J.G. Sandom is truly an interactive marketing pioneer, having founded the nation's first interactive advertising agency, Einstein and Sandom Interactive (EASI), in 1984. It grew to become the largest interactive ad agency when it was purchased by DMB&B in 1994. Then, from January 1997 through October 1999, Sandom served as Director of Interactive at OgilvyOne Worldwide, where he helped generate revenues up to an estimated $100 million. Today, in his role as Vice Chairman of RappDigital Worldwide- the interactive arm of direct marketing agency Rapp Collins Worldwide, that Sandom founded in 1999 - he is responsible for executive management of the company. Sandom's obsession is ROI, and RappDigital is focused on measurements and testing. Here, Sandom talks about the importance of generating media mix analysis, numerical values for brand lift and other such key measurement metrics.
iMedia Connection: Tell me about an interactive campaign you believe was successful.
Sandom: SBC is one that comes to mind. We did a lot of analytics work, and we also looked at attitudinal work. We basically looked at Forrester research and determined in this particular case the kind of individuals who are likely to buy technology products such as DSL. We determined that 61% of the major target groups actually were represented by three clusters that really were something like 30% of the total universe but actually 61% of the buying power for DSL. So we focused on those three groups, did some insight analysis to figure out what would turn them on. Basically, what we ended up doing, then, we created ads that were totally tailored to those individuals. For example, we created media units that were very interactive including Enliven banners in which you could actually play a game and see the difference in speed between the two, which would then drive to a landing page which, again, would be focused on that particular segment based on the Forrester research. As a result of that we had a 4.8 response rate on the Enliven and something about half that for the Jiffy E9s, which is four to six times industry average, because of the combination of looking at the different segments in a smart way, figuring out what was going to drive their purchasing behaviors, and then changing the creative accordingly.
We also did work with offline direct mail whereby it was feeding the online efforts. This is something we do all the time. For Mead Johnson, for example, we did one campaign in which we used the same database for mail and e-mail for Enfamil, and basically when we did not have a good e-mail address, the print vehicle helped us engender a deeper and more robust e-mail address list and vice versa, so if we had an e-mail address we were able to get their snail mail address and thereby feed both lines and build a total database.
iMedia Connection: It sounds like these were integrated campaigns. Is that something you stress for your clients?
Sandom: For SBC, what we have done there is a lot of very integrated offline and online work, which is a value add that we bring to the table because we're so integrated, we work across all media: TV, radio, print, online, snail mail and e-mail. So one of the things that we have found in doing work for companies like SBC and many of our other clients is that there is a significant benefit in basically doing media mix analysis and finding out the right mix because we have found historically that campaigns in isolation may drive one particular result, but when they are combined with direct and e-mail and emedia both on and offline - the marketing in essence is combined - we will get over a 40% lift over the efficacy of any given campaign when we're looking at isolation of any particular channel. So we find that, and this is kind of interesting because having come from Ogilvy at one point -- I spent almost three years at Ogilvy which had a very significant brand focus with O&M as the much larger partner above, driving the culture of the organization -- one thing which we never were able to generate there was the ability to do true media mix analysis because there was no real incentive for folks at O&M to really look across both online and offline direct and brand. There was really little incentive because it usually meant money going away from television advertising. With our organization, we're media neutral, we do TV, radio, print, all of these different things. The only thing we demand is that they be accountable, there be some ability to validate a metric, whether it be a drive to a call center or a Web site.
So as a result of that, we're able to look at all these channels and actually do media mix optimization. We have a very significant analytics group within the organization. What's interesting is that we have come back at times and said we need more TV advertising or let it run longer because the way that its sequencing in tandem with the offline communications, direct communications, plus the online, it actually has a significant synergy and impact on the online results.
iMedia Connection: We ran a poll on our site on the top issues facing brand advertisers in regard to interactive and what came out number one is branding - does the Internet work for branding, how do we measure it, etc.? What are your thoughts on that?
Sandom: The 4As, the IAB and other organizations have already proven that the Internet is effective for branding, especially when you deal with the larger media units. But in my mind, unless you can actually track all the way through, you're missing the boat when it comes to the brand's objective, and there is usually a hybrid objective in most campaigns, some leaning more toward branding, some leaning more toward sale or direct. An example of why tracking is important: If someone is clicking on a faux interactive banner but gets upset by being misled by the banner, that's not exactly good for the brand, even though the advertiser is getting a lot of clicks. So we do a lot of pre- and post-testing and surveys with clients' end users to see whether or not a brand lift has occurred.
We also spend a lot of time quantifying the value of that brand's lift. We actually try to map back to a financial result. And if you're actually following an example, a media unit drives you to a page, tells you about a product, you end up buying it, if you track it and begin to see directionally what that looks like you can then go back and say, gee for every quarter point of lift we usually end up generating X number of sales. So you can actually go back and start applying a numerical value to that brand lift as opposed to just a quarter percent higher in doing pre- and post-testing.
I think that all of this is indicative of the rather strange capability or potential that exists within the interactive or IP universe. And that is that in essence in the offline world, brands are created by the marketers, by advertisers, and expressed to the consumer through media channels. In our view in the online world, what we do in essence is create tools - the graphic user interface, content and functionality, what have you - in media units, sponsorships and other places, which engender an experience that dynamically creates the brand. As a result, the actual authorship of the brand is much more in the hands of the end user than it is in traditional advertising. So from that standpoint, the interaction with all these ad units is incredibly important because that's ultimately what's going to drive the brand and actually create the brand in that dynamic interaction between the consumer and the marketer.
So in sum about the Internet as a branding medium: We look at this as a hybrid medium. Regardless of whether your primary objective is clickthrough, there's always a branding capability so we always make sure that in ad units we still have logo units. And, ultimately at the end of the day, it's all about tracking through because you could have perspective to say that an ad unit has worked well, it has been seen and somebody clicked on it, and therefore we can actually try and drive a brand metric, but you need to really track all the way through to see what that feeling about the brand is -- not just through pre- and post-testing of the brand through studies and questionnaires but by actually tracking from clickthrough to sale. And ultimately, that's the way you can ascribe a numerical, a financial value, to that brand lift.
iMedia Connection: Most traditional advertisers are spending less than 1% of their marketing budgets online. Why is that? Do you see it improving? What do we need to do to improve it?
Sandom: I would say in a nutshell it's probably three things. One, it's lack of knowledge You know, it's new, it's different, it's not what they're used to doing so it's not what they're habituated to doing. Two, it's the buzz around, well, banners don't really work, and we're seeing a dot-com crash and all that additional background noise. And, three, it is because they're not working with agencies that are not neutral in their media analysis or aren't doing media mix optimization. Because again, we found historically that in some cases we're increasing traditional brand advertising in order to support these other legs. That often works in our favor as opposed to pulling all the money out of traditional brand advertising and moving it into these other channels. So I think they're getting bad advice.
iMedia Connection: What needs to be done as an industry to counteract that?
Sandom: As new ad units are sanctioned and blessed and promulgated throughout the universe through standards and guidelines people will become increasingly comfortable with the efficacy of these ad units. Also, I think as technology changes, and obviously now with all kinds of streaming technologies and with significant penetration now of cable modems and DSL and access to the Web at a faster speed, now we're able to tell a story in a much more compelling way within these new ad units. Because of the technology, I think we'll persuade marketers that this is going to be something that is effective for them even if it is just about brand advertising.
The other thing is showing clients that there is more to online advertising than just banner ads. There are advertorials where you're jointly creating content with a portal, things of that nature, keyword buys and other techniques besides just a banner, even if it's a rich media banner. People have to be a little more expansive with their thinking with the potential panoply of offerings available to us in the media world, because they themselves can actually do a lot.
For example, we're involved with this consumer electronics client now that is involved with the World Cup and is involved with the Oscars and things of that nature. So, obviously, sponsoring sections there, maybe doing things like mobile communities, using WAP technologies around the world to give people the latest updates on which movies have been nominated, how people were dressed at the event, you know lots of much more interesting and inventive techniques than just your standard banners. Think more out of the box. Those kinds of techniques serve to surround the consumer with the brand around that experience, which happens to be the World Cup or whatever and that does a lot for building the brand much more so than any particular banner or ad unit can do.
iMedia Connection: Any other advice?
Sandom: One thing which people have yet to come to grips with is the migration away from tracking results using tools that were really developed originally for IT professionals. Any marketer really interested in doing brand advertising, you need to be able to track. There are inherent flaws in most of the software packages on the market today; the only way to really track what's really going on is by using invisible pixel technology, dropping a pixel through your ad units all the way through, not cookies but pixels, all the way through to whatever the final stages are. Unless you do that you're really missing the boat because you can't really measure the brand value of your ad units unless you ultimately see what's really working. So you can have a banner that seems to have a high clickthrough rate, but everyone bails and no one buys anything. Or you can have a banner with a bad clickthrough rate but is effective in terms of sales. For brand advertisers, that's also important, it's not just about sales its about what is the value of the brand experience you engender with the end user. So tracking is something that's very key and most people aren't doing it the right way. Most people are still using off-the-shelf tools that just by definition give you flawed data. So, my advice is: Make sure you're tracking the right things and tracking them the right way because even if you're exclusively looking for a brand payout, or benefit, without tracking, you're missing the boat.