Digiday 2011: Integrate digital media, brand advertising

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Brand marketers who favor creative ads that run at scale should not believe digital media to be the domain of direct-response advertisers and ignore the channel's capabilities, said the heads of two industry trade organizations at the "Digiday Agency" event on Dec. 12 in New York.

Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), said that for 16 to 17 years the types of ads that could be delivered digitally was limited, but that is no longer the case. "The [digital] medium has more creative opportunities than any preceding medium in the history of the universe," Rothenberg said. "Anyone who thinks interactive digital media doesn't present creative opportunities is wrong."

Nancy Hill, president and CEO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's), leveled partial blame for this misconception on online publishers and content providers, who most often work with media agencies as opposed to creative agencies. She said that digital media is viewed as a direct-response channel instead of a brand advertising channel because the media agencies operate on a cost-per-impressions basis. Rothenberg said the expansion of standardized digital ad formats helps to encourage more creative advertising because standardized ad formats are more scalable and digital's rich-media functionality promotes creativity.

Another obstacle in attracting brand advertisers to digital is measurement, Hill said. The model for compensation within client organizations was built around the TV model, which scores campaigns according to metrics that have been in existence for decades, she said, which restricts the willingness of marketers to test digital media and set budgetary resources for that testing.

A new compensation model will require consensus standards for measuring brand effect, Rothenberg said. "Fundamentally what you're trying to measure when you measure brand effect is the long-term increase of the premium pricing ability of a brand," he said. But in order to institute new measurement standards, the industry must achieve agreement throughout digital advertising's supply chain, the speakers said. "When it gets to digital, the different measurement companies are not willing to say what we're doing is comparable to what you're doing... The industry is getting in its own way," Hill said.

Rothernberg said achieving agreement on standard metrics is more important than creating a mythical perfect metric that can be applied to all media. "We lost sight of the fact that we just need agreement to make transactions flow," he said.

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