Is it just me, or does Apple’s current iPad advertising bear a startling resemblance to rival Microsoft’s “Life Without Walls” ad campaign of almost five years ago?
Of course, not every idea can be completely new. But it does make me a little sad to see this, another example of Apple’s innovative streak fading away.
Placing digital display ads has never been easier. You create your ads, pay your money, and a nice computer will automagically push them out across whichever networks you choose.
But all this automation means fewer human eyeballs checking ad placements actually make sense. And most marketers I meet think about where they’d like to see their ads while neglecting to clearly specify where their ads cannot appear.
New research from vCE Charter and reported by comScore has found that 72 percent of studied campaigns had ads running in proximity to content that was deemed “not brand safe”. Poor ad placement has the potential to destroy brand trust and to tarnish its meaning, ultimately harming sales in the long term.
So start thinking about where your ads should not appear. Be demanding and insist that ad network owners employ due care to ensure your ads are only seen in the most positive light possible. That’s what you’re paying them for, so make them work for their money.
Need an example of poor ad placement? Just visit almost any big ad-funded network and you’ll routinely spot editorial fighting with ad copy. Or watch this recent life or death TV example from the UK’s Channel 4:
It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to root out the motivation behind Google’s latest research finding that advertisers who stop buying paid ads on Google’s search engine lose lots of search engine clicks. So, in this post I’ll take a look at the research to help you navigate your way through the data.
First up, Google’s headline finding:
In the event of pausing a paid ad campaign, “organic traffic does not make up for the loss of paid clicks”
Few should be surprised by this finding. Paid ads on search engines exist to disrupt the natural search flow and provide standout far beyond that afforded by organic listings. And Google has recently enhanced this standout even further with their new Enhanced Ad Sitelinks feature that allow ads to be embedded within ads. So it’s logical that turning off paid ads will result in the loss of the vast majority of clicks they would otherwise have generated. Google’s research puts the lost clicks at 85%, slightly lower than a prior study in July 2011 which claimed 89%. Interestingly, if a minimal paid ad spend is maintained, the
We cannot read any additional data (e.g. click mix between organic and paid listings) because Google’s charts are not drawn to scale and the above 85% actually measures about 66%.
Where ad budgets are partially cut (although the research doesn’t specify by what percentage), the lost clicks amount to 80% on average.
The biggest problem I have with this study is that it assumes all clicks are equal, effectively ignoring the value of the different click types. If, for example, the 80% of lost clicks arising from a budget cut only contributed 10% of the end actions (e.g. purchase, sign-up, trial etc.) then this might yet prove to be ROI beneficial.
We know from prior studies, like Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra Univertisty’s study in 2010, that search engine users exhibit very different behaviours when confronted by organic and paid ads, and that their propensity to click on either shifts based on their needs. Informational searchers are typically more likely to follow organic listings, while transactional searchers, particularly those in buying mode, are relatively more predisposed to clicking on paid ads.
Google’s study concludes by assessing the % of clicks gained by increasing search advertising spend levels:
Where advertisers were previously not advertising with search ads, and then turned on search ads, the incremental traffic was 79%
No surprise, again, that buying paid ads leads to a sharp increase in overall click volume. However, this comes at the expense of some lost organic clicks, but we cannot gauge how much from the research because the charts have not been drawn to scale.
To accurately assess the true incremental value generated from increasing search ad spend we have to factor in the value of each end action. For examples, if we are seeking informational searchers, who are much more inclined to click organic listings, and by placing additional paid ads we generate fewer organic clicks, the net result may not be positive for our marketing goals.
Google’s report concludes as follows:
Across the board, our findings are consistent: ads drive a very high proportion of incremental traffic – traffic that is not replaced by navigation from organic listings when the ads are turned off or turned down.
It’s hard to disagree with such a generic statement; of course, if you pay for clicks you’ll get more clicks than you might otherwise. But each marketer needs to consider these findings in the light of their unique business challenges. By factoring in the value generated from each type of click, we can make a much more informed judgement about the investment levels needed in search engine advertising to achieve our goals.
Yesterday, at the annual UK IAB Engage event, there was much debate about the role that digital marketing can play in brand-building, as opposed to direct-response, marketing. The assembled agency experts were broadly in agreement that digital still falls short when it comes to brand-building work, although its value is growing as consumers spend more of their lives online.
Of course, this is nonsense. Asking whether digital marketing can effectively build brands is like asking if oxygen can keep people alive. Yes, it can, but almost certainly not in isolation.
But the real issue here is the marketing industry’s obsession with the out-dated notion of brand-building and awareness-creating campaigns. Agencies love these kind of briefs because they offer maximum scope for creativity, award dinners and, crucially, billable hours. Yet, the very concept of “building awareness” harks back to the former days of centralised brand control, when marketers called the shots and their audiences diligently consumed whatever was shouted at them. Our world isn’t like that any more.
Today, there’s no such thing as an awareness campaign. If a marketer is doing their job correctly, their target audience is only ever a click away from purchase. To set your sights purely on building awareness is to miss the immense opportunity presented by the social web. Your goal should be to get attention by sharing something interesting and sparking a conversation that takes people to a place where you want them to be.
So, remember, thinking solely about creating awareness is absurd. The social web and our digital world has changed this forever. Let’s stop debating the relative role that different channels can play in supporting each business goal and wake up instead to today’s reality: people don’t need awareness, they need useful, actionable content to help them make decisions on their terms.