The Interactive Marketing Best Practices Initiative, spearheaded by Microsoft Corp.'s MSN and supported by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, is an attempt to create an online catalog of Internet marketing programs that have delivered strong results. The MSN team and online marketing consultants sifted through nearly 500 case studies contributed by Dynamic Logic, Eyeblaster, Unicast, agencies, marketers and publishers to create a library of best practices across industries such as automotive, retail and consumer package goods. The group has prepared four examples and plans to have 25 best practices available per quarter via a dedicated Web site. MSN's Advantage Marketing site also offers access to the studies.
While the interactive industry has made progress this year in adopting standards and metrics for online advertising, examining online media habits of executives and conducting research on the use of online and offline media, no comprehensive catalog of successful online programs across diverse industries has been compiled until now. Last year, MSN unveiled one of the first studies to examine the relationship between online and offline media in driving brand recognition and purchase intent via Unilever's Dove Nutrium brand cross-media research. "The Dove study was really a precursor to this," said Dave Chase, managing director-marketing and industry relations, MSN.
The Dove case study was heralded by online evangelists as proof that digital media is an effective part of the overall media mix. The IAB endorsed the research and has since worked closely with its members and marketers to implement additional cross-media optimization studies, the most recent of which was with McDonald's Corp. Forthcoming cross-media studies involve Colgate-Palmolive Co., Kimberly-Clark Corp., AstraZeneca, Universal Studios and ING Group, according to Greg Stuart, IAB president.
For the Best Practices Initiative, Aegis Group's Carat Interactive submitted case studies from campaigns on behalf of clients Hyundai Motor America and Viacom's UPN, which involved a mix of Eyeblaster and Pointroll interactive technologies. The New York Times Co.'s New York Times Digital contributed an example of a British Airways campaign.
The IAB's Mr. Stuart views the cross-media and best-practices initiative this way, "We've told people how much to spend and best practices tells them how to spend it best," he said. "MSN took the lead but it very quickly became an industry-wide initiative."
In January and February, MSN and interactive evangelists will take the best-practices show on the road, hitting nine cities including New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit and Los Angeles. The events are designed to draw senior-level marketers and agency personnel to engage in discussions about best practices in building brands online, creating customer response mechanisms, improving creative and implementing online retention programs. "Our goal is to create a library of industry specific best practices," Mr. Chase said.
The first half of 2003 will involve outreach to marketers and agencies and posting case studies online, while the second half will involve research and exploring examples of marketers working in emerging interactive environments such as instant messaging.
"MSN is taking a stand and it is a position that's held by a number of the publishers and marketers in the industry," said Sarah Fay, president, Carat Interactive. "Marketers need to take responsibility for their programs and achieving excellence. ... There are examples out there, but there are far more examples of creative that aren't so good," she said. "This is a wily medium and we all need inspiration."