Earlier this week I read a post on the Adify blog critiquing a claim by direct response legend Tim Hawthorne that display ads are dead. Coincidentally, that very same day VideoEgg and ComScore announced the findings of the first known large scale study of the environment and engagement of ad units. Their conclusion? Repeated impressions may not immediately impact sales, but resulted in brand lift, or, an increased brand recognition and a higher propensity to recall and recommend.
On the other side of the argument we have a pioneer in the direct response industry, having built a $60 million revenue-generating machine out of $25,000 initial investment. That alone makes him a great entrepreneur and someone I deeply admire. In terms of his opinion on the future of display, I beg to differ. Hawthorne’s article and opinion of display’s failure to return on investment is shaped by his niche, “buy it now” focus on direct response. I agree display may not be the quickest and most effective way to solicit action and generate leads on impression, but they still have a place on a CPA or CPC campaign – after all, what’s the risk? If you eliminate display from DR campaigns, you will rely solely on search or contextual ads leaving a gaping void in sales acquisition. Personally, I make a killing off display advertising in the affiliate marketing industry. It’s quick, easy and is of little risk to both advertisers and publishers. With little risk involved in CPA marketing, what’s the point of losing faith in the medium?
Impression based display advertising has been used more and more lately as a way to increase brand awareness. The study results released today by ComScore and VideoEgg showed indications of significant lift on test campaigns by six major brands across various industries: Alliance Releasing, Doritos, GE, Hyundai, Telus and Toshiba. The ad units performing best in the study were from VideoEgg, which produced a 23% lift according to study participants.
Being a realist in nature, I can’t take one study and just make a case for it. Looking back to 2008, comScore also noted results of significant view-through performance of impression-based ads. As a result of the study, the comScore norms database showed an increase in sales, advertiser trademark search, and website site visits. Most recently, comScore did a follow up of 400,000 internet users in Europe and produced the same result.
While I realize display advertising needs a “revolution” of sorts, I think we are well on our way with networks like VideoEgg implementing rich media and video to produce highly engaging ad units. On a CPA/CPL/CPC model, more emphasis needs to be put on the quality of the ad unit, not just the quantity of ads served, CTR, and conversions. There’s a popular phrase in the SEO community saying “content is king”. For online marketers, “conversions are king” and without quality content, creative and engagement, that throne will be unfilled until you reassess and give your visitors what they want.