The Role of Online Advertising

From: Ivan Weltman <>
Date: Mon 17 Dec 2001 12:11:12 -0500

The recent disagreement between Rob Frankel and
myself on branding, awareness, and product strategy
may have seemed off track. It isn't. It goes
to a deep seated difference of opinion on the scope
of online advertising that could be critical for its

To Rob online advertising is useful only as a direct
selling medium, to be measured and paid for by
prospects (CTR) or concluded sales (CPA). To me the
possible roles of online advertising in marketing
communications are broader and deeper than can be
measured by CTR or CPA. Rob acknowledges that online
advertising can increase awareness, but he doesn't
rate awareness as very useful.

One should not underestimate the importance of brand
awareness. Hundreds of marketing research projects
over the years have shown a direct correlation
between awareness and sales. For years I have
successfully used a simple research technique to
determine the momentum of a brand based on awareness.
Consider a product category xyz.

Q. What brands of xyz do you know of?

We found that the brand mentioned 1st. is usually the
brand they are using, and the brand mentioned second
the brand they would switch to if they were to change
brands. 1st. mention thus correlates with market share,
and second mention indicates market momentum.

Further, it is impossible to have awareness without
some level of branding. As every researcher knows, the
minute one asks someone for an opinion, they'll have
one, even if they had no opinion before the question
was asked!

Consider a banner ad for a financial service placed in
the Wall Street Journal Online. Now consider the same
ad placed in a collection of Adult sites. Both will
generate awareness, but the effect on the image of the
service (branding) will be entirely different!

Now, consider a banner ad placed in the WSJ for the same
service, that says "Used by J.P. Morgan, Merryl Lynch,
and other leading bankers and brokers."

Or one that says "You could win $5000 simply by signing
up for our service."

These two banners would have an entirely different effect
on the image of the service. So let's dispell once and
for all the notion that online advertising cannot
influence branding.

Having said that, what are the possible roles of online
advertising in a marketing communications strategy? I
believe that the possibilities are many, but, frankly, I
don't know, and I suspect that nobody else does,
either. There is a pressing need for information!

As a thumb suck, I'd say that online is an ideal medium
for launching a new product and rapidly generating
awareness at low cost. But I don't know. Are there any
advertisers or their agents out there who have some case

Ivan Weltman,

Received on Mon Dec 17 2001 - 11:11:12 CST


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