Is online advertising a good vehicle for reaching brand advertising goals?Â Judged by their actions, more and more advertisers are voting "yes."Â During the past several months, we’ve observed a gradual but decisive stride from an ambivalent stance toward a full embrace of online media as a branding tool.
This past week, we witnessed a Ford display campaign that to us represented a noteworthy waypoint in the development of online ads designed for branding objectives: ads that reject the click.Â We’ve previously noticed other ads that don’t facilitate or don’t enable clickthrough — typically, they instead respond to a user’s click with rich content that opens up within the publisher’s frame.Â But directly beneath the Ford ad’s "Click to Watch Video" button was a message we hadn’t noticed before: "You will not leave Yahoo!"
Strictly speaking, the content wasn’t a video, but a full-fledged, Flash-based mini-site (below).
To many Web veterans, rejecting the click so outright may seem antithetical to Web advertising, but we see some sense to Ford’s choice, for three reasons:
- New ad implementation options — that deliver rich content right within the publisher’s frame — provide previously unavailable opportunities to address branding objectives with online media.Â Done well, we see an ad like Ford’s as a powerful means to generate awareness, to kickstart consideration, to educate, to deliver a message, and to foster associations"¦without a click.Â While it’s still fair to ask, "Would some other medium have done more to achieve my branding objectives?" first, one ought to consider: "Did I really give it my best shot?
- Making a promise to keep the user in context is likely to encourage interaction.Â We’re testing this hypothesis right now.Â (Results soon!)Â The more interaction, the more opportunity to achieve brand objectives.Â (Does anyone really need to test that?)
- The payoff for a branding effort should be measured over a longer period of time, rather than by immediate response.Â We’ve often seen that the return on online branding ads plays out exactly that way.Â For example, following a recent Air France "˜pushdown’ ad on nytimes.com, we saw that their ad’s impact on key consumer behaviors increased steadily as weeks passed.Â The percentage of ad-exposed consumers who searched on the same day for a set of brand-relevant generic terms ("France travel", "Paris travel", etc.) was scarcely different from the percentage of consumers who weren’t exposed.Â Slightly lower, in fact.Â But within four weeks, a much higher percentage of the ad-exposed group had searched, indicative of entry into the long consideration path that surely precedes most Transatlantic flights.
Marketers can and should still look for early indicators of success.Â But rather than click-through or even short-term view-through, the best view of immediate impact will utilize different metrics: new data like user interaction and duration of exposure, as well as old measuring-sticks like message recall and brand favorability.
For those who still feel uneasy about this development, take some comfort in Ford’s example.Â Users who clicked on the expanded ad’s navigation elements opened Ford’s own domain in a new browser window.Â Ultimately, accepting or rejecting the clickthrough is not an either/or dilemma, but rather a question best settled by matching ad design to advertising priorities.Â If your priority is branding, then we say: Who needs the click?