June 16, 2001

An online advertising campaign for a personal concierge service that does not exist has provided conclusive evidence that internet advertising really works, according to new research in the UK.

As banner advertising has come under pressure since the dotcom implosion, many advertisers have questioned the ability of internet advertising to build their brands. Now an experiment to eliminate all other influences of consumer behaviour has proved that internet advertising builds brands by increasing awareness, linking messages to brands and ultimately generating sales.

"YesSirNoSir", the brand in question, was designed as a service to handle all manner of daily domestic troubles, freeing up the time of busy executives. Banner advertising launched on UK pages of iVillage and investment site FTMarketWatch.com during May and June, encouraging people to register for further information of the service, which was said to start shortly.

In fact, YesSirNoSir never intended to launch. Instead it was the brainchild of internet advertising agency [email protected] DLKW, and internet ad researcher DynamicLogic. By creating a totally new brand and advertising it exclusively across two leading UK websites, the spoof advertising campaign eliminated any possibility that awareness was created by any other form of marketing, and so proving the branding value of the Internet.

Key results

• The brand received high scores among both the exposed (test) and non-exposed (control) groups, suggesting that the concept had broad appeal.

• Awareness of YesSirNoSir jumped to 11% among the group that saw at least one banner advertisement.

• Awareness was highest among the target demographic group, professional men and women aged 18-49. Among that group, brand awareness relative to the non-exposed group increased by 428%.

• The study also proved that branding measures like awareness increase with multiple exposures. In this particular campaign, awareness peaked at 4+ exposures.

Creating the campaign

With many big brand advertisers cautious about internet campaigns, e-Brands and DynamicLogic emulated a technique previously used by other advertising media seeking to prove their worth. In 1984, the outdoor advertising medium, fearful it was an afterthought on advertiser's schedules, set out to show that posters built brands. The industry developed two fictitious billboard campaigns - one announcing the launch of "Sheila", an Australian perfume, whilst a second was a surreal poster of a little girl called Amy, who liked slugs and snails. In both cases, resulting brand awareness among the target audience was high.

In its formative years, online advertisers migrated towards clickthrough rates (CTR) as a metric for success. Consequently the industry leaned towards a direct response comparison and the branding impact of online advertising was to some extent ignored. The comparison to direct response was a strong comparison when banner ads were a novelty and 10% of those exposed to a banner ad clicked through to the advertiser's site. However, with CTR approaching .5% the industry must prove the value of the other 99.5% of ads that don't generate a click thru.

In creating YesSirNoSir, eBrands and DynamicLogic's hypothesis was that a strong product advertised exclusively online could result in high consumer awareness and intent to purchase, even in the absence of clickthrough.

Once the campaign launched, DynamicLogic began to recruit panelists to participate in a short marketing research study. A questionnaire measured respondent's awareness of YesSirNoSir, their memory of the message and their intent to purchase. Using a tagging technology, DynamicLogic was able to separate the responses of those who had seen the ad (banners, buttons and skyscrapers) from those that had not and then measured the differences.

Simon Andrews, managing director of eBrands says: "We believe that the internet is a powerful medium to which consumers will respond, but until now it has been tremendously difficult to prove. YesSirNoSir shows that with a strong idea for a product, great online advertising, and use of the right websites, banner advertising builds brands. We want the industry to build upon this evidence to convince advertisers to invest in this important medium."

Bob Ivins, managing director of Dynamic Logic Europe said "looking at clickthrough rates alone sells this medium short. Using AdIndex, advertisers can obtain an accurate assessment of the positive impact that online marketing has on brands. If anyone wanted proof that online advertising builds brands, YesSirNoSir it is it."

Phil Rooke, CEO of iVillage says: "We have believed in the branding abilities of online advertising for some time, and that just because a customer hasn't clicked on an ad doesn't mean it hasn't had some effect. We now have evidence to present to skeptical big name advertisers who have asked for quantifiable proof."

Full details of the results of the YesSirNoSir online advertising test are now on the YesSirNoSir web site at http://www.yessirnosir.net

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