May 13, 2008

Branding Strategies - 4 Factors to Get More From Online Ads

SUMMARY: Metrics are sharpening direct response marketing online and increasing the impact of branding. But branding is far from an exact science and still hard to measure. Its cost is especially hard to justify when the economy gets tight.

We talked to the developer of a major ad network to find out which factors are most important when evaluating online branding. Includes tips on ad placement, segmentation and timing.
Many advertisers throw money into brand advertising and hope that sales and loyalty get a boost. During tight times, branding is seen through an especially critical eye, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Online metrics are beginning to make branding more targeted and less “spend and pray.”

Kiumarse Zamanian, VP, Advertising Platforms, Glam Media, knows what factors influence the effectiveness of brand advertising online. Zamanian oversees the development of Glam Evolution, an ad platform across Glam Media’s network of about 450 websites that focus on women and fashion.

At Glam, Zamanian is on a mission to “basically create a brand-engagement set of metrics and algorithms that [can] effectively measure the impact of a brand ad on the audience and convey that into some form of insights to the advertisers.”

Although clickthrough rates have been one way of measuring success, several studies have found that it “is definitely not the metric that should be used for brand advertisements,” he says.

Instead, Zamanian uses four main factors to determine the effectiveness of online branding ads:
o Prime time
o Audience
o Placement
o Engagement

These factors are composed of several elements. Here’s how Zamanian and his team define these factors and use them in the online world:

-> Factor #1. When is online prime time?

Traditionally, prime time refers to when most Americans sit down to watch television: after dinner until about 10 or 11 p.m. Ads aired during this time usually reach more consumers and are more expensive.

Online, there are no broadcast times. People consume content when they want it. Instead of publishers declaring a prime time, every person has his or her own prime time. And that time is not necessarily when the person is online the most. Research has shown that it’s when the person is most receptive to brand advertising online.

Discovering an audience’s prime time requires rigorous segmenting and research. You really have to know your audience and their habits.

- A stay-at-home parent interested in designer house furnishings may be reached best at 2 p.m.
- A 9-to-5 worker interested in gourmet coffee may be reached best at lunch and after 7 p.m.

If you’re a publisher, knowing the best time to reach your audience will help increase the impact of your advertisers. If you’re an advertiser, knowing the prime time will help you decide when is best to touch your target.

-> Factor #2. Segment your audience

A person’s background and interests reveal much about how, where and when to connect to them, and with what product.

Zamanian concentrates on three groups of people:
o Potential ad viewers
o Actual ad viewers
o Viewers who take action related to an ad

Three factors he uses to segment people include:
o Demographics – a person’s background
o Behavior –actions a person takes on the site
o Interest and intent – why the person is on the website

“Obviously, for us, the majority [of our audience is] women,” Zamanian says. “But we can certainly segment this audience into various different groups. We’re coming up with these classifications and packaging of the audience that we could sell to advertisers and say, ‘Hey, we could segment our audience and you could target it with very specific products.’ ”

-> Factor #3. Determine ad placement

To Zamanian, placement refers to much more than where an ad is placed on a website. “Actually, for placement, we have about 30 terms for qualifying our publishers’ content both quantitatively and qualitatively.”

Some of the issues Zamanian and his team consider:

o Site topic
Glam has eight major channels of content: style, fashion, beauty, shopping, living, entertainment, health and wellness. “Every publisher that we bring into our network is classified under one of these categories,” he says.

o Content
“If [visitors] are learning about fashion, or there is an article about some celebrity who is carrying some items with them that are of interest to the audience, and then in an ad in that area … let’s say somebody is carrying a handbag, or maybe a shoe ad of the same quality -- those kinds of ads tend to be much more effective,” says Zamanian.

Other issues:
o Content quality –better content, stronger impact
o Content freshness – newer content generates more Web traffic
o Site audience – the more relevant the ad is to the visitors, the stronger its impact
o Site traffic – more traffic equals more ad views
o Position –the better the position, the more ad views

“What we have discovered is -- obviously, the brand engagement is way beyond just the clicks,” he says. “It has a lot to do with the ‘viewability’ of the ad.”

-> Factor #4. Engage your audience

Users don’t have to engage with an ad to be branded — they can just see it. But engagement does help branding and should be measured and encouraged. Considering the user’s “mode” is one of the best ways to foster engagement, says Zamanian.

“Mode” refers to a user’s objective:
- Is she reading articles?
- Is she shopping for products?

Mode can be determined by a user’s click activity and browsing history.

“Let’s say you know the user is actually looking for a tennis racket or a golf club, and they have been searching for this thing,” Zamanian says. “At this point, you don’t want to do any brand advertising, like showing them Tiger Woods on a golf course saying something clever. That user is not interested in Tiger Woods.”

At this stage, the user is interested only in finding a particular golf club for the best price he or she can find.

“That’s a mode to purchase, Zamanian says. “Now, if I’m reading an article about some golf championship and I’ve never expressed an interest in golf clubs, at that point you may want to actually show them a branding ad by displaying these new Wilson golf clubs or some other golf clubs to draw the user into learning about, ‘Oh, wow. Tiger Wood uses these clubs, they must be very good.’ That’s the kind of engagement mode that you can get the user to notice the ad and do something with it.”

Useful links related to this article

New Research From Sherpa: 577 Marketers Reveal Top Strategies to Improve Online Ads - 5 Data Charts & PDF Download:

Glam Media - Glam Evolution:

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