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Jan 19, 2005
Case Study

Online Ad Results: NIVEA FOR MEN Tests Smaller Niche Demographic Sites vs Sports Sites

SUMMARY: Although NIVEA is a big name brand, like most consumer packaged goods firms, its online ad budget is fairly slender, especially compared to TV.

How can you get enough impressions in a massive online marketplace (men aged 18-34) to generate significant lifts in purchase intent? Find out how NIVEA's online ad team coped. Includes creative samples and some fascinating results data (the winning test pulled an outstanding 44% landing page conversion rate).
How can you make a significant impact on a huge consumer marketplace with an extremely limited online ad budget?

Ever since Beiersdorf AG launched the NIVEA FOR MEN skincare line in the US six years ago, ad dollars have been focused mainly on traditional offline media. However, with all the stats coming out about the male 18-34 demographic spending increased time online, the brand couldn't ignore the Web any longer.

So. in January 2004, they launched a limited test campaign.

The media buying team chose to run with a major sports news site because let's face it, sports sites have high concentrations of young adult male visitors. (Game sites do as well, but the team figured anyone who's engrossed in an interactive game probably isn't going to click on a skincare ad.)

Despite limited visibility (it's expensive to buy enough banners on a really heavy traffic site to get the four-eight view-per-individual frequency you need for maximum campaign impact), the campaign did OK, with purchase intent rising 15% among exposed visitors.

However, the ROI wasn't high enough to invest more. And, overall, only 26.3% of visitors who'd seen the ads (versus 22.8% who hadn't) intended to buy NIVEA FOR MEN. Fact is, most American men are still soap-and-water-only guys.

It's hard to justify rolling out a campaign on a high-priced site where only about a quarter of the traffic is remotely interested in buying your product.

Joe Venezia, Marketing Manager NIVEA FOR MEN, still felt that Internet could work. It was just a matter of trying sites and offers until they found the magic formula.

Venezia authorized another test for August, September and October 2004. Again, the budget was tight. However, this time the media buyers were instructed to do a 180 on tactics.

o Focus on a lower traffic site: If you can't afford to dominate a big site, why not be the big fish in a smaller pond?

o Pick a demographic that cares about skin: If you can't afford to run a long-term educational campaign telling men why they should care about their skin, why not focus on the already educated? Instead of general education, you can focus on brand-specific messaging that might have a greater sales impact immediately.

"Knowing that the gay audience is so in tune with grooming, it appeared to be a natural fit for the brand," says Venezia.

So, the team negotiated a three-month run on two sites targeting the mainstream gay male demographic. Instead of diffusing the message with a run-of-site buys, the team targeted specific site sections: membership areas, entertainment, health, style, travel and chat.

They wanted to test three different offers, but worried that testing all at the same time would lead to message diffusion given the limited media buy. So they settled on testing one per month. This meant 100% of ads in a given month focused on the same offer. These offers were:

August - general "more info" click link
September - sweepstakes entry
October - free sample

Next, the creative team used four best practices in inventing the campaigns:

Best Practice #1. Match sweeps offer to demographic

Although NIVEA FOR MEN normally offers high-end entertainment systems for male-friendly sweeps, the creative team double-checked with the sites to see if this demographic would find anything else more compelling.

They learned that, for the gay community, travel is more enticing than gargantuan TVs. So they offered airline tickets to anywhere in the US as the prize.

Best Practice #2. Ask the site to review model photos

Many online ad creatives simply pull images from an existing offline campaign. NIVEA's offline and past online ads had featured a casual, young, brown-haired man. Instead of re-using this art, the creative team sent the sites a file of several prospective model photos.

The sites' webmasters voted for a complete change. Their favorite model was an older thirty-something blond in a button-down shirt who looked a bit like Brad Pitt.

Best Practice #3. Include brand name in every single frame

Even if your banner's frames revolve fairly quickly, you can't assume visitors are sitting there watching each one intently. The team was careful to include the brand logo in every single frame.

Best Practice #4. Match the landing page to banner creative

Instead of resorting to a generic landing page, the team matched every possible aspect of the banner creative. So, clicks would see the same colors, same logos, same offers and, yes, the same model headshot, as they had on the banners. There was virtually no disconnect in the experience.


At a 30% lift, the rise in purchase intent for ad-viewers doubled over the 15% lift from the sports site. Plus, data from Dynamic Logic revealed that the demographic overall were already "sold" on the idea of skincare products. (30% were planning to buy NIVEA without having seen the ads, 40% planned to buy once they'd seen the ads.)

As expected, frequency turned out to be the critical factor. Although 23% of respondents noticed the ad after a single exposure, just 22% of those seeing it 2-3 times noticed it.

However, ad awareness leapt to 37% for the visitors who saw the ad four or more times. So, if you can't buy more than four exposures per visitor, you may lose the ballgame.

Overall the campaign pulled a .23% click rate, which is about average for these types of campaigns. Banners in the chat areas had the lowest click rates (roughly 1/3-1/2 of banners elsewhere) -- this is something we've heard anecdotally from plenty of other online advertisers across a wide variety of sites.

The conversion rates from click to registration form submission varied widely for each month.

Aug more info offer - 27% conversion rate Sept Sweeps offer - 44.6% conversion rate Oct free sample offer - 22.8%

Please note that all of these conversion rates are exceptionally high (roughly double what we'd normally expect) -- in fact, it's unusual to see a conversion rate above low double digits for a B-to-C free offer banner campaign.

How did NIVEA do it? We suspect it was a combination of best practices in landing page creative consistency and the targeted media buy.

Please don't read the above numbers as a sign that more info offers will generally outpull free samples. In fact, generally the reverse is true. The timing of the campaign probably caused differences from norms. Visitors most deeply interested in the brand probably converted during the first month, so by month three the offer had to work a lot harder to attract interest.

However, it's absolutely no surprise that the sweepstakes pulled the highest conversions. Sweeps almost always do. However, NIVEA FOR MEN hasn't measured lifetime value across the various offers, so don't take this data as a sign that you should invest solely in sweeps.

Useful links related to this article:
Creative samples from the campaign:

MarketingSherpa article - Online Ad Study Data: Clicks and Conversions Plummet After Five Impressions:

The Sports site that the first NIVEA test ran on:

The two gay-targeted sites NIVEA tested:

RDA International - the online agency responsible for media buying and creative:

Dynamic Logic - the research firm measuring purchase intent for the tests:

See Also:

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