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Does Brand Advertising Belong on the Web?

No need to go into too many details here - we all know the web was made for direct response advertising. People click links, buy stuff from those clicks, fill out forms with personal information, etc. - CPC and CPA advertising thrive. It's audience packaging and CPM pricing - the heart and soul of the traditional offline ad business - that struggles online. With measurable alternatives, amorphous selling points like demographics and engagement become less attractive and are priced accordingly.

With that, nonetheless everyone seems to be convinced that at some point brand advertising will migrate to the web. Ford will soon realize that its F-150 commercial is not reaching much of an audience on TV and will have to migrate to where the eyeballs are. Since there is no precise level of measurability for TV brand ads, there will be no similar expectations once they reach the web. Or so the story goes.

But what if they're wrong? What if brand doesn't make it to the web? What if it turns out that certain advertising mediums lend themselves to certain methods of advertising and, despite as much as you want to try, there's no cross over. Direct mail has been around for a long, long time and no one expects brand advertisers to start migrating there. It's a direct response medium and doing a brand campaign on a bulk letter basis seems, well, silly.

So what if Ford, et. al. concludes the same about the web? There are alternatives out there. I hardly even turn the TV on anymore, yet the Apple brand ads are ubiquitous in my life. Same with movies - somehow, someway I manage to hear about most movie openings without seeing the trailers on TV or on the web for that matter. There are brand alternatives - billboards, radio, bus stations, etc. - out there. TV's audience may be shrinking but effective brand messaging can still be done without being online.

Brand advertising is a balancing act between controlling a message for a period time (30 seconds in TV world) while at the same time being packaging up in a few words (ex. the quicker picker upper). In other words, the fact that Dodge is "ram tough" doesn't mean much to me unless I have a context. A quick glance at a banner doesn't provide that context. To that end, it seems like video games are a better platform for brand ads than the web. But, again to my point, would anyone expect a direct response migration to video games?

The newspaper business since its inception has been all about packaging a local print audience for advertisers. No measurability, no expectations, no ROI calculation. Newspapers move to the web, do things like gather registration data, geo-IP target, etc. all in an effort to localize their web audience for their advertisers. Guess what? Advertisers aren't interested in buying their local web audiences. Different medium, different form of advertising.

I guess I'm wondering what happens if brand advertisers come to the same conclusion.

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Comments (1)

Great update and you explained it very well.It is thus really important for all the web sites to find some unique selling point for themselves, to be a bit different and unique as compared to the competitors. This high level of competition has opened a lot of opportunities for those who are capable of promoting a web site online.
Thanks for some useful info.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 25, 2008 1:15 PM.

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