January 12, 2004

AD:TECH Survey Results: Heavy Internet Marketers Reveal What's Working What's Not, & 2004 Budgets

SUMMARY: AD:TECH, the largest trade show for the Net advertising industry, has just run a survey, in conjunction with MarketingSherpa. 290 of the heaviest online spenders (folks devote an average 47% of marketing budget to online) revealed:

Which tactics including search, email, pops, rich media, text-links and ezine ads worked the best (and worst) in 2003.

2004 budgeting tactics -- what tactics people are planning to spend more on, and which three \"loser\" tactics still got a surprisingly high vote for spending,
You guessed it -- PPC search and house-list email campaigns continue to rule the top list of what heavy Net marketers and advertisers say works, and what they plan to invest more in 2004.

Here are more results details from AD:TECH's first annual State of the Industry Survey, conducted December 2003 with 290 respondents, who spend 47% average of their total budgets on online and email tactics, weighing in:

-> What's working, what's not
-> Plans for 2004
-> Brand vs direct sales vs lead generation marketers

-> What's working, what's not

At 49% and 48% respectively, house list email campaigns and paid search ads were the only two tactics that a majority of respondents said were getting "GREAT" versus "moderate" or "disappointing" results.

Strikingly, email blasts to rented lists got the absolute worst scores - with 50% of respondents saying they had "disappointing results." So, it's obvious that house list growth, maintenance and campaigns will become the epicenter of email activities for 2004.

Search optimization - the art of refining your site so search engine spiders notice and rank it in the non-paid "organic" listings - was voted to get "moderate results" by 62% of respondents.

It's worth noting that this survey was conducted soon after Google's now-infamous "Florida" update which caused many marketer's regular rankings to crash and burn. So, answers may have been colored by that recent news. We expect SEO spending to continue strong in 2004 for that reason.

More key results:

Ads in email newsletters ---- 57% moderate results
"Standard" ads on Web sites - 55% moderate results
Text-link ads --------------- 52% moderate results
Affiliate programs ---------- 48% moderate results
Rich media ads on sites ----- 37% moderate results
Pop-advertising ------------- 44% disappointing results

-> Budgeted plans for 2004

No one single tactic stood out as an overall winner for substantially increased spending for 2004; although, Web site revamps or tweaks came closest with 31% of the vote. (Site revamps also had the lowest rate of "we do not spend on this" votes at just 6%.)

Six tactics, however, shared honors for budgeting "increasing a bit" (note: respondents could vote for more than one tactic):

Search 41%
Online ads in general 41%
Web site revamps 38%
Email 37%
Online ads based on behavior targeting 41%
Custom landing pages 34%

Hardly anyone said they would be decreasing spending on any tactic they were already using. Email, with 12% voting to decrease spending, was the only tactic with more than a handful of votes.

However, respondents did say they were not budgeted to spend anything whatsoever in three categories:

Wireless ----------------------- 65% not budgeting
Branded desktop application ---- 61% not budgeting
Rich media --------------------- 42% not budgeting

Given how few marketers are currently using any of these three tactics, we're actually surprised that these numbers weren't higher. It means folks are definitely ready to experiment with new tactics in 2004.

We also asked, "Have the economy and your sales stabilized enough that you can now confidently plan your marketing and ad campaigns well in advance?" Sadly, the results were strikingly close to results of a similar survey conducted by MarketingSherpa in May 2003, indicating that although the economy has improved since then, marketers don't feel safe enough to make far-reaching plans yet. AD:TECH's results:

My plans still may change week to week -- 18.8%
My plans may change monthly ------------- 39.7%
My plans may change quarterly ----------- 40.4%
My plans are set through 2004 ------------ 6.4%

-> Brand vs direct sales vs lead generation marketers

Respondents were asked to indicate what the end-goals of their online campaigns were: sales lead generation, direct sales, brand awareness and offline purchase intent, site traffic and/or customer loyalty/retention.

The most striking results were that almost no-one responded "never" to any of the goals; everyone invariably conducted campaigns with more than one end goal; and, every single goal got about the same number of votes -- roughly 32% -- for "frequently."

Industry educators who have long fretted about the fact that the Web's not always taken seriously as a branding vehicle, will be happy to hear just 15% of respondents said branding was never a goal.

We also examined answers to "what works" by end-goals, and found answers were fairly uniform across goals. The same tactics seem to work or not work in about the same way regardless of goals. The only differences worth noting:

o 58% of direct sales marketers got GREAT results with paid search (vs 48% of everyone.)

o 41% of brand marketers and 40% of site traffic marketers got GREAT results with rich media ads on Web sites

In our next issue we'll bring more results, including:
-> What marketers yearn to test - if they only had the budget
-> Safest Net marketing tactics for "Maximum Impact"

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