The Da Vinci Dilemna Of Online Branding: The (In)compatibility Of Creativeness And Media In Online Display Advertising

Carl Nelvig is the VP for R&D at Burt, a predictive analytics platform. In the first of two posts, Nelvig discusses the inherent problem in display advertising around the (in)compatibility of creativeness and media.

Differentiating between “Media Quality” and “Creative Efficiency” is key in order to evaluate brand building through online display advertising properly. In the first of these two posts we would like to give you a background to how we ended up where we are and introduce the metrics that are required going forwards.

The advertising industry often talks about ads in terms of a creative idea, an amazing design, or brilliant copy writing, but less often the media environment where the ads eventually end up. When it comes to traditional brand building media, such as TV, radio and print there is really not much to discuss, as their media environment is constant – 15s/30s TV spot, 60s radio spot, half/full page, etc.

Online display advertising is a whole different ballgame. Unless you consider ad visibility – an important component of media quality – before obsessing about click-through rates – a parameter of creative efficiency – you will reach the wrong conclusion, give credit to the wrong driver and probably not learn very much about successful brand building online.

Online display advertising products have largely been shaped by what has been possible to measure. Click has been the currency from the very first 78% CTR AT&T banner in 1994 up until today; it is an easy thing to measure. Combining clicks with server logs you could measure the path from an impression on a web page, through a click on the banner, to the final conversion. And for direct response advertising, this was all that was needed. Add search marketing, CPC/CPA models and you get the most effective direct response media available, created in just a couple of years.

The fundamental problem is that the measurements derived from direct response marketing are poor at evaluating brand building. Media consumption online has been growing exponentially every year. Brands feel the pressure to move brand budgets online: from traditional media that everyone can understand and relate to, towards… the “ad impression”, available in thousands of different formats and shapes.

Unless factors such as visibility or the size of the ad are taken into account, using plain click-through rates to evaluate the brand building impact of a campaign will lead to the wrong conclusions. A campaign that runs on a placement with significantly higher visibility rate will obviously have a much greater click-through rate than one which is hardly ever seen – completely independently of which of the two campaigns that has the best creative.

To address this problem, the first step is to understand the difference between media contribution and creative contribution when measuring campaign effectiveness. Step two is to start working with these new models, media quality and creative efficiency, which brand marketers can both understand and make use of in building future campaigns.

Media quality is defined as the ability of an ad placement to effectively deliver content to its audience. An alternative view is to consider an ad placement an empty “picture frame” with the sole responsibility of effectively displaying its content, no matter what that content is.

Creative efficiency, on the other hand, is the ability of the creative content to actually attract attention from the audience, regardless of its surroundings. Media quality describes everything that happens outside the “picture frame”, while creative efficiency describes what happens within it. Thus media quality is the visible area, duration and size of an ad. Creative efficiency is the mouse interaction patterns, dwell and clicks.

For all practical purposes, media quality and creative efficiency are independent from each other and must be evaluated as such. Blame the publishers (or your media agency) for poor media quality. Judge your creative agency by the creative efficiency their ads deliver.

By using the distinction provided by these two models, the creative agency can finally isolate and optimize its creative content without the uncertainty that the Flash animation wasn’t visible long enough to get to the brand logo after 6 seconds. The media agency can, on the other hand, start focusing on buying better inventory which fulfills the media quality requirements from its client and the creative agency.

And finally, my 2 cents on the recent discussions on the viewable impression standard: A typical 728×90 viewable impression scores merely 3 / 10 in our media quality score. Big brands are used to TV spots scoring 10 / 10 each time. This is the reason why Burt work with publishers helping them create better ad inventory.

The post to follow on this topic will dive deeper into how we at Burt define media quality and creative efficiency for our clients and how this enables them to perform very complex analysis in a dead simple reporting tool.

Gustav von Sydow, CEO, Burt is speaking at the upcoming ATS Stockholm event on May 24. Tickets are now on sale for the Nordics first data-driven advertising conference.

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