display and mobile

3. Local Digital/Online, which includes revenues from local TV, Radio and newspapers.

It’s not clear, but I assume Local Digital/Online is inclusive of all the advertising formats detailed in National Digital/Online. 

The sensible nature of Interpublic’s initiative is the desire to catalogue spending by marketing objective, not creative format, or application. It is to try and see the whole of the online picture, not just the parts. The creative toolbox available to advertisers online is wonderfully diverse versus other media, but it is not the tools that should determine the job for marketers, as in “Should we use widgets? Why aren’t we using widgets? I want to see some widget uses!” So, it is almost impossible to see the big picture in terms of value versus other media by concentrating on what’s in the box. Interpublic’s break-out response to ad spend measurement may help us lift our gaze.

Conde Nast research tells us something we know, and something we ought to know

June 17, 2009 § Leave a comment

MediaPost reported on a study by Conde Nast and McPheters & Co. documenting that ads running on web sites with related content were 61% more likely to be recalled than ads running on web sites with unrelated content. This is not especially news, but it is always welcome news among publishers, on and offline, who invest considerable time and energy creating quality content for their audiences.

There was an interesting twist at the end of its report about the Conde Nast study, however, that MediaPost may have felt obliged to insert in the spirit of full-disclosure. I should do likewise. It’s truthfully more interesting (and bigger) than the news that the right message in the right place produces better results, which has been shown to be true since, maybe, 1517 when Martin Luther tacked his 95 Theses on the door of a church instead of a tavern. (One wonders if the Protestant Reformation would have got off the ground quite as well if patrons passing through the door were headed in for a drink instead of spiritual reflection.)

According to MediaPost, a Conde Nast study from earlier in the year (April, as I learned) revealed this about online advertising generally versus offline:

“According to data released earlier in the year by Condé Nast and McPheters & Co., nearly two-thirds — 63% — of banner ads were not seen by Web users. Respondents’ eyes “passed over” 37% of the Internet ads and “stopped” on slightly less than a third, McPheters found.

In contrast to online ads, TV and magazine ads generated a strong propensity to be seen and recalled, according to the research.

Full-page, four-color magazine ads were determined to have 83% of the value of a 30-second television commercial, while a typical Internet banner ad has 16% of the value.”

I missed that story last time. It is clearly – sadly- the most newsworthy piece in the context of Conde Nast’s research. And, rats, if you sell online advertising. One assumes Conde Nast went to market with partners McPheters & Co. (and CBS Vision) to bring back answers in defense of print and afterwards went back to the well for news to support their digital team. Well, they got it: Content matters.

Thanks. Very interesting.

Frankly, however, I’m inclined to want to pay careful attention to those results reported again at the end of today’s story. I suspect they may be more right than wrong in regard to Internet advertising, the distribution of which has appeared – and continues to appear – largely indiscriminate despite improved targeting features. Most of those features are late to the game and still devoid of consumer partnership – meaning, consumers don’t get that the messages may be targeted usefully towards them; they just see the same @$%! advertising everywhere and have conditioned themselves to ignore it.

The “content matters” question, therefore, is quite possibly more important than what it has been shown again to contribute to advertising that relies upon it. In the negative sense, advertising (and marketing) that does not offer proper context to its targets and customers may be cheating the advertising body politic as a whole.  

Interesting. This may be an acute side-effect of an Internet pumped-up on data hormones; though magazines, most of which are specialized, might also be vulnerable if they were to suddenly start mainlining data. Consider a Fortune magazine edition with no business advertising and a Parenting magazine with nothing but business advertising. The effect would probably start to chip away at the 83% value quotient that print enjoys versus the :30 spot. The rational basis for the advertising in both publications might be the consumer, but the consumer’s associations are with the media. Eliminate the associations and advertising stops being break-through in the way that data can enhance break-through. It simply breaks. It stops making sense.

Conde Nast’s research is telling us something we know. More importantly, it is telling us something we ought to know and perhaps do something about (quick). study shows the gaps left open in the brand advertising sales proposition online

June 2, 2009 § Leave a comment released results from a survey of top marketers conducted in February and March that got very different play in the two places I saw it picked-up, thanks to my various news digests. The difference is interesting.

Adweek reported that marketers still regard the Internet as a direct response tool. Their piece was titled, “Most Marketers Ignore Brand Metrics Online.” Over at MediaPost, editors gave coverage to the Forbes study under the heading, “CMOs not satisfied with Ad Nets,” (meaning ad networks).

The results of the study, which polled 119 marketers, seem to imply that advertisers may retreat from using display advertising as a vehicle for direct response messages. They like Search and Email. Ad networks, as major purveyors of cheap, direct response display advertising over the past few years, get stuck in the cross-hairs of that change. Hence the varying treatment of the story in Adweek and MediaPost while the market figures-out what’s going on and who is likely to be affected.

I suspect that some of the ad network spin is coming from Jim Spanfeller, CEO of, who is a consistent spokesperson for brand publishers and brand advertising online, and a frequent critic of ad networks. Quoted in Adweek, Jim says,

“On the Web specifically, advertising has moved into more demand fulfillment as opposed to demand creation. That’s not really advertising. There’s nothing wrong with it. Doing search marketing and point-of purchase displays all works, but it’s not advertising. It’s not about creating demand and improving brand metrics.”

In MediaPost, he says,

“Ad network spending is all about demand fulfillment while direct-to-publisher display is much aligned with the traditional advertising goals of demand creation.” 

Unfortunately, I think Adweek probably has the story line right in its title, “Most Marketers Ignore Brand Metrics Online.” But don’t just blame ad networks. The survey data has very little to do with ad networks. The survey data implies that Marketers still don’t respect the Internet as a branding vehicle and that makes all display advertising purveyors guilty. 

Jim Spanfeller has the gumption, at least, to say “it’s not advertising” when he talks about the pervasiveness of what he calls “demand fulfillment” advertising online. I’m not sure I agree that it’s not advertising, but I take his point. Too bad we didn’t have Jim nearby when the industry as a whole was rolling-out its fulfillment value proposition in 1995 extolling the one-to-one results and risk-free benefits of online advertising.

The study shows, once more,  just how ill-advised that positioning strategy was. We should hope that our ability to encourage brand advertisers to see the engaging and deeply relevant value of online media to audiences gets here before digital technology levels the playing field for all media, especially TV.

Exit the middlemen: ad agencies are looking to reassert control over media planning and buying

June 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

The move by advertising agencies to reclaim media planning and buying authority in the marketplace is shifting into higher gear. This is particularly relevant to planning and buying online, but the implications should extend to offline where new skills and practices learned in the digital arena will offer agencies the chance to re-assert their value to marketers.

The enabling device, of course, is data, and ad agencies are signaling that they can and will invest in the means to manage large audience databases and harvest the information in the interest of their customers. This was the real story that The New York Times missed in its report today (“Put Ad on Web. Count clicks. Revise.”) about how data allows agencies to manipulate ad spending based on results and behavior. Everyone has already heard the news about data (was the headline from the Time’s piece really from 2009?), even Congress. The fact that the Times report was largely about ad agencies and their offshoots, such as Varick Media Management, and that it never mentioned a behavior ad network was the real headline. MediaPost came much closer to the heart of the matter in its story today about Interpublic’s new media trading system, Cadreon, with a title that aptly begins, “Searching for the New Heart of Madison Avenue…”

Indeed, searching for the new heart of Madison Avenue has been the past-time of many people inside and out of the industry for years. Maybe love has finally found a way. Once again, information is power and much of it derives from the sort of relationships that ad agencies have continued to enjoy  – albeit in serf fashion – with their clients. Sitting atop copious amounts of campaign data, which they have watched get turned into fortunes by vendors with shifting attachments to the strategic welfare of a client, ad agencies have decided they are – and ought to remain – media planning and buying vendors of first and last resort.

Good for them. Now they just have to figure out how to get paid for it, but the excitement and opportunities increase when they consider how data can begin to play a livelier role given the expansion of digital media technology to all places offline, especially TV.

Stay tuned for more from the publisher (content) side, as well. Everyone has decided that data is proprietary, not just the advertisers and ad agencies. Cable companies are considering their subscriber boxes, web publishers their audiences. And newspapers, with their backs more against the wall than most, finally held a meeting last week to link arms around the issue of content and audience data.

Provided everyone steps out of the shadows and conducts business transparently, the media planning and buying business is headed for a period of renewed creativity and value led by ad agencies back in control.

Thinking about online video? Think short.

May 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

Recalling a post in this space last February, “Is Hulu like TV?”, Online Media Daily reported on new research that consumers do not use the Internet like television. Based on pretty good sample sizes, independent analyst, Bruce Leichtman, found that only 8% of respondents said they use the Internet to watch re-purposed TV shows. Most people watch video in smaller, short form segments online, whether news or sports or user-generated content. Ultimately, only 3% of adults said they would consider disconnecting their TV in favor of the Internet to watch their programs.

In juxtaposition to Mr. Leichtman’s research, the New York Times had a piece over the weekend on the astonishing online video trajectory of Susan Boyle, the homely “Britain’s Got Talent” performer that delivered a blow for the forces of goodness and light when she debuted on the show several weeks ago and became an extra-ordinary pop sensation. According to The Time’s report, her April video singing “I dreamed a dream” has been viewed 220 million times. Only three videos have ever received more clicks, says Visible Measures, a company quoted in the story.

These two stories should be viewed side-by-side. One says, look, I like TV for what it gives me: the chance to sit with my feet up and a bag of potato chips enjoying a program with my partner/children/roommate. During the commercials we talk about what everyone did that day. The other says, look, I like the Internet because without it I’d never have known about this Susan Boyle woman, and it made me glad to know that really good things still happen in life (without having to sift through days and weeks of programming). We can define the media experience of each in a variety of ways: one is passive and one is active; one is about shared experiences and one is about shared discoveries. Both cater to our social instincts. One is truly global.

But, they are different and will probably stay different because consumers will keep them for different uses. The frustrating part, of course, is that the advertising industry can’t decide how to take advantage of the Internet video piece – which is the 220 million views piece in the Susan Boyle example.

There are legitimate content rights issues in connection with opportunities such as Susan Boyle’s appearance on “Britain’s Got Talent.” We can’t help with that problem from here. But pretending that how the money gets divided does not remain an issue, what should the Internet industry do to position its particular brand of video opportunity?

Think short. Then, think big. The Internet is about segments and slices of content reached through countless entry points. YouTube and Hulu are successful aggregators of video content segments, but to create a viable ad model online video needs distribution. Distributing television style programming won’t scale and won’t cater to the uses and desires of the Internet audience. But delivering short form videos will: “How to” videos, such as home repair and recipes, movie trailers, TV excerpts, music videos, stupid pet tricks, etc.

It follows that with distribution will come context: video content will seek its own levels. With context will come the advertising rationale and – we hope – user acceptance of the associated ad models, such as pre-roll. The key is to make video prevalent online and sensible with regards to how people use the Internet, which is frequently in parts and segments.

Defending data from regulation

May 20, 2009 § Leave a comment

As reported in Media Post today, there was good news for a sensible approach to the issue of online privacy courtesy of the Technology Policy Institute, which released a study that says nothing much can be gained for consumers or companies by increasing the amount of  privacy regulation online. As quoted in Media Post the study, “In Defense of Data”, said:

“Regulation should be undertaken only if a market is not functioning properly and if the benefits of new measures outweigh their costs…Our analysis suggests that proposals to restrict the amount of information available would not yield net benefits for consumers.”

Right. And besides all that, the argument has been made before in this space that the conversation about online privacy seems totally detached from the presence of far more intrusive forms of data-driven marketing offline. Really, how many online ads are intruding on dinner hour at home at night? In comparison to some offline tactics, behavior targeting online is thoroughly benign. Thus, apart from the benefits that may exist, the dangers of anonymous data online should be measured againsts the dangers of more extreme data uses offline – and there don’t appear to be many. Offline data use is frequently a nuisance to consumers, but not typically a danger. Online data use is neither.

Is Hulu like TV?

February 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

MediaPost’s “Around the Net in Online Marketing” directed us to this story today about Hulu in The Economist. The upshot seems to be that Hulu may have broken the code on having a successful video business online, although the article is appropriately cautious at the end saying, “It’s too early to declare Hulu the winner.” (I suppose that means the winner over YouTube). From the sound of things Hulu is sold out of advertising space, which means prices should go up, which certainly sounds successful.

I was talking with someone about Hulu this week, however, who made a smart observation: Yes, Hulu is successful attracting an audience and selling some ads against it; but, does Hulu constitute a successful video model online in the way we ought to think about it? Is Hulu like TV?

Probably not. Hulu is a product of TV. Hulu is a line extension. TV develops the audience and Hulu simply adds value to it by letting The Office fans experience their favorite bits over and over again. Could Hulu develop an original program audience on its own worthy of sold-out sponsorship? Probably not. At least, not yet. Original video programming online has struggled to find a sponsor. It’s not for lack of audience; YouTube is big. So, it’s not device driven; Hulu proves people will sit in front of a computer screen to watch programs. The problem is simply the one that infects online media, generally, which is an umbilical attachment to the safety of offline media brands. It’s a fetal thing.

Eventually we’ll grow out of it. At that point Hulu may appear to lack the freshness and authenticity that would make it like – well – the Internet.

Views of a Foetus in the Womb detail.jpg

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