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Published on July 18th, 2009 | by Saurabh Pandey


The Problem with ‘Brand Advertising’ on the Web!

Long back we used to think that web is good only for direct response…wait, did I say long back? Actually, even now many advertisers and particularly brand advertisers believe that web is a lead generation model, and branding cannot be achieved on web!

So why this feeling? I perceive it to be due to the following reasons:

1. Ill-found perception that Branding is only achieved through ‘Reach and Frequency”.


We cannot just transpose the traditional Reach And Frequency model on the web, but need to integrate this with engagement, share of voice, sentiment and virility metrics. In a nutshell internet lends an opportunity to integrate demographics and psychographics coupled with precision focus and measurability.

Also we need to understand that advertising on is a TV push communication, as opposed to a web medium where communication is permissive and is more pull oriented.

Brand marketers spend millions of dollars in brand advertising on TV basis the TRPs and GRPs calculated on a very small sample size-so why cannot they spend on branding on web-where almost the entire population can be measured instead of a sample?

Web is interactive, and we need to let the brand interact with the brains of the target audience- this depth of interacting is the true measure of branding-rather than reach and frequency alone. This understanding is missing in advertisers and the agencies, and ad -sales reps have hardly done much in terms of explaining this and managing expectations of their clients.


2. Wrong culture of buying and selling branding on web- The typical TV or Print ad sales people, who now sell branding solutions on web to advertisers -just do not try to understand the deeper nuances of web-they are still caught in the time warp!

I will blame both the agencies and ad-sales reps, who actually buy and sell LEAD based solutions camouflaged as Branding Solutions.

My recommendation-:

1. Agencies need to demarcate traditional media planners and strategy people from digital domain immediately.

They need to invest in senior people who have experienced the web over the last at least 5-6 years. They need a bit of training in media metrics of traditional TV and Print, and we have to let them create models for the FMCG and CD clients for web. (The other way round- of letting a veteran traditional planner and strategist learn the nuances of web- is both time consuming and will not yield better results).


2. In Media- people with good integrated experience- with minimum of 4-5 years of web experience should lead the ad-sales ventures. The other way round- of hiring people from TV or print and putting them on top because they can transfer the traditional branding knowledge-is a recipe for disaster. Why?

a. A typical TV or lifestyle media rep largely is limited to pitching to an agency. Which means the rep’s insight into how marketing budgets are planned, the marketing objectives, RoIs in terms of branding and maket share, is generally low. A scompared to a Web-rep, who starts from pitching to a client directly, understands the objectives, and then tries to create web-solution to supplement the offline activities and srives for a particular chunk of overall budget. This entire cycle helps him stay in direct touch with Clinet and stay synchronous to a client’s needs and budgets.

b. Also there is no struggle involved here- In a traditional environment, you have to have a good rapport with agency and hence you continue to get advertising monies. On web, you need to be innovative, and fight for your share. The fact is if you don’t struggle you don’t learn.

c. Many TV ad sales people themselves do not know how to calculate CPM and CTRs, it is this fear of numbers, analytics and struggle-which lets them escape to an easier sell- vanilla sponsorships, leads, visibility etc.

d. Many such people have completed a about 15 -20 years in traditional media and now switch over to new media-they are unable to now un-learn. The same practices that led to the downfall of traditional media are being deployed by them in new media-and that’s not being innovative!

The good part about TV ad sales people is also that due to their good rapport with agencies they can quickly get brands to advertise on web-on a trial basis. But again if the agencies are not explained the correct metrics and expectations are not managed-then the brands will never repeat.

3. The Client side- very typical problem. Junior guys take care of digital-who do not have a say in the overall strategy. Internet is ad-hoc . Companies should hire senior guys as head of digital- and both head of digital and head of marketing should report into a Director of Marketing and Branding.

So, it’s all about :

1. Not having the right people on the job. (My experience-at many places a senior guys is insecure of giving too much importance to a web guy-especially in agencies-and hence a digital person almost always works in a silo and at an individual and tactical level- this is suicidal for agencies). There should be a fully empowered digital section, with no traditional media influence. Period.

2. Ad-sales rep- not getting any direction from top, and using TV/Newspaper guys for web-sales. Give intelligent integrated sales people with web exposure a chance to lead.

3. Clients- Do not have a clue. Work under the influence of an agency-which has 2 junior people who work on digital aspect- and the agency takes pride in having a full-scale digital arm. And the digital specialist on the client side, while he can do much better, doesn’t have the empowerment. Install a senior resource and empower him.


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