Is anyone else concerned about the future of branding in the Digital Marketplace?
The reason I ask is this. The Digital Marketplace is about accountability. The primary reason that advertisers are shifting their marketing budgets online is the fact that advertising can be quantified online.
Now look at branding. While the value of branding has always been accepted, rarely has its value been quantified. Oh, we’re pretty sure it works. But we can’t directly attribute "x" number of boxes sold to our branding efforts.
Which raises an interesting question. If brand advertising cannot be quantified, does that mean that brand advertising will not created for digital platforms? Or, in other words, are we at the beginning of the end of branding?
Traditional media, while never able to generate an immediate response from the viewer, did at least offer advertisers an intrinsic value – brand equity. Digital media, on the other hand, not only delivers immediate response, but also lead generation. Both of which help to explain the large amount of media dollars shifting from offline to online.
As this shift to online continues to increase, so too will the type of advertising that is designed to deliver immediate response and drive value to a marketer’s bottom line.
What loses out is branding.
Instead of trying to develop a premium image that allows higher margins, marketers will resort to creating brand equity through price and promotion. When price and promotion advertising becomes the bulk of all advertising, those agencies that understand what it takes to build a brand, lose their reason for being.
Taste and style leaves advertising. And when taste and style departs, so too, does talent.
So how do we stop that from happening?
Obviously, the answer isn’t to get new media to adopt the same unaccountable standards as traditional media. That would be a step backwards.
Instead we need to apply the accountability metrics of digital technology to brand advertising.
Is that possible?
Let's take one of those metrics that is now readily available—viewer time-spent—and see if we can apply it to make brand advertising accountable.
The first thing we would have to agree on is that viewer time-spent can serve as a surrogate for engagement.
Here's why. According to a recent study by OMD, one engaged viewer is worth eight regular viewers. As well, engagement in a commercial message increases measurable advertising ROI by fifteen to twenty percent.
In other words, according to the OMD study, engagement can be quantified. The hold-up is coming to an agreement on what can serve as an accurate measurement of engagement.
Obviously, viewer time-spent can't serve as a surrogate for engagement with pre-roll or in-stream advertising. In fact, it can't serve as a measurement of engagement with any form of intrusive advertising simply because intrusive advertising doesn't allow us to measure the intention of the viewer.
Where it does seem to offer an accurate measure of engagement is when the viewer is allowed to initiate the interaction with the commercial by clicking in. Logic would seem to say that once viewers engage by clicking in and start watching, they disengage, or click-out, when the commercial loses interest or relevance.
Yes, they might let the commercial run as they go and check their emails. But chances are, since they clicked-in to the commercial because they thought it would be interesting, they'll click-out when it proves otherwise, rather than just letting it run.
That's one of the benefits of being in control. You're in control.
So under these conditions—when the viewer is in full control of their viewing options, and we allow them to initiate interaction with the commercial—it seems as if time-spent might just possibly work as an adequate surrogate for engagement.
If that's the case, and as viewer time-spent can now be measured in over 35 million homes offline and over 59 million homes online, it would offer the industry a scalable method of making branding accountable on digital platforms.
Which in turn will encourage advertisers to continue their branding efforts in the Digital Marketplace.
Is that important? Yes.
Is it perfect? Of course not.
But neither is living in a world without taste. A world without style. A world without emotion.
A world only focused on the bottom line.
In other words, a world without brands.