Brand versus Direct Response Online

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  1. Artificially inflating the value of traffic and impressions from brand-focused campaigns by
    • removing direct response metrics from campaign management or
    • believing it is something it is not
  2. A word I made up

In the late 1990s the Internet was going through its first real bubble thanks to a combination of optimistic venture capital and a high perceived value of impressions. At the time, companies like Yahoo! benefited from this immensely as advertisers were willing to pay ridiculous amounts for banner ads. Even at an inflated price, banner impressions were still cheap compared to TV or other broadcast media and no distinction was made in the mind of the advertisers.

Over ten years later large portal sites no longer dominate the web. Search and social media have taken their place (though Portal sites and Search Engines are not all that different), but advertising for branding online is still a factor.

Advertising for branding is different to direct response campaigns. The metrics for measuring return on investment (ROI) are different for each type of campaign. Competition between direct response and branding ads in the same query space will favour the campaign with larger margins and cheaper goals. Direct response campaigns for low margin sales based on hard ROI targets don’t usually have these.

There are a number of ways that a branding campaign will differ to a direct response campaign in a way that can raise the cost of traffic, and these include (but are not limited to):

  • CPM campaigns versus CPC
  • Conversion value not limited to a single sale
  • Pricing based on costs of broadcast media
  • Completed goal action is simpler than a sale

Like most media, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and online display advertising benefit by providing products to maximise return on advertising inventory.

Networks like Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft have made changes and acquisitions to cater for brand advertising. These include, though are not limited to, YouTube display advertising, display networks like Adsense and advertising tools such as the option to advertise above the fold on sites using Adsense.

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