Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why Advertisers Can't Build Brands Online Using Their Current Creative

There is a lot of talk these days about whether broadband is a branding platform or a direct marketing platform. The consensus seems to be the latter.

One of the reasons is the failure of most brand advertising that runs online. The logic is simple. If branding ads don't work, than obviously, broadband is not a branding platform.

The logic is also shortsighted.

The problem isn't the platform. The problem is that most brand advertising, as currently created, isn't designed for online consumption. So when it does run online, the results are miserable, at best.

Most current branding creative is designed for intrusive platforms. Its job is primarily to cut through the clutter and create awareness for a product. If it does that, champagne is shared by all.

Now with all sorts of opportunities to put those same brand commercials online, advertisers are doing so. After all, they're already made. Already paid for.

Why not?

Because they won't work. And, to make matters worse, it's starting to skew the perception as to what broadband can ultimately be.

So, what needs to change?

First, advertisers need to accept the fact that broadband content must be created in context of control. Viewers can now come and go during a commercial when they want. And they are.

Advertisers are quite shocked when they are handed data that shows them just how quickly viewers are, indeed, abandoning their commercials.

Of course, it's difficult for advertisers to put all that wonderful work they created for broadcast aside and say, "Okay, let's start fresh." For starters, there's the money issue.

And the fragmentation of the online viewing audience doesn't help here at all.

You see, scale is needed to justify the production budgets that are required to produce the type of storytelling that builds great brands. This storytelling comes from both the agencies that create the stories and the production companies that bring them to life.

Both agencies and production companies are being priced out of the broadband market as advertisers refuse to pay the same amount for a commercial that runs in front of 200,000, as they are for one that runs in front of 20,000,000.

It doesn't make sense, granted. Everyone knows that the commercial that ran in front of 20M was really only taken to heart by 200,000, if that. But it's the justification that matters, isn't it? Not the reality.

So how are advertisers supposed to justify creating original, emotionally compelling advertising for the smaller viewing audiences inherent with broadband?

Maybe the answer is for advertisers stop thinking about impressions and start thinking about time spent. And for agencies to stop thinking about creating :30 commercials and start thinking about creating time spent.

Creating time spent?

That is a strange thought, isn't it? Especially if you're an agency. Agencies create :30s or :15s. And get paid well whether time is spent with the commercial or not.

Imagine if agencies were paid based on how much time they enticed viewers to spend with the brand.

Chances are, they would approach the assignment very differently.

After all, their goal would no longer be to interrupt and create awareness, but to invite and create involvement.

If the job is to create time spent, agencies are no longer divided along traditional or digital lines. After all, creating time spent is a very different proposition that can take on many different forms, shapes and looks.

But before going further, why are we sure time spent is the answer?

Simply because time is finite. Everyone of us has only 24 hours in our day. The more time an agency gets us to spend with one brand, the less time we have to spend with the competitor's brand.

Nor want to, if the advertising is done correctly.

Is that of value to the advertiser? I think it goes without saying.

Will that create a different type of advertising online?

Just imagine.

The broadcast platform is about creating awareness through advertising. Awareness is created through reach and frequency. Broadcast is about "how many."

The broadband platform is about creating relationships through advertising. Relationships are created through time spent. Broadband is about "how long."

If an agency's job is to build brands on the broadband platform, their job is to create a relationship.

Their job is to create time spent.

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