Brand advertising is about communicating a complex range of messages about products, services, and identity to consumers[i]. Through these messages, advertisers hope to form an identity that finds common ground with consumers. If consumers are able to identify with the key values a brand represents, they are much more likely to develop a sense of brand commitment. Beyond communicating messages and an identity, brand advertisers intend to build an image that encompasses the entire customer experience. Brand advertisers know that everything they do impinges on the consciousness of their customers. Everything from consistency of quality, which may impact stories and experiences customers share, to associations made through advertising mediums, influence brand perception. Brand advertisers are chiefly concerned with preserving the integrity of a delicate image, while communicating an identity effectively[ii].
While maintaining integrity of identity, the main goals of brand advertising are to improve brand recognition and recall. Brand advertisers, such as automobile manufacturers, Coca Cola, Geico, and so on, are primarily interested in advertising on so-called “premium” audience-rich publishers. They are concerned with reaching valuable audience inventory in media with well-defined audience characteristics[iii]. A good example would be the Financials of the Wall Street Journal, which is known to host an audience of primarily well-to-do, sophisticated, and astute consumers. Brand advertisers are chiefly interested in “premium” publishers not only because of audience demographics, but because they are able to reach those particular audience demographics within image-enhancing content[iv].
Brand advertisers expect a successful brand advertising campaign to yield a healthy contribution to brand equity and a strengthening of brand positioning[v]. An increase in brand equity entails heightened customer awareness of a brand, which means sales will likely be won away from competitors who have not advertised their brands as effectively[vi]. Also, the greater the brand equity, the greater the advertiser’s ability to employ a so-called “family branding” campaign. Family branding allows advertisers to more effectively promote new products using the familiar, brand equity-rich “family brand”, thereby avoiding many problems encountered by new brand advertisers. Brand advertisers use such techniques to leverage an audience cautious of new brand advertisers, where new brand advertisers would typically need to go through the process of building familiarity and trust through consistency[vii]. Although brand advertiser expectations are well-defined, traditional media, such as television, radio, and newspaper exhibit varying strengths and weaknesses in regard to brand development facilitation.
Television is well known to be an effective, powerful sales and branding tool through its rich video and audio combination[viii]. Television provides an often-favorable lack of content association, as advertisements are run in series and are never overlapped with one another or with a featured presentation. The downfalls of television brand advertisements are the complexities introduced by a lack of sufficient demographic control, and difficulties associated with finding appropriate airtime to reach a target audience[ix].
Radio brand advertising exhibits some of the same characteristics as television brand advertising. Much like television advertisements, radio advertisements are presented in series. In contrast to the shortcomings of television demographic control, a radio audience is typically more precisely defined, as the same style of music is usually played consistently. Advantages introduced by radio brand advertisement include some of its inherent properties. Radio reaches close to 90% of the population, and with considerable frequency, as it is a suitable medium for consumer entertainment at home, while driving, or even in the office. Additionally, sound is said to be more memorable than written words alone, adding to the list of characteristics of radio that appeal to brand advertisers[x].
Brand advertising through newspaper advertisements, other than premium national publishers like the Wall Street Journal, is typically geared toward short-term sales, events, or other special offers, often with a short lifespan[xi]. Although 22% of all ad dollars go to newspapers, and 57% of adults in the US read a daily newspaper, newspapers tend to be dominated by local advertisers, which provide 85% of total newspaper advertising revenue13. Brand advertisements launched in non-premium publishers, without well-defined content and audience demographics, are likely to subject the brand image to many undesirable associations. Such newspaper advertisements may be placed in the midst of unpredictable content or other conflicting advertisements that may tarnish the image of the advertiser brand.
Some traditional advertising mediums are more effective than others in regard to meeting brand advertising goals and reaching a target audience composition. Although television advertising can be a very powerful tool, it can be difficult to target specific demographics, as it remains difficult to negotiate buys across the hundreds of channels of the television landscape10. Radio can be more flexible, and is targeted to specific market segments by music style and attributed personality. Despite the staggering number of radio stations nationwide, there are particular selections of stations geared toward attracting specific market segments16. A downfall of premium publisher newspaper audience targeting is that, though the audience is well defined, a 2-month consistent advertising commitment is typically required before an audience begins to embrace a new brand13.
There are some concerns about the future of traditional media brand advertising effectiveness. According to nearly 80% of all advertisers, traditional advertising mediums, such as television are becoming less effective11. An artifact of the digital age, the Tivo/DVR revolution is likely responsible for a negative impact on traditional media advertising effectiveness.
The performance of traditional media advertisement is in question by many advertisers. An artifact of less-technical traditional media advertisements is that although advertisers claim they’re getting “less bang for their buck”, nobody really knows for sure since accurately measuring return-on-investment (ROI) for traditional advertising is a known problem. New approaches to measuring the effectiveness of traditional media advertisements such as ROI-Positive advertising are being devised. Although modern approaches to this “age-old” problem provide much improved results, the statistics derived from these techniques simply pale in comparison to the unprecedented abundance of strikingly detailed and accurate data and ROI analyses available to advertisers in the online medium11.
The online equivalent to traditional media brand advertising comes in three flavors, known as Cost Per Action (CPA), Cost Per Impression (CPM, and Cost Per Click (CPC), covering flat-rate, guaranteed publisher commissions, as well as lead-based publisher commissions[xii]. Again, in the online world of brand advertising, brand advertisers are primarily attracted to audience-rich premium publishers. Online premium publishers, host to valuable audience demographics, include websites such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and ESPN. Each of these websites provides well-defined and sought-after audience characteristics to brand advertisers. As expected, online brand advertisers tend to avoid remnant and less valuable “run of site” advertisements covering mostly random, hard to categorize content, which would associate the brand with unknown and potentially offensive content and other unpredictable advertisements. Examples of low-value online advertising inventory include websites like Myspace, and others with user-driven content in particular. Websites that employ strictly user-driven content provide low-value advertising inventory. On such websites, although the publisher may know a great deal about any one particular user, the publisher is typically unable to guarantee the integrity of the content of the page on which a brand advertisement may appear. This nearly eliminates all interest from brand advertisers, as they risk compromising the fragile image of their brand9.
The online advertising medium provides many audience-targeting options for brand advertisers, such as Site Targeting, Demographic Targeting, and Behavioral Targeting. Site Targeting, as you may have guessed, is not typically scalable, especially for brand advertisers10. Brand advertisers like to know a lot of information about who is viewing their advertisement, as well as the content within which it is presented. These two requirements all but eliminate the possibility of site targeting, as the proposition of a single website catering to a specific demographic of users, with known content, where the user base is large enough to scale with brand advertiser needs is unrealistic.
Demographic Targeting in the online advertising arena is nearly a science. Brand advertisers can reach a desired demographic across multiple websites with ease. The main issue is that it is not feasible to distribute brand advertisements in such a way as to guarantee that the advertiser brand is not presented alongside content that may be objectionable or that may not necessarily enhance the brand image10.
“Behavioral Targeting” is a breakthrough for publishers of online advertising that effectively converts low-value advertising inventory into very high value inventory9. Brand advertisers, as opposed to performance advertisers, are ideal consumers for Behavioral Targeting. The main concept is to categorize website users based on past behavior. In this way, an online publisher can use data collected to present out-of-context advertisements given the current content, which the consumer is likely interested in. For example, say a user browses the financial pages as well as the automotive pages of a website. A publisher may deduce from data representing financial page exploration that the user is likely wealthy, and assume from data representing automotive browsing that the user may be interested in purchasing a car. A publisher can therefore assume the user is a wealthy individual looking to purchase a vehicle, and present automotive advertisements when the user is viewing unrelated content, thereby converting low-value advertising inventory into high-value inventory9.
Yet another online brand advertising breakthrough is the concept called Relevancy. Relevancy is an invaluable breakthrough for both publishers and advertisers, in that advertisements can be placed in areas or results on websites where they actually add value to the publisher content. Relevancy is a mutually beneficial concept for publishers and advertisers, in that it enhances website content for the publisher by becoming part of it, as well as building brand for the advertiser by introducing the proper associations10.
Since online advertising is similar to traditional newspaper advertising in many ways, it suffers from similar concerns. Essentially, targeting leads to “bleeding” and associations10. Website page content simply “bleeds” onto the advertiser brand, and in turn, content of brand advertisement “bleeds” onto website pages.
Performance of online brand advertising can be precisely determined. Out of the three flavors of online advertising, CPA is typically best for advertisers, CPM is best for publishers, and CPC tends to be mutually beneficial, and therefore best overall18. Unlike traditional media such as television and radio, which separates advertisements from content using commercial breaks, online brand advertising mixes content and advertisement together10. This effectively implies advertiser sponsorship of publisher content9. However, if content and advertisement are blended together using Relevancy, the value of both the content and the advertisement can increase.
Essentially, online brand advertising integrates consumer data to increase advertisement value9. Regardless of increased value, brand advertisers have been slow to adopt the improved metrics and technology available to online media9. In the end, it seems as if a majority shift to online brand advertising is inevitable, as targeting through traditional media begins to look like guesswork when compared to modern online media approaches.