A Man With Two Heads for Two Hats…

16 July, 2008
Two Heads for Two Hats

Two Heads for Two Hats

Ah, yes, well it had to come up again… the whole branding v. direct response debate. At AdViking because we are four we often have different perspectives, but one of us is currently wearing two hats… you see he runs CarQuake which is both a publisher (and therefore earns ad revenue), as well as an advertiser for lead generation (and therefore runs direct response campaigns).

Wearing one hat he bemoans the reasonably inconsequential earnings he gets from advertising sold on the site (currently c. £0.70 CPM)… but wearing the other he demands performance from his advertisers who drive traffic to the site. He wants to see results.

And, there is the rub… because stepping back from the precipice and wearing a third hat he can see two things:

  1. CPM banner advertising is difficult to justify in terms of immediate results. The estimated exposure is good, but how many ‘viewers’ are really viewing? How many are reading his message? How many are being targeted not only as the right audience, but at the right point of the buying cycle?
  2. CPA lead generation is much easier to quantify, but he struggles to get the reward balance right to incentivise affiliates and partners without giving away all the margin.

The advice follows… for CPM, there needs to be more integration of message, greater exposure of offer / communication into the target audience, or it really isn’t worth that much. For CPA, there needs to be a smoother process – a better introduction of the viewer to the proposition and the neatest possible call to action, too many CPA systems are contrived to suit the tracking and not the customer (and, dare I say it, are prone to more ‘fraud’ too)!

Perhaps, later on, over a beer, he might tell you how brands can fully engage their audience without resorting to cheap flash games or clumsy sponsorship deals.

Another Reason Why Brand Ads Matter Online

11 June, 2008

I was at AdMonsters in Berlin this week. This was a very well run and enjoyable event. Thankfully they “firewall” the sponsors (vendors) at this event from the members (publishers) and I think this helps keep the conversations focused and at times very open. BTW – I was there as a sponsor (as part of Microsoft Advertising), they made me work for it as I had to run 2 workshops. Thanks to the publishers the workshops were very good and generated some valuable insights especially around the challenges of inventory management for display… I digress. The point of this short post was to outline an old but still well worth remembering reason why brand advertising is very important to content owners. I will now try to explain.

If you have a site with great content (think the Guardian or NY Times) you want your users to stay on the site and you do not want them to click away. However, you need to support your business with ads (ie, ad funded) and thus you need those brand advertisers to buy ad slots on your site (usually in the form of CPMs). It will always be a balance between how many ads and how they are displayed vs. content and editorial best practice. The higher the production value of display ads (more rich media and video please!) the better. Users get the impact, advertisers get value, the publishers get paid and we get to read great content. What we at AdViking call a virtuous cycle. I wonder if the folks over at Google AdWords ever think about this virtuous cycle? Or the smart folks who came up with the 2nd search box?

This got the AdViking crew thinking a bit more about the old “above the line” (branding) vs. “below the line” (direct reponse or DR) split or paradigm. After a few too many fine German pilsners we found ourselves asking why is everyone trying to battle Google in the DR space? Or as John Battelle says (thanks JB for keeping it real; btw – AdViking loves your blog):

Straight down a rat hole. (A direct response rathole, I might add – the majority of dollars on the web are still in DR).

We agree this could be a really bad hole to fall into. Sure DR works but the whole point is it takes traffic away from your content! Simple idea that is easily forgotten while chasing all those ad dollar$ like some sort of crazed publsihing pimps (or do I mean whores?). Maybe DR is a whore and branding is the pimp? As we board our viking ship for battle we say “long live brand advertising online!”