CBS MarketWatch: We'll Offer Clicks But Would Rather Not

CBS MarketWatch denies it will stop providing its advertisers with click-through information, as reported by Reuters yesterday, but it is certainly leaning in that direction.

“We're pushing image and awareness,” said Dan Silmore, director of corporate communications at CBS MarketWatch. “We're totally going to offer click-through [reporting] to anyone who wants it. We know there are direct marketers out there who depend on them and page views.”

However, CBS MarketWatch aims to build its stable of packaged and consumer goods clients that are not so focused on immediate response to ad campaigns.

“We're out to prove that image and awareness are definitely enhanced by doing online advertising,” Silmore said. As evidence that online advertising works despite banners' well-known sub-0.5 percent click rates, CBS MarketWatch plans to offer advertisers the results of studies similar to those done in conjunction with television advertising, in which consumer brand awareness and perception are measured by surveys and other tools.

Sellers of online advertising have long argued that just because an Internet user does not click does not mean the ad has no branding value. However, that argument has often fallen on deaf ears in discussions surrounding the tiny, beleaguered banner.

As a result, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, formerly the Internet Advertising Bureau, earlier this year adopted new, larger online ad sizes, which were quickly adopted by the likes of and CNET.

According to Silmore, CBS MarketWatch's focus on branding is consistent with an ongoing effort to incorporate online what has worked for advertisers offline.

“If you've followed us at all, we picked up all the new sizes earlier in the year. Then we went to day-parts advertising,” Silmore said. “We started with Anheuser-Busch — another offline technique — basically looking to cater to folks who were looking to deliver product features, and enhance branding and awareness and to enhance intent to purchase. And the idea here is to deliver more of the same.”

When the new ad sizes were introduced, proponents argued that because of the larger size and added interactivity, complicated measurement metrics are less necessary because the format lends itself to providing more information. The user can get more of the pertinent information without having to click through to a Web site, they said.

However, the new sizes, while helpful, have not been the solution everyone had hoped for, according to industry experts.

CBS MarketWatch's renewed branding focus is “probably the polar opposite of the direction in which they should be headed,” said Jay Schwedelson, corporate vice president at direct and interactive marketing services provider Worldata/WebConnect, Boca Raton, FL. “While the click through is not the primary measurement of the overall return on investment of an online ad campaign, it certainly is a metric worth watching.

“For them to recognize [the Internet] as a branding, as opposed to a direct response, channel is contrary to what the rest of the industry has recognized it to be.”

What's working, according to Schwedelson, is a solution that would make most editors' hair curl: paid editorial.

“It's hard to pull those buys off, but if you can, they're generating the types of results needed to warrant online ad spending,” he said.

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