Saturday, January 24, 2009

Online Publishers Association Concludes Ads Are Most Effective On Content Sites

Recent research from the Online Publishers Association (OPA) uses brand metric data to conclude that ads placed on content sites (OPA members) get better results than those on portals or sold through ad networks. The conclusion is clearly self-serving and eMarketer suggests that it is common sense that content sites will deliver superior results to portals and ad networks because of content quality.

Online Advertising's Effect on Brand Metrics in the US, by Site Category, January 2009 vs. August 2008 (% change in delta*)

According to the eMarketer analysis, content sites deliver better results to advertisers because viewers are more likely to be engaged with what they are reading/watching. In comparison, visitors to a portal are more likely to be searching quickly through a variety of choices (e.g. - weather, email, headlines) and therefore less likely to become fully engaged with the content and the associated ads. eMarketer refers to this experience as a "fast-food" mentality.

While I agree with the above analysis, I think there's a fundamental issue that the OPA and eMarketer fail to address. While ads on content sites may be comparatively more effective in their impact (ie. - improved awareness, messaging, purchase intent) , what is really important is each medium's comparative ROI. To assess that, one needs to include price data and campaign objective data.

So while placing an ad on an OPA member site may result in greater impact for an advertiser, it will also be more expensive than comparable portal or ad network purchases. While purchasing ads on leading content sites may be a good idea for driving traffic to a targeted, high-value product, it may not be as appropriate for driving broad awareness of a mainstream dvd release.

Marketers know that there are many tools in the toolbelt when balancing their channel mix. There are pros and cons for choosing display vs. search vs. email vs. microsites. Likewise, there are pros and cons for the myriad of choices available within each channel.

For the OPA to issue its report about the benefits of advertising on content sites is no surprise. It's just necessary to put it within perspective. Successful marketers have to balance their campaign goals and budget with the available channel options.

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