A few days ago, I stumbled over an article at Forbes.com, called “Display Ads As Compelling As TV Spots”. It’s an interview with Google VP Neal Mohan about AdWords, display ads and brands on the internet. Mr. Mohan explains all the benefits, a company can get from Google’s ad technology. He also mentions that many companies still think the internet can’t compete with the immense reach of television – however, they are wrong – it is even better to use Google’s display network for brand building than any other advertising channel. The ultimate solution to all problems seems to be performance marketing, because you get better targeting, better analytics and therefore greater success.

I am extremely familiar with AdWords as well as many other performance marketing networks and tools. It’s awesome. You are finale able to see exactly how your customers see your ads, how they react to it and how different ads perform compared to each other. The only problem is – that’s not true in all cases!

Exercise Plays Vital Role Maintaining Brain Health

Performance marketing is a great new marketing opportunity that gives you more information on the explicit results of your ad campaigns than any tv channel can. However, those explicit results usually have almost nothing to do with branding and that’s where Neal Mohan is wrong – or is at least a little unspecific in order to sell his product. Nevertheless, this is nothing special about performance marketing, but most parts of the advertising industry. Success is usually measured by an ads reach and sometimes by its recall values. So, companies see how many people they get their message to and how good they remember it (or if they click the button and buy – if you use AdWords). What they don’t see is how people really think and feel about their message.

However, this is the only thing that counts, when it comes to brand building. There, it doesn’t really matter if people immediately click your banner or if they remember seeing your product on tv. It’s important if they like your product and your brand, if they got your brand’s message and developed a positive attitude towards your brand.

In the end, this doesn’t mean that it is impossible to build a brand with performance marketing. However, due to the tremendous focus on explicit measurements, you almost have no choice to do it right (at least it is very hard to stick to a campaign if AdWords tells you to stop it ;-) ).

So how to do it better?

BMW from Locke (2013, A24, screen capture)
BMW from Locke (2013, A24, screen capture)

Since this is a blog about product placement, you already might know the answer. Product placement, branded entertainment, native advertising and all those similar marketing activities are perfect for brand building (if done right). If you see a red blinking ad on a website, featuring the latest BMW, you might click (and that’s success in performance marketing), but it most definitely will have a negative impact on your thought about this brand – or in the best case will have no effect. If your favorite actor drives this car in the new awesome blockbuster, you will love it (at least if it is implemented in a subtle way with a good fit). In any way, the effect on your brands reputation will be bigger with product placement than with a banner ad. Besides this extreme example, it also works for product placement vs. TV or display ads. You might get more data if you put your ad in front of the users YouTube video, but you will get better results if you place your product into it.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” (John Wanamaker)

When companies spent their money on TV ads and many other channels, hoping to make the one half of their budget count, brand building happened automatically within those ads – that was also because creative agencies were able to make their mark. Today, companies have the opportunity to use tools that give them the feeling to make all the money count. As shown, this is only true in some cases. It definitely doesn’t work for brand building and more complex products. That does not mean that the advertising doesn’t work, but performance marketing, as defined here, is not the ideal solution for all purposes.

Product placement, branded entertainment and similar marketing tactics are able to not even promote a product, but also help to build a strong and lasting brand – way better than any banner or display ad can. I know that even if you know the difference, there is still a problem measuring the success of product placement – that’s why we built Placedise ;-). In the end, there are also current trends that foster good brand building tactics, such as the hypes about content marketing and native advertising. So, it’s not as crazy as this post pointed out in the beginning. However, I hope that I made you think a little.

Happy advertising!

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Jens KuerschnerThis is a guest post written by Jens Kuerschner, managing director at Placedise. He studied at the University of California Los Angeles (USA) and the University of Bayreuth (Germany), where he also did extensive research on the subliminal effects of product placement. Placedise is a software that is based on this research. It is able to forecast the advertising effects of product placement and similar marketing tactics.