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 Best of the Banter: Determining media mix
by Donna Stryk, Moderator of the Online Ads Discussion List

Now that you have money to spend, where will you get the most bang for your buck? Dot com's across the globe are agonizing over what portion of their branding and advertising budget should be spent online versus in traditional media. On November 30, 1999, Shari Miller Monnes asked the members of the Online Ads List for information on how to allocate her budget effectively. She was especially interested in information for small businesses. Her question elicited responses from agency experts as well as a customer who frequently views online advertising.

According to Bruce Koren at City Marketing, many small businesses are trying too hard to take lessons from the big guys such as Starbucks and Nike. They see the effectiveness of branding online, but fail to realize how difficult it would be to scale that to the size of their own business. Koren said, "If you're a start-up moving into your second round of funding or an on-going enterprise with millions to spend, go for it. What's wrong with spending a few million dollars so your brand gains share of mind?" He continued by driving home the point that this type of campaign is not measurable and that smaller companies should spend media budgets on very targeted buys, which produce measurable results and allow them to determine ROI.

Another insight that Koren offered centers on the objective of the campaign. He said, "Making the distinction between your branding strategy and your direct sales strategy will help you see your media spending in a clearer light." He explained how a banner campaign might produce better branding results even though there is no way to actually measure them. An email advertisement on the other hand may provide better results in a direct response campaign. As always, you must clearly define your objectives before jumping into the fray.

Wayne Browning of Homepagers Internet Solutions agreed that banners will fail to produce results for some clients, but he believes that this is still a very viable media for many campaigns. Browning claims that the banner still works, but only for appropriate campaigns.

"For branding when you are a small business, it's not the time unless you have just went public and have great oodles of money to throw at it," Browning said. "But running banner ads to solicit sign-ups to your opt-in newsletter is money well spent." He added that the list generated from the banner ads would in turn be the basis of the email campaign that Bruce suggested.

Upon visiting Shari Miller Monnes' site and noticing that it had been around for some time, Andy Brock at Mrkt Inc. offered this advice. He concluded that she must have some statistics on what has worked and hasn't worked. He recommended for her to "consider reviewing both past successes and failures, then allocate accordingly." Andy also suggested that Shari allocate some budget to test new media that they had previously ignored. The important thing to remember is to start with clearly defined goals (sound familiar?) and track the results of all media in order to determine the best allocation in the future.

Here's another question. Will the viewer even notice your ad regardless of where you decide to advertise? From a customer standpoint, many of these messages get lost in the noise of the media. This includes both on and offline advertising. Brian Shepherd said, "you have to be extremely creative and strategic with the 'timing' of your advertising." He suggested building awareness of your brand for the first three-quarters of the year in order to get yourself well positioned for the next holiday season. This way, Brian continued, "you won't need to spend 75% of your budget in the fourth quarter next year."

Jeremy Swinfen Green of Carat International agreed with Shepherd's reasoning. He reminded list members that there are two ways to cut through advertising clutter. "The first is having a message (or creative treatment) that stands out from the rest - and the wacky advertising employed by a lot of dot com's is an attempt to do just that. The second (and perhaps easier way) is to use media in a way that breaks through the clutter by communicating the message in an innovative way, or that avoids clutter all together." He agreed with Shepherd that timing is an effective way to stand out, but if you need to act at a particular time and can't afford to delay, Jeremy suggests innovation.

So, how do you allocate your marketing budget between different types of media? The best answer is to look at past results. If you've never advertised online, run a test campaign and monitor it closely. The key is to make sure you know exactly what you hope to achieve and to find the media that will get you there at the lowest cost. Some products or services will lend themselves to one particular media. Other products or services may require a combination of media to achieve the goal. Experience and research will guide you through the allocation process.

Since there obviously aren't any standard answers to this question, this is the best you will get, Shari. I hope that everyone found the thread helpful.




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