Image Advertising and Direct Response Team Up

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batman_smallADOTAS – Engaging, creative content that builds an enduring brand while driving immediate sales.

That’s what today’s most successful new companies demand from their advertising partners. Oh, yes – and ways to measure both. Quickly, so as not to waste precious marketing dollars and time on creative executions and ad buys that don’t make the web servers hum or the phones ring.

In other words, they want image advertising plus direct response “immediate results” – but minus the over-the-top sales pitch (think Dan Aykroyd’s hilarious “Bass-O-Matic” spots on “Saturday Night Live”).

Thankfully, creative agencies have discovered new ways to deliver direct response advertising while also supporting a more polished brand image. And fortunately for media buyers and brands, technological developments and access to volumes of consumer and other data have helped make measurement instant – and instant adjustments to both creative and media-buying strategies a reality.

This new form of image and direct response creative has converged with new analytic capabilities at the intersection of the retail and service sectors and the Internet. Start-ups now demand their agencies deliver fresh, compelling creative as well as media buys that offer instantaneous and measureable proof of return on investment (ROI).

The results of this approach can be stunning. Take Priceline.com, a company my agency was fortunate enough to meet more than a dozen years ago. Within less than six months of its 1998 launch, 62.5 million consumers reported they were aware of the name – the fastest branding of a new company in history, according to The Brand Institute.

More important, Priceline continues to enjoy record sales and a 20 percent compounded growth rate thanks in no small part to brilliantly executed creative and a media buying program that constantly challenges the status quo.

Why are companies like Priceline successful? Because an ROI-centric advertising program works in a world in which consumers make instant decisions and “click” to “buy now.” No longer is the goal solely to build a brand, or to stimulate intent to purchase. Instead, the objective is to generate an actual purchase and to be able to explain as much as possible how and why that purchase occurred so that additional purchase activity can be stimulated.

By tracking key ad components, correlating ad airings and website activity, and calculating the resulting response rate and cost of acquisition, an ROI-oriented advertising program can deliver unsurpassed value and assure client retention.

Relying on time-honored metrics no longer is enough. For example, research shows that the majority of consumers reached through television advertising respond by visiting the advertiser website, often located through a branded search engine, for more information. Understanding the link between ad airings and client-related search activity is an additional way to assess the impact of a campaign.

However, tracking the consumer response an ad or series of ads triggers is only the tip of the iceberg. Through the use of complex analytics, media buyers can test and assess strategies and optimize ad spends. As results are achieved and the cost of acquisition becomes clear, campaigns can be scaled and results extrapolated.

An ROI-focused approach to media buying addresses both the long and short term. Rapid and unpredictable changes in the media and economic landscape make real-time testing more critical than ever before, while tracking and analytics enable a media-agnostic identification of best-performing channels. The result is a customized, hybrid approach that focuses on what the client company seeks to achieve, as opposed to simply repeating what has worked in the past.

All this is not to say that longer-term brand objectives no longer are important. Cultivating and maintaining a trustworthy brand is an integral part of what drives response – especially ongoing response. However, as consumers increasingly embrace mobile technology, understanding “now” behavior becomes an extremely important consideration for everyone with an interest in advertising.

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