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Do branded content sites deliver the best ROI?

Placement on established, branded Web sites may seem like a logical step for online marketers looking to reach qualified audiences and online revenue goals, but our experts debate the issue of whether that investment is always necessary for the desired results.

Pam Horan
President, Online Publisher’s Assn. Has held VP of marketing titles at many online publishing firms

Trusted content, “well-lit” envi­ronments and high-quality audiences. Three reasons why research consistently finds that branded content sites deliver better advertising results.

The OPA looked at independent Dynamic Logic data, and found a link between environment and ROI.Ad effectiveness scores on branded content sites generally were higher than on the Web overall, on portals or on ad networks. Branded content sites beat industry norms for the Internet 41 out of 43 times over all advertising metrics.

Beyond simply delivering better results, being able to break through when consumers are making brand and purchase decisions is the Holy Grail.

If we look specifically at brand favorability, branded content sites pro­vide a 29% boost over average online advertising performance — and an amazing 200% jump over ad networks. Branded content’s advantage rises among affluent audiences.

They are 24% more effective than the Internet overall at impacting those with household incomes of over $75,000.

Statistics don’t fully show the less measurable, but highly significant, advantages of advertising on branded content sites. They ensure that market­ers know where their ads will run and that the environment is trusted and “clean.” They then receive the benefit of the branded content site “halo” – the powerful linkage consumers have with media brands and their advertising. Consumers can see these sites are not just for entertainment and information, but also to learn about quality brands.

Tsafrir Peles
co-CEO DSNR Media Group
9 years experience in Internet advertising

Concerning the question of advertising on branded sites, it appears there has been little discussion of the key criteria used to judge success.

A results-based approach to online advertising would suggest that if dollars spent on advertising are not directly translated into clear and measurable sales, then nothing useful is being done. In this regard, the metrics for campaign success which influence ROI are actual cost; conversion rates and cost of con­version; and customer’s value.

Branded related benefits, such as favorability and purchase intent, are important, but, at the end of the day, they need to contribute, or be translated into actual purchases to realize their value to the advertiser. These are the major fac­tors that define the campaign’s success.

Perhaps higher advertising costs on branded content sites are acceptable, but only if their added value is higher — in conversion rates for the same acquisition cost, or in customer value, justifying higher customer acquisition cost.

Advertising on the Internet requires investment and planning, so getting the best possible ROI should be at the forefront of any business decision.

What is absent from this debate is the data that proves how smaller amounts of investment can realize high profits when allocating them effectively to run­ning on a non-branded site, ad network or portal. Alternatively, we need sup­porting data that shows spending larger amounts on branded Web properties yields higher ROI.

Sales and profitability is and always will be the only criteria for success.


While Horan cites numbers that make a compelling case that branded content sites reach affluent, engaged audiences who frequently respond to on-site ads, Peles reminds marketers to do their own math, and to ensure that bottom-line results are achieved. The halo effect, while power­ful for a brand, may not always match the specific campaign goals.

Have your say: E-mail your view to [email protected]

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