Wherever you stand on the swirling controversy around banner ads, you likely do agree on one thing: 20 years after the banner brought print-style ads online, digital branding has come a long, long way. From native ads to the rapid rise of online video, digital advertising is becoming a new home to major branding dollars. Are your digital analytics ready?
For many digital marketing organizations, it's a big transition. After all, digital analytics has long been the realm of direct response. With outlets such as search and email—in many ways, the online descendants of direct mail and 1-800 numbers—it's no surprise that many of the early digital companies grew out of direct marketing shops and many of the early online analytics professionals came from mail houses. With no shortage of last-action data to work with, the digital realm has long been a direct marketer's dream.
Of course for years, digital measurement has faced hurdles once you go beyond the last click. And even as the industry is finally moving past last click, variations still hold sway, and there's still a lot of focus on the last leg of the customer journey. As an industry, we're still a long way from bringing digital attribution into the entire conversion path—from top-funnel branding on down.
That's not to say that marketers haven't long wanted to see how branding influenced digital ad performance. But technical hurdles aside, a lot of the brand-digital relationship simply has not been the digital marketer's job. Since the lion's share of branding has tended to take place offline—particularly on TV—understanding the linkages between offline branding and online performance is a cross-functional challenge, not simply a digital one. Plus, digital teams haven't been incentivized to look into the ways other channels have helped drive digital success.
But times are changing. Branding is exploding into the digital space. eMarketer predicts that U.S. advertisers will spend more than $12 billion on digital video ads by 2018. By 2017, almost 50% of U.S. digital ad spend will be branding-focused. And as top-funnel ad dollars flow online, you can't assess digital campaigns without understanding direct response and branding alike. In other words, the time for digital marketers to shift their thinking is now.
That's not an easy shift to pull off. Matching branding to direct response means, again, tracing the customer journey from initial top-funnel interactions all the way to the conversion. It's a massive data undertaking that can require pulling in CRM, first- and third-party insights on the specific sequence of ads that customers have seen and the automation to rapidly pull all that information together to form a coherent story.
Capturing the full digital conversion funnel also takes a fundamentally different approach to analytics—an approach that goes beyond the standard algorithmic digital attribution models that online marketers typically work with. That's because branding campaigns take place and drive impact over the course of months; direct response campaigns, meanwhile, tend to be short-burst efforts that take place over weeks, days or even hours. In essence, you need to think in terms of long- and short-term horizons at once. It's hardly the framework that direct marketers are used to.
None of these assets is simple to develop or acquire—for direct response marketers, digital marketers or marketers, period. But they're assets that have seen tremendous breakthroughs over the past few years and are critical for digital marketers facing a very different world.
It's up to digital marketers to decide if they want to embrace the possibility of merging brand measures with digital attribution or stick with direct response data alone, at the expense of real performance. Because no matter what you think of display ads, the world of digital branding—and digital analytics—has moved far past the display ads of 1994.
About the Author
Marc Rossen is executive director, Digital Insights Solutions at MarketShare, where he helps some of the world's most sophisticated digital marketers achieve more powerful marketing insights through MarketShare platforms. Marc's prior digital leadership positions have spanned organizations including Estée Lauder, MediaMath, MediaVest and X+1 (now part of Rocket Fuel). Follow him at @marcprossen.
About the Sponsor
MarketShare helps marketers grow revenue. Combining advanced analytics technology, scientific leadership and deep domain expertise, MarketShare enables large companies to measure, predict and dramatically improve Marketing's impact on revenue—typically generating a 20%-30% improvement in marketing effectiveness and 3%-4% revenue increase, yielding a 3x-50x first-year ROI. MarketShare helps direct tens of billions of marketing investment dollars globally.