Buoyed by the success of last year’s event, Dynamic Logic staged an encore of its Cross Media Forum: Night of the Media Heavyweights on Tuesday, bringing together a dozen media heavyweights to decide where advertisers should be spending their media money.
Despite the fanfare that accompanied the panelists’ entrance onto the stage of New York's Equitable Building Auditorium, Dynamic Logic CEO Nick Nyhan set a somewhat skeptical tone for the evening, stating that “it’s a debate that never really ends.”
However, David Verklin, CEO of Carat Americas, who was asked to reprise his role as moderator, quickly pointed out that the panelists represented about $280 billion in media dollars and if anyone could shed light on the topic of cross media spending, it was the group on stage.
The two-hour debate allowed panelists plenty of opportunities to defend their respective media -- broadcast television, cable, direct marketing, the Internet, magazines, newspapers, outdoor and radio.
Each media plays a role
ABC TV’s Mike Shaw brought up many of the familiar arguments used by broadcast television executives, including distribution, content and ratings for broadcast being superior to all other media. Shaw said that compared to all other media, broadcast TV spends the most on content -- $11 billion spent last year by the top four networks alone. Also, he said, broadcast delivers the best ratings, and delivers them faster than all other media.
Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau (CAB) President Sean Cunningham, somewhat on the defensive following Shaw’s introduction, argued that cable TV ratings are growing and that audiences are growing exponentially thanks to other media, especially the Internet. “I have networks that go up 30 percent in ratings and audience due to their Internet traffic,” he said.
Next in the hot seat was Online Publishers Association (OPA) president Michael Zimbalist, who said, “Cross media is the consumer experience today” and consumers’ cross media consumption is increasing thanks to broadband -- consumers choose their media based on ease of use. He also said that online display advertising was up 20 percent in the first half of 2004.
Despite all of the above, Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) president Nina Link said that there is no other medium consumers trust more than magazines, and that magazines provide the best "engaged reach." “While people are clicking away from television and the Web,” she said, “they stay engaged with magazines.”
Link’s comments were echoed by Newspaper Advertising Association (NAA) president John Sturm and Stephen Freitas, CMO of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA).
Sturm said that newspapers offer advertisers a unique connection with users and suggested that advertisers need to look across media for optimum value. Naturally, newspapers deliver that value, he said.
Freitas also said that the medium he represents plays well in concert with other media, because it is a “targeted medium with mass appeal.” He said outdoors is where people are when they’re out of their homes and the amount of time they spend out of home is growing.
The same argument was used by Mary Bennett, EVP of the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB), who said that consumers have more media options than ever before and that each medium plays a role in reaching them effectively.
Barbara Singer, Director of Strategic Media Information at Kraft, represented advertisers in the discussion. When it comes to cross media, Singer said, “online has shaken things up a bit,” and “added an interesting dynamic to mix things better.”
Michael Donahue, Executive Vice President of the AAAA, representing the interest of agencies in the discussion, said that his constituency is most interested in better data and ROI. It’s about “total communication planning,” he said.
Michael Burgi, editor of MediaWeek, acting as a second moderator of sorts, chimed in with a dose of skepticism, admitting that he was the most wary of cross media. Although cross media sounds like a great proposition, Burgi has yet to see many good examples in practice.
William Cook from the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), however, countered with, “It’s here and it’s happening.” Pointing to the audience, he said, “You’re using research more intelligently and that’s going to drive successful cross media integration.”
The Net's future is the brightest
All media having attempted to establish their dominance, Verklin proceeded to ask the audience which medium they thought was facing the toughest road ahead. He measured audience response using meters provided by sponsor MS Interactive,
The results were clear -- network television.
Roughly 67 percent of the respondents in the instant poll doubted the future of network TV, followed by about 57 percent who bet on newspapers. The Internet, according to the audience, is the safest medium.
When asked why that was the case, ABC’s Shaw pointed to the high costs of network TV advertising, but maintained that his medium is still the most powerful. He also reinforced his original point that nobody spends as much money on content as network TV.
Lending a hand in defending broadcast, CAB’s Cunningham said that whether cable or network, “Television is still the most blindingly powerful selling mechanism” currently in existence.
RAB’s Bennett offered another perspective: “For primetime in the evening TV is king,” she said, “but for all other times there’s radio.
OAAA’s Freitas added that people are spending as much time in their cars as they do in front of their televisions.
Also, according to MPA’s Link, audiences are moving to more targeted media and away from television, which is not engaging enough and too cluttered. And, she said, network television players have to deal with the onset of TiVo and similar digital video recorders.
According to Direct Marketing Association (DMA) president John Greco, the operative word is “targeting,” but advertisers have to be careful. “The more we target, the closer we get to the line that raises privacy concerns,” he said. Hence, he doubted there will ever be a time when there is not room for broadcast in the media plan.
Better metrics are needed
The panel’s resident skeptic, MediaWeek’s Burgi, again raised the question of why there are no significant cross media deals being done despite the apparent agreement to work together between all media. In response, the other panelists agreed that it takes two to tango and their respective media are ready to dance, but there is a great need for cross media accountability metrics. At this point in the game, advertising is simply not sold that way.
The outcome of the debate? There is a noticeable change in the landscape, but still a desperate need exists for more accurate and affordable metrics to facilitate a much-needed change of media planning and buying habits.
At this stage of development, social media advertising lacks the standard metrics that have served as a primary advantage for online advertising. Online advertising as a form of direct-response advertising has measurability built into its very existence. Advertisers can measure reach (the number of people exposed to the message) and frequency (the average number of times someone is exposed), and analyze site stickiness (the ability of a site to draw repeat visits and to keep people on a site) and the relative pull of creative presentations (a comparison of the ability for different creative executions to generate response). They can also monitor click-throughs (the number of people exposed who click on an online ad or link), sales conversions (the number of people who click through who then purchase product), and view-throughs (the number of people who are exposed and do not click through but later visit the brand's website). These metrics are applicable to the use of display advertising in social spaces. If L'Oreal buys display ads on Facebook, all of these metrics are available to gauge effectiveness.
However, for the more innovative approaches available, metrics like number of unique visitors, page views, frequency of visits, average visit length, and click-through rates are either totally inappropriate or irrelevant, or simply fail to capture information about the objectives of a social media advertising campaign. Our tendency is to count -- count impressions, visitors, friends, posts, players. There is still a place for numbers in the social media arena, but the numbers may be different from the ones marketers have traditionally used -- and they may not be effective if not combined with more qualitative data.
Knowing the number of community members involved in brand-related conversations can serve as an indicator of exposure, and the number of message threads and lines of text within a thread can serve as proxies of conversation depth. However, counting does not capture the essence of the interaction consumers had with the brand, the degree of engagement felt during and after the interaction, or the effects of the interaction, exposure to brand messages, and brand engagement on measures like brand likability, brand image, brand awareness, brand loyalty, brand affiliation, congruency, and purchase intent. Jeep may have 8,500 MySpace friends, but the number does nothing to tell us how the friends feel about Jeep. An ARG may boast millions of players, but the sheer quantity of players does not reveal the success of the strategy.
To measure outcomes of social advertising, organizations must balance quantitative metrics with qualitative insights. Here's how to go about doing this.
1. Reviewing objectives
Step 1, reviewing the campaign objectives, assumes that the objectives were set prior to pursuing advertising opportunities in social media. Not all brands set formal objectives. Some are simply experimenting with social media, and for them, the experience of executing a campaign using emerging platforms is sufficient.
For most brands, though, failing to set clear objectives is a mistake. When it comes to assessing success, if there are no objectives, how do you know if where you ended up is where you wanted to be? The specific objectives identified can vary dramatically from brand to brand but usually encompass three overarching issues:
- Motivating some action like visits to a website or sales
- Affecting brand knowledge and attitudes
- Accomplishing the first two objectives with fewer resources than might be required with other advertising and promotional methods
2. Mapping the campaign
Step 2 calls for mapping all of the social media aspects of the advertising campaign. This activity results in a visual representation of the tactics used and how they may interact. Maps can be crude, simple drawings, but even a rough sketch can be valuable as brands seek to measure accomplishments in the social media space.
An effective map would display the types of branded messages produced and distributed (e.g., written vehicles like blog posts and white papers, ads in the form of display ads or rich-media video, and podcasts), invitations for consumer engagement with the brand (e.g., games, consumer-generated advertising contests and promotions, and interactive brand experiences), and the online location for these materials. It should also include online locations where others can go to distribute content relating to the brand. For instance, are there viral videos on YouTube that highlight the brand? Are there product reviews on sites like Epinions.com? Are there MySpace pages with brand icons and information posted? Are there bloggers writing about the brand? Are members of Delicious tagging the brand's website, and are Digg members voting for branded content?
Once all the sources of brand information are identified, the map should sketch out the chain of all possible touchpoints. A touchpoint is simply a contact point between the brand and the consumer.
MINI Cooper "touches" a consumer when someone visits the dealer showroom, visits the MINI website or one of its microsites, receives brochures and other promotional materials from the company, or brings a car in for service. These are all brand-controlled touchpoints, but many touchpoints that the brand does not control do exist, especially online.
In addition to the consumer-generated content that relates to the brand, there may be conversational touchpoints going on. Are people reading the blog postings (or even responding to blog posts) that mention the brand? Are people watching videos posted on sites like YouTube? Are they voting for content on Digg? In other words, is the media (whether brand-generated or consumer-generated) being consumed by those it reaches and is it being "fortified"? Ultimately, the map should show four levels of contact:
- Brand-generated content
- Consumer-generated content
- Consumer-fortified content
- Exposures to content consumers
3. Choosing criteria and tools of measurement
In step 3, the criteria for assessing effectiveness are determined, and the tools necessary for measurement are selected. The objectives and the map should direct both the identification of criteria and the best tools for measurement.
For example, imagine that you seek to develop brand awareness for a new product. You also want to drive traffic to the product website and reinforce the brand's image. The brand enters the social media space with an advertising campaign, which also includes traditional media components. The brand website and its microsites would be sketched on a social media map, along with other tactics, like a celebrity MySpace profile (featuring your brand as a sponsor).
What criteria and tools then should you use to evaluate success of these techniques? Your campaign objectives emphasized a desire to:
- Build awareness of the new product
- Drive visits to the websites
- Strengthen the brand image
Objective 2 is easily addressed with traditional website metrics and measurement tools. The brand site and microsites can track hits, page views, and unique visitors; if the sites enable registration, then registrants can also be tracked. Organic search engine rankings can also be assessed for the brand name and its slogans.
Awareness (objective 1) can be suggested with website traffic and traffic to other branded components. For instance, your celebrity endorser's MySpace profile will have friends, some of whom will fortify the profile with comments. Awareness can also be suggested with brand mentions in other online spaces. You might ask, "Is the brand being talked about? If so, how much, and where?"
The criteria for answering these questions are straightforward. One simply needs to identify evidence of the brand in online conversations and publications, get a count of those occurrences, and note the source of the material. The tools necessary for this could include a virtual version of a clipping service to determine what is being said about the brand and the brand's competition online. This can be an in-house project, or outsourced to companies like CyberAlert, which can then monitor specific publications or the entire internet for brand mentions. Collecting brand mentions in-house can be accomplished with tools like Google Alerts. These tools can provide a count of mentions, and the sources, but they should be combined with other tools to determine whether the communication was positive, negative, or neutral for the brand.
Next you might ask, "How many people are exposed to these third-party messages?" To assess the impact of these brand mentions across the web, one can turn to companies that measure the size of a site's audience. Media Metrix, Nielsen NetRatings, and comScore offer measurement services that include hits, unique visitors, and page views for sites. Such assessments will need to consider all the locations of postings mentioning the brand and the audiences for each location.
In our example, you also set out to strengthen your brand's image (objective 3). This can be influenced by what the target audience thinks and feels about the branding for the campaign. Is the audience engaged with the interactive games you are using? Is your association strategy using celebrity endorsers effectively? Does the audience feel that the quiz and the recommendations included in the quiz's answers enable your brand to symbolize their own self images? The campaign itself will influence the brand's image. You could use primary research in the form of surveys and focus groups to answer these questions.
4. Establishing a benchmark
For all of the criteria and measurement tools you have chosen in step 3, to apply them effectively to your brand, you need to move to step 4 and set benchmarks, which will give you goals to reach so you can determine if your campaign is on the right track or if changes are necessary.
Assuming you are employing a combination of quantitative and qualitative measurement tools, your benchmarks will most likely consist of not only traditional quantitative measures -- such as a set number of unique visitors -- but also more qualitative metrics -- such as positive focus group feedback indicating heightened brand awareness. Then you can use the data you collect from the measurement tools to observe as you get closer and closer to reaching those benchmarks.
5. Analyzing the outcomes and proposing changes
After selecting your measurement tools and the benchmarks you are striving for, step 5 is to analyze the data you collect using your measurement tools, compare the data versus your benchmark, and, if you determine that your campaign is falling short of reaching your goals, propose active changes that might help you attain those goals.
6. Continuing to measure
While it may seem like your job is done once you've measured your success versus your benchmark, the work is far from over. Measuring should be a regular, continual part of your social media campaign -- so really, step 6 never ends.
Setting regular intervals of measurement (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually, depending on the type of metrics chosen and the campaign's needs) can help maintain discipline in this regard, and continuous measurement can also help you assess consumer reaction to any changes that are instituted mid-campaign.
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Shareable event or holiday imagery
Whether it's Christmas, Mother's Day, or Houseplant Appreciation Day, people are going to flock to Facebook to wish their friends and family a happy one. That's why the savviest brands on Facebook get in on the action by posting brand-relevant holiday images that people want to share. If done right, you're giving your fans the equivalent of a free greeting card to send to family and friends at the click of a mouse.
The brand play can be subtle, as was the case in Target's Cinco de Mayo image:
Or you can be a little more overt:
Generally speaking, the more rabid your fans, the more prominently you can feature your brand. Hello Kitty is a classic example:
And again, this opportunity isn't relegated only to holidays. Consider major events, like Election Day. How many posts from friends do you see with a generic text-only "I voted" equivalent? Give those folks a more-interesting way to share this news:
The less-ordinary product shot
When you release a new product, you might just be tempted to snap a glamour shot and post away. And in certain cases, that's completely sufficient. But you'll get more mileage out of images that display the product in a unique way. This might be via a visual pun, as McDonald's did with its Fish McBites:
Yes, many of the 16,000-plus comments inevitably remark on the gag-inducing concept of the product. But that's dwarfed by the 118,000-plus "likes" the image received. No doubt, this image performed better than a strict close-up of some greasy fried fish nuggets would have.
Even if your product is a bit more visually appealing than your average Fish McBite, you'll still benefit from photos that take a unique angle (or that contain unique angling) on your product or display it in a cool or compelling environment. No one gets this better than automobile companies. Just check out the Facebook pages of any of the biggies. Their product shots are automotive pornography, and people love them.
This one is probably pretty obvious to anyone marketing food or beverages. Your images need to make people drool. But some images do it better than others.
Take this Starbucks image, for example:
There's nothing wrong with that image. And no one is going to complain about 4,600-plus "likes." But compare it to this other Starbucks post:
BAM. More than 97,000 "likes." That's the power of well-executed food porn.
Also, in addition to over-the-top product shots, don't forget to showcase the various uses of your product. In some cases, that might be in the context of a recipe, like in this Reese's example:
In this case, Reese's is capitalizing on two Facebook photo best practices. Which leads me to...
Your brand in the real world
Fan photos are powerful things. They're eye candy and a testimonial all wrapped up in one shareable little package. So make use of them. When you discover good fan pics, share them to your fans.
Few brands are doing this quite as well as Converse. The brand frequently showcases its product in surprising places via its fan photos:
But it doesn't neglect the simpler fan photos either:
Believe it or not, both types of images perform exceptionally well for the brand.
Yes, a picture is worth 1,000 words. But a picture and words? Well, that's worth -- like -- 1,007 words:
This is a relatively simple but effective example from Dove. But the quotes can take many forms -- actual historical quotes by respected figures or (as in the Dove example) powerful sentiments without any specific attribution.
Oreo is the master of the visual quotation. From the self-glorifying humor play:
To the fan testimonial (i.e., tying in the previously mentioned "your brand in the real world" best practice):
Pop culture spoofs
OK, so we've covered Facebook Photo-Posting 101. Ready for the advanced track? Now's the time to start getting clever. To do so, don't hesitate to draw on pop icons and trending topics -- and then shoehorn your brand right in there:
Duh -- cat photos (bonus: caption contests)
And finally, if you can get away with it -- post cat photos. Everyone else does. And no matter how played-out the trend might seem, people love it. Walmart took it a step further with a caption contest -- which practically seems like cheating when it comes to engaging people on Facebook. But you can't argue with 97,000-plus "likes," 16,000-plus comments, and a whopping 17,000-plus shares.
To receive regular updates of the most engaging brand Facebook posts -- most of which are usually photos -- I recommend subscribing to Zuum's TopTen email, which regularly features the best-performing posts from the top 100 brands on Facebook.