Please introduce your recent talk at Interact.
TE: One of the challenges that we've got at the IAB is to make sure that advertisers get the most out of their digital advertising. I think that, historically, we have had an issue with online display. To an extent, we have all concentrated far too much on metrics and accountability. We have talked with people about CTR, impressions and all of that, and forgotten that online advertising, particularly display, can do a really great branding job alongside TV, print, and other media. We trained advertisers and agencies to be hooked on CTR, and actually that's not necessarily the best way of assessing of how a campaign works.
We wanted to do a piece of work which said that while CTR and accountability are great, we should look at the branding effect of online display. What was born out of that was the Building Brands Online trilogy. As the title suggests, the project formed three pieces of work, where we partnered with 3 different FMCG brands to look at the impact of digital on their objectives. One of the really interesting things for us was that we had 3 different brands that were trying to do very different things. Starbucks Via is a brand extension: a luxury instant coffee which was to be launched in supermarkets. It was really interesting for them: taking it into a really competitive shelf in the supermarket, but using the Starbucks brand values to take it into a new area. Then we had Maggi, Nestle's brand which is big around the world but completely unknown in the UK. The challenge for Maggi was to launch a completely new brand, and to establish awareness. Finally, we had Lucozade, where we worked very closely with Mediacom. Geoff de Burca from Mediacom described Lucozade as the "sleeping giant of energy drinks". They still sell more than all of their competitors put together, but over the last couple of years, a lot of innovative brands have been launched, nibbling away of their market share. So, they were all about repositioning, relaunching, and engaging with a different audience. We found three brands with very different objectives, and partnered with them to have a look at the impact of the online element and how their respective campaigns achieved their objectives.
The other reason is why we are interested is that the argument for CTR and Direct Response is a fairly well-worn one. People are fairly well bought into it. But, there are a lot of people that think that traditional media are better at branding, so we wanted to shape those perceptions and say that while TV may be great for reach, online can do a really good job alongside TV.
Do you see your job and that of the IAB as more a far-reaching - educating agencies and clients in the possibilities of how online can build brands?
TE: Definitely. I think that one of the really positive things to come out of this, was how well TV and online work side-by-side. With some of the results, online was positive and with others, TV was positive. When you put them together, the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts. For Maggi and Lucozade, when people were exposed to both TV and online, the metrics around awareness and consideration increased rapidly. I think that it's the complimentary nature of the two; TV is great for reach; and online is great because you in a sit-forward medium and are engaged. With some of the high-impact video advertising from Lucozade, it's a great combination of the two environments. With media planners, it isn't an either/or argument. They're both great media, so how can we make them work together?
If there was an over-reliance towards metrics in the past, is a less metric-driven environment going to be hard for agencies and planners to understand?
TE: When I talk to media owners, they say that the advertiser or the agency that has booked a branding campaign will ask what the CTR was at the end of it. They say: "That wasn't necessarily the point. Why are we assessing an activity that didn't relate to the objective?" I think that people were hooked on those easily-obtainable, measurable metrics. One of the great things about online is its accountability, but to some extent, we have pushed accountability so much, that it has been at the expense of the other things that online can do.
The other issue is that the research was a substantial investment for us. While metrics are reasonably easy to obtain, measuring the impact on a brand is not always that cheap, so it becomes more of a difficult thing to push.
Is there a greater potential for branding measurement within clients, as they can sometimes see the bigger picture for their brands?
TE: If you look at FMCG advertisers, they have such a wealth of history with traditional media and they know how to make a TV ad, so they know how to assess the activity. With online, even though we may think that it's well established, to some, it's still relatively new. There's often a need within agencies to open the eyes of brands and advertisers. It is often the agency that is pushing online. One of the exciting things for us is the proliferation of new display formats, encouraging both agencies and brands to invest more in this space. As online ads get bigger, you can be more creative with them. The way online advertising is changing, is helping us to push both agencies and advertisers in that direction.
Do you see a wider move from agencies in embracing the new formats?
TE: We have recently undertaken another piece of research, Size Matters. That was a review of work from Millward Brown over the last couple of years. We looked at 940 campaigns over 15 countries, and looked at the newer ad formats, comparing their performance in branding metrics to traditional formats. What we found was that some of those new formats - if you look at the start of the purchase funnel in terms of driving brand awareness and ad awareness - some of them have been really effective. The billboard offers 9x greater uplift in terms of ad awareness than traditional formats.
For us at the IAB, it's about proving to people and illustrating that exploring these new creative formats is worth it. The interesting thing is that media owners can charge premium rates for them, as they are high-profile and can display very-high-quality content. They are asking brands to invest more, and the natural question from the advertiser is "That's all very well, but does it actually work?" Some of the research that we have done has shown that it does and, on average, they deliver a better result. That's what the market needs: an assurance that these new formats are working.
Creative agencies have looked at traditional ad formats over the years and thought that there isn't much that they can do with them, as the space is rather small, but they are finding that the new formats can really be engaged with. They give you much more space to interesting things. In the next couple of years, I'm hoping to see more new formats come through.
We ran a competition, the Future Formats awards, where we invited media owners to submit brand new advertising formats. The winner was the Telegraph Media Group with Cascade, which starts with a big billboard at the top of the page, and works like a Slinky - it flips down and reveals new content as the user scrolls down the page. It's entirely under their control, and works across desktop, tablet, and smartphone. As people increasingly use the Internet in different ways, it's important to develop formats which work equally well across all of these.
How do you see the role of social and brand democratisation developing? Are these principles being increasingly woven into brand development?
TE: It's a complicated area. In terms of research, we are just starting to look at these areas this year, with something out by the end of the year, and are looking into the role of social in ATL; how social plays with both earned and owned media. It is significant, and we are seeing more brands using display, online, and TV advertising drive through to social media, making the campaign far bigger than its original size. We're really excited about it, and a brand getting involved in that area can make a campaign really work.
What is on your agenda for the rest of the year?
TE: We're really interested in social media. We want to get a bit more granular with online, and to see how online advertising works in different environments. We shall be looking at different types of editorial and ad formats, and to see what conclusions we can draw from this work.
Tim Elkington is Director of Research and Strategy at IAB UK. We'll be revisiting the IAB's work throughout 2012, as new research and publications are announced.